Living Columns & Blogs

Ask a Gardener: Rich soil, slightly acid soil best for raspberries

Some raspberries ripen for a single harvest; others, called everbearing varieties, ripen into the fall. Be sure to buy and plant the kind you want.
Some raspberries ripen for a single harvest; others, called everbearing varieties, ripen into the fall. Be sure to buy and plant the kind you want. Tribune News Service

Question: Raspberries are my favorite. What’s the best way to plant and care for them?

Answer: I agree. Raspberries rock! Here’s some advice that may help.

Decide if you want ripe berries at one harvest, best for freezing all at once, or an extended harvest, ripening into fall, called everbearing. Be sure to buy and plant the kind you want.

Many people plant raspberries too deeply. You should barely cover the roots. Most important, avoid planting them in wet or moist areas. Wet feet often result in spotted leaf larvae and failed crops.

Plant raspberries in rich, slightly acid soil; (pH6-6.50) is ideal.

To keep plants healthy and producing for years, each year after the plants have ceased producing, you will need to prune them. Annual plants are pruned by cutting out all the canes that produced that year and securely tying up the new canes. Bush and everbearing raspberries are pruned to the ground.

Question: I can’t believe how expensive plant stakes are in stores. I need so many of them and would much rather spend my budgeted money on plants. Any thoughts?

Answer: Do-It-Yourselvers, experienced or not, take note: Cheap stakes are out there! One easy option is to use pruned branches of any kind. You might even find that some will root, providing you with free plants (willow is good for this).

If you prefer wood or metal, go to RE Store, Goodwill or Salvation Army. Many things can be used as stakes. Be inventive.

One thing I’ve done through the years is to stop by construction sites. They almost always have a pile of discarded lumber and often are happy for you to take some. Just ask.

Tips for Gardeners

▪  I know many gardeners who’ve lost gardening tools in the garden or compost. It’s so easy to do. To better track my tools I have painted all the wooden handles a brilliant shade of pink! It’s not a color easily overlooked. For those tools with metal handles, use a colorful duct tape to wrap the handles.

▪  Buy yourself a pair or two of scissors for the garden. They’re useful for a multitude of jobs.

▪ Listen to music or books on tape while you garden — it’s a wonderful way to relax and work at the same time.

Question: I want to create a large garden (next year) where a lawn currently exists. I dread the hard work and my back’s reaction to it. Is there an easier way to get rid of the lawn?

Answer: Your back is safe. And happily, this seemingly daunting task will only take an hour or so.

First go to a hardware or big-box store and buy a roll of black plastic large enough to cover the area you want to plant next year. It needs to be 4 mil — nothing less thick.

While you’re in the store, buy 10 gauge solid steel wire. You will cut it into into 8-inch lengths, then bend them in half. These will be used to keep the plastic in place.

Then, simply lay the plastic over the designated grassy area, pushing in the metal hold-downs every foot or so. Done. The heat of the summer will quickly decompose the grass and kill the roots.

You can remove the plastic in late fall or wait until spring. If you object to the look of black plastic (and who doesn’t) simply cover it with chips. You can use those chips after you remove them from the plastic as mulch around trees and shrubs.

Kathleen Bander of Bellingham is a life-long gardener. Her column will appear in The Bellingham Herald weekly through the summer growing season. If you have a gardening question you’d like answered in the column, please email it to newsroom@bellinghamherald.com. For more gardening information online, go to whatcom.wsu.edu/ch/mg.html.

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