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All about raspberries, Part I

By Jim Smith
SUN Columnist

SUN photo/Terri House Jim Smith receives a gift of a knife from Becky Jacobson (left), local 4-H coordinator and Terry Schaaf, administrative assistant and fair board supervisor. The gift was presented on behalf of the CSU Extension staff in recognition of the work Smith has done since assuming the post as interim Extension agent in November.

SUN photo/Terri House
Jim Smith receives a gift of a knife from Becky Jacobson (left), local 4-H coordinator and Terry Schaaf, administrative assistant and fair board supervisor. The gift was presented on behalf of the CSU Extension staff in recognition of the work Smith has done since assuming the post as interim Extension agent in November.

This article was written by Darrin Parmenter CSU Extension Director in La Plata County.

When my son was three, his older sister convinced him that a ripe red raspberry was nothing but a piece of fruit that had a bunch of bug bites on it. Remembering that this is a three and five year-old, Asher was convinced that eating the fruit was an act of taking his life into his own hands. “Whadda ya mean its bug bites?”

“Yeah.” Elena would answer. “All those red bumps are where the bug bit the fruit. So if you swallow it, that bug will bite your stomach.”

If I’m a three year-old, there’s no way I’m eating that fruit. But as Asher would leave the table, full plate of raspberries remaining, Elena would spring up and eat them all.

Sounds like my daughter took some coaching from my older sister on that one.

Growing raspberries, especially when you plow through them like my family does, is a wise investment. However, our environment is not that conducive to their success. Once you get them started and established the success rate goes through the roof. So taking some time to get your garden bed ready for planting will be worth your while.

The first step is to decide which types you want to produce. But beware; their growing habits can be a little confusing. Technically, raspberries are a perennial (come back year after year) plant. However, only the crown and the roots are truly perennial. The canes, or the aboveground portion that bares fruit, are biennial, which means the first year is spent growing vegetatively and the second year is spent flowering and fruiting.

Still with me? The canes produced in the first year are called “primocanes” and all they do is grow, drop their leaves and go dormant. Once they emerge from dormancy the next year (second) they are then referred to as “floricanes”. Almost all of their energy is put into reproduction, which is good to us since we are probably growing them for the fruit. After they fruit, the floricanes can be cut to the ground.

Continuing with the confusion, raspberries that grow as described above are called “summer-bearing” and their primary crop is in July. However, a horticultural breakthrough that occurred years ago found that some wild plants demonstrated the ability to produce fruit on the first-year canes (“primocanes”). While the wild type plants didn’t produce market-quality fruit, plant breeders were eventually able to develop a “fall-bearing” or “everbearing” raspberry that was grown on the primocanes.

Phew.

The allure of the fall-bearing plants are that they are easier to prune (grow and fruit in one season so no winter maintenance either) and they don’t tend to have some of the winter hardiness issues that plagued the summer-bearing plants. Pruning consists of mowing down the patch every fall.

So which one should you grow? I say both. With a decent sized patch of summer and fall-bearing varieties, you have the potential to harvest (and preserve) berries from July through the first couple fall frosts.

Seed potatoes

The Archuleta County Extension Office is now taking orders for seed potatoes.

There will be four kinds available, Sangre (red), Yukon Gold (white), Purple Majesty (blue inside) and Rose (rose inside).

Currently, we are charging 50 cents per pound for any of the species. For those of you who are just starting out and are experimenting, it is our suggestion that you order two to three pounds of each species instead of ordering a whole lot of them. This way, you can experiment and see if you like them and then order more next year. When orders arrive in mid-May at the Extension Office each person will be contacted to pick up their order. Please don’t plant them until after Mother’s Day. If you are interested in ordering seed potatoes, call 264-5931, e-mail at coopext_archuleta@mail.colostate.edu or stop by the Extension Office.

Calendar

April 25 — 4-H Lamb Project meeting, 4 p.m.

April 25 — 4-H Goat Project meeting, 5 p.m.

April 25 — 4-H Swine Project meeting, 6 p.m.

April 26 — 4-H Cake Decorating Project meeting, 2 p.m.

April 26 — 4-H Cloverbud Project meeting, 2 p.m.

April 26 — Pathfinders Program, 6 p.m.

April 29 — 4-H Sewing Project meeting, 4 p.m.

April 30 — 4-H Shooting Sports Project meeting, 4 p.m.

May 1 — 4-H Sportsfishing Project meeting, 4 p.m.

May 2 — 4-H Shady Pine Club meeting, 6:30 p.m.

May 3 — Archuleta County Fair Royalty Competition, 5 p.m.

May 3 — Pathfinders, 6 p.m.

May 4 — 4-H Cooking Project meeting, 10 a.m.

This story was posted on April 25, 2013.