Stella Otto: The Backyard Fruit Gardener

Today's Tip: Mow vegetation short around the base of fruit trees and bushes to reduce winter habitat for rodents.

Taming the Bramble Brush Jungle in 6 Easy Steps

Fri­day past was open­ing day of deer hunt­ing — a per­fect day to stay close to home, given that great gar­den­ing weather was pre­dicted. Both my hus­band and I took the day off, primed to put the fin­ish­ing touches on bed­ding down the gar­den for winter.

One major project that had eluded us ear­lier was prun­ing the bram­bles. Par­tially we had inten­tion­ally left them as our pri­mo­cane bear­ing rasp­ber­riesPolana and Joan J *- con­tin­ued to pro­duce a bounty well into early Novem­ber. That’s a rar­ity in north­ern Michigan.

Raspberry canes pruned to leave 1 foot wide row of plants

Step 2 — Nar­row rasp­berry rows to 1 foot wide

Prun­ing time had arrived. In order to get the job done in what is always a nar­row win­dow of good weather, we’ve devel­oped a sys­tem. Start with sharp lop­pers or clip­pers. Here goes:

  1. Cut all pri­mo­cane bear­ing vari­eties to the ground unless you want to take a flor­i­cane crop next sum­mer. We do keep our Anne yel­low rasp­ber­ries for the sum­mer crop. They seem to only pro­duce a weak fall crop this far north.
  2. Nar­row all other rows back to no more than a foot wide. Cut out any canes that fall out­side the row bound­ary. Yes, do it! It will make the rest of the job easier.
  3. Raspberry row - fruit canes removed

    Step 3 — Rasp­berry row after fruited canes have been removed

    Remove any spent, spindly, or bro­ken canes. The fruited flor­i­canes have done their job and the spindly canes only draw nutri­ents from more pro­duc­tive canes. Cur­rent pri­mo­canes will pro­duce a big­ger and bet­ter har­vest next summer.

  4. Thin out remain­ing strong pri­mo­canes to 3 or 4 per run­ning foot of row. Keep the strongest, try­ing to keep about 3 — 4 inches between canes.
  5. Pick up and bun­dle all the removed canes to go to the burn pile.
  6. Raspberry canes pruned out and ready for the burn pile

    Step 5 — Bun­dled canes ready for the burn pile

    Rake up fallen leaves. This will go a long way to remov­ing over­win­ter­ing spores of fun­gal dis­eases and reduce the need for con­trol sprays next spring and summer.

Black raspberries trained to trellis

Voila! Black rasp­ber­ries pruned and trel­lised, ready for spring growth.

Voila! Eas­ily done in a day (includ­ing the inevitable interruptions.)

*This is where I’ve got­ten my plants. The qual­ity and ser­vice has been top-notch. There are other good sources but this is my favorite for brambles.

©2013The Back­Yard Fruit Gardener

  • stel­laotto

    Brian, glad this is help­ing you get the job done. What bram­ble vari­eties do you grow?