Calvin's Blog

A native plant you can eat: Black Raspberries

One of the most exciting and rewarding times of the year for our organic garden is when the black raspberries start to ripen. For our area of southern Ontario, that time is now!

Under the watchful eye of "Suzuki-Mon", Calvin picked our first two containers of the berries shown in the video.  We estimate another 30 containers worth will ripen in the next two weeks.  We have three areas of these plants, equivalent to a 40 foot row.

The black raspberry (<-- click for more info) is a very hardy plant that is native to North America.  It grows well in partial or almost complete shade, and normally requires no extra water or fertilizer to provide handfulls of fresh fruit. 

To obtain the yields shown in the video however, we implement these organic strategies:

1. Remove the old canes once the fruit is done.  These canes are purple, compared to this year's green growth.  The canes die after setting fruit, so cut them out to make more room for the new shoots...these new shoots will fruit next year.  Leaving the old shoots to rot will quickly create a tangled mess, plus disease may set in on the old canes.

2. We add compost to the base of the row in either the spring or fall, to a depth of 4 inches.

3. We add rainwater from the barrels when conditions are dry.  This is very important when the plant is flowering and setting fruit.

4. Some support is best for the plants.  It keeps the shoots from falling over when the weight of the fruit it makes it possible to reach all the fruit by keeping the canes in a row, instead of a bush.  We plant along the fence, and harvest from both sides. The canes are very prickly, which keeps the squirrels from eating *most* of the fruit.

5. The new canes get infested with aphids in late May.  We do not control the aphids at this time: the new canes can easily grow and feed the aphids too (the canes have already grown over 8 feet this year!).  Combined with the planting of shallow petalled flowers like Alyssum, Parsley, Yarrow, etc, these massive populations of aphids in May attract a wide variety of aphid predators, especially the Hoverfly (<-- click).  Right now (early July) the hoverfly population is massive on our property...and their larvae are eating 1000's of aphids in our neighbourhood...protecting all the plants we love as they set their own fruit. 

So in summary:

- we let the aphids initially get started

- then we attract adult aphid predators (hoverfly) with appropriate flowers

- as the predators visit the flowers, they lay eggs that control the aphid populations for the rest of the summer.  Natural control without pesticides! 

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Comments (1)

Thank you so much for this VERY helpful posting - I love the step by step procedure for the care. Awesome!!

Shannon | July 15, 2009 at 5:16 PM
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