A raspberry tragedy

20:40, May 20 2013

Raspberries are my favourite fruit, but because they are so expensive, growing my own seemed the only way I could ensure I got my fill over the season without needing a second mortgage. I would love to frivolously drizzle them over my icecream, or my breakfast, or whack them in a smoothie when the feeling took me.

Nature, it seems, has other ideas. I have two plants that I've bought from garden centres; one ivory and one aspiring, both from Incredible Edibles. I built them their own bed last March; a raised no-dig bed made of seaweed, compost, autumn leaves, horse poo, and other organic goodies. My knowledge of what raspberries like is pretty patchy, but I do know that they fruit on year-old canes that come from a central crown, and the ivory berries fruit in autumn on the new spring growth.

So in spring when new canes came up like crazy, I got pretty excited. Raspberries put out suckers, or new sprouts that came up from under the soil. These can be cut out and rooted to become new plants. Both the ivory and the aspiring put out suckers all over the bed, crowding out the two blueberry bushes they share the bed with. I made a hopeless attempt to build wire supports for the canes as they got bigger, but by the time I had got around to it, the canes were coming up from suckers and it was getting a little chaotic in there.

Both plants fruited miserably. Most fruit had little grey bits in them, and when I squished them open, found little worms  - the larvae of raspberry beetles - inside wreaking havoc. Other canes that had fruited wizened up. I wish I had taken pictures of them, but these images I've found resemble the problems my raspberries faced. And then the ultimate insult - rust on the canes. Rust is a fungal disease that you can spray for, but with limited success. The only real way to get rid of it is to cut the leaves back and burn the waste.

So that's what I've done - and cut away all the more-than-a-year-old canes in my autumn clean-up, and dug up all the suckers to pot on and either give away or add to my bed in an organised fashion. My frivolous raspberry consumption will have to wait another year, at least. By then they might be the most long-awaited raspberries in the world. But that is the great thing about gardening - there's always next year.

Has anyone else had problems with their raspberries? What goodies do you give your raspberries to ensure a bumper crop?

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