Pruning chores continue at my Bedford, New York farm.
I love growing berries and have been growing them for many years. I currently have large patches of red raspberries, golden raspberries, black raspberries, gooseberries, and currants. Many berries are best eaten raw, but they can be used in a variety of ways - as ingredients in jams and jellies, pies and tarts, and delicious summer juices. For the best yields from these plants, it's crucial that berry bushes be pruned properly and regularly. Pruning produces larger berries in greater volumes - it also helps to control diseases that might otherwise spread through the berry patches.
Ryan, Wilmer and Chhewang took on the task of pruning the berries over the last several weeks. Here are some photos - enjoy.
One big chore we always do during these colder months, oftentimes in between other farm projects, is prune all of the berry bushes that grow in the gardens around my main greenhouse.
Here is Wilmer pruning the black raspberries – identifiable by their purple canes. Raspberries are unique because their roots and crowns are perennial, while their stems or canes are biennial. A raspberry bush can produce fruit for many years, but pruning is essential.
Black raspberries are more challenging to prune because their canes are quite long.
Raspberry plants spread by suckers and will spread out far and wide if allowed. Unpruned raspberry bushes will still grow, but won’t yield more berries. Leaving them unpruned also makes them more prone to disease.
Here is a sucker that grew out too far and had to be removed.
Keep the base of the bushes within a 12 to 18-inch footprint by pruning out any suckers that poke up outside those parameters.
Raspberries bear fruit on two-year old canes, the canes that sprouted last season.
These are easily distinguished from older canes, which are gray in color and should also be removed.
Wilmer shows an old branch that was just cut.
Wilmer removed all of the small, weak canes, leaving about four or five of the largest, most vigorous canes per plant.
On this day, Ryan also pruned the red raspberry and golden raspberry bushes. He pruned all the old, weak, diseased, and damaged canes at ground level.
This is a dead cane – it is hollow inside,
This is a healthy cane that just needed trimming.
Like Wilmer, Ryan left the vigorous second year growth, snipping it to about 24-inches from the ground.
Our greenhouse cat, Blackie, watches from the edge of the cold frame.
Once they are trimmed, everything looks uniform and level.
Pruning the berries takes some time, which is why we do it over a course of days in between other more time sensitive tasks. All of these trimmed branches are taken to the compost yard and added to the pile.
Wilmer stops to sharpen his pruners. It is very important to work with sharp tools, so the job can be done efficiently.
Black raspberries, because their canes are so long, are also tied.
Using the same natural jute twine we use for so many of our gardening projects, Wilmer ties the canes snug to each other.
Yet always leaves room, so the canes do not touch or damage one another.
He also ties them horizontally, so they look tidy and secure.
And cuts the ends close to the knot.
The upright posts are made of granite and they have heavy gauge copper wire laced through them to support the berry bushes.
The wire can be tightened or loosened depending on the need.
Wilmer secures the canes to the wire, to give the bush shape, and to train the cane to go in the horizontal direction – this makes picking the berries so much easier. Forcing the canes to grow horizontally, encourages new lateral growth, which produces more fruit.
The finished canes look so neat and tidy.
In summer, these canes will be laden with delicious black raspberries.
Once Wilmer is done pruning a section, he carries a load of branches to the tractor waiting nearby.
On a separate day, Chhewang tackles the currant bushes. He is an excellent pruner and prunes many of the trees at the farm. This patch is located on the opposite side of the greenhouse. There are red, white, and black varieties.
They’re pruned in much the same way – thinning and leaving the healthiest of branches.
Chhewang periodically looks over his work to see what else he needs to trim. The cut branches are later taken to the compost heap.
After a good pruning, the rows of currants now have wide aisles between them, which will make the harvest much easier.
The gooseberry patch is on the north side of the greenhouse adjacent to the black raspberries. Northern exposure is preferable because gooseberries enjoy partial shade and a cool, moist growing area.
These were already trimmed – the idea is to give the bushes a V-shape, allowing for good air circulation.
Here is a photo of our gooseberry bushes at peak picking time. When properly pruned, they are healthy and prolific.
Look how many gooseberries grow on each bush. The color of gooseberries depends on the variety. It can range from yellow, green, and white to red, purple or nearly black. What is most noticeable in all are the veins in the skin of the fruit.
At harvest time, currants are also so beautiful. I grow red, black and white currants. Red currants can range from deep red to pink to almost yellow in color.
These white currants add flavor and texture to sauces, liquors, jams, jellies and syrups. Currants are still largely unknown here in the United States. They are well-loved in many other countries, and here in the US, they are slowly gaining popularity, especially because of the high antioxidant content. They are now more prevalent at local farms and home gardens.
Look at all the currants we had last season.
And, of course, here are some beautiful raspberries. They grow lush and rich with color every year.
And with good, regular pruning, our canes produce a bounty of fruits. Here are some of the delicious and beautiful raspberries we picked last summer. I can’t wait until the next berry harvest.