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I Spy A Berry Pie In Your Future: Tips For Growing Raspberry Bushes

Now is a great time to plant new raspberry bushes and prune your already-planted ones.

If you've had more time at home to spend perfecting the ultimate pie crust, you might find yourself dreaming of summer when you can pick your own berries to fill it with. So why not grow your own? For cultivated raspberries, the best time to plant new ones and care for already established bushes is now.

Raspberries tend to be tough plants and they do grow wild, but if you want to have a cultivated bed in your yard, you'll need the right conditions. The bushes do best in full sun, and well-drained but moist soil.

You can achieve the latter conditions by putting them onto a raised bed and mounding up a bunch of bark mulch and wood chips into the native soil. They really thrive in these conditions and this will also keep the weeds away.

This time of year is perfect for pruning your existing raspberry bushes if you've got them. For bushes that bear summer berries, prune them now by cutting off the dead canes that fruited last year. Allow three to five canes per foot and remove the spindly ones. You can even support the canes with a trellis.

If you're growing the everbearing variety, right now, those bushes are showing dead canes on the top. Go ahead and remove those, making sure to leave the rest, as those canes will provide this summer's berry crop.

Black-cap raspberries are a different kind of plant which grow very large and arching canes. If you have this in your berry patch, plan to keep the canes to about 30 inches tall and top them. Chopping them off will force side branches to grow, and will produce bigger and better berries!

Q: I live in northern Vermont, have asparagus spears up, some 3-4 inches, and don't know if I should do anything to ensure that they make it through. — Pamela, in Enosburgh

This question came in a week ago when the nights were in the 20s and this being Vermont, that could happen again! If the weather turns colder and you have asparagus spears already up in your garden, simply cover them with hay, mulch, blankets, anything! The frost won't freeze them but this will protect the spears.


Q: One of our well-established lilac bushes had two of its trunks fall completely to the ground. There are still two other trunks ... which are fine, but the two fallen trunks comprise about half the bush. I was going to leave it alone until the leaves fall off and then figure out what to do. What do you recommend? — Kevin, in Thetford

Occasionally, lilacs need to be rejunvenated and this situation calls for just that. You can cut these all the way back to perhaps 3 feet and this will stimulate new growth. The lilac bush may not have flowers for a few years, but you will have a better-looking and healthier tree, and it will flower again soon.

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All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.


Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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