Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Hick Chic Guide to Raspberry Patch Maintenance! (Because you want to know!)

Every fall, I go through my raspberry patch and give it a good purge. If you've got a few hours in the fall, you too can have a glorious raspberry patch! It's totally worth it.

This is me in my nice little suburban backyard. You can see one of the many leaf piles, the jumble of junk needing to be put away for winter, and the dog on the picnic table. Looks like we're having pug for dinner, ha! When we moved in ten years ago, the raspberry patch was an overgrown outta control mess. It really doesn't take much to get it in line.

Here's the overgrown mess we're starting with.

The first goal is to find all the dead canes and cut them out.

They look like this.

Get right into it and cut them near the ground. Sometimes you can just break them off. As you go, fling them out onto the lawn where you can pick them up later.

Now, because this blog is called Hick Chic and I'm all about the clothes, let's have a word on what to wear. I like clothes that work. I suggest rubber boots for this job, and not just because I think they're kicky and fun! It can get pretty squishy back here, especially if the dog decides he wants some privacy when he's doing his regularly scheduled poop break. You won't want to be wearing anything too delicate on your feet. Jeans are a good idea because all those little hitchhiker weeds don't stick easily to denim. A hoodie with a giant pocket is a good idea. I once stuck my clippers into a side pocket and jabbed myself in the ribs when I bent over. Ow. I like to tie a bandanna around my head on a fall day. It keeps my hair out of the way and most importantly, protects my fussy, wind intolerant ears. The absolute essential article of clothing for this job is GLOVES. You must wear gloves. Raspberry canes have tiny little thorns that are extremely difficult to see when stuck in your skin, let alone remove. Wear the gloves.

Let's also pause for a minute to talk about helpers.

This is my Official Photographer, taking a little break in the leaf pile. The other helper...well, he's just really there for entertainment!

I'd like to tell you I trained him for this. That would be a lie though. He didn't carry the stick over to a pile. He just dropped it and went off to chase something else.

Here's a pile of discarded dead canes and trimmings...and a dog lifting a leg. He does that a lot.

As you go, cutting out the dead stuff, trim the tops of the healthy canes as well. I cut them all to about waist height. You might be asking WHY. The truth is... I don't know. I have no idea why we trim them. Obviously getting all the dead canes out tidies the patch and makes it possible to get into it and pick berries later. But I have no idea why we trim them. Looks? Encourage growth in the fruit instead of height? Because Mom or Grandpa told me to? All I know is, it works. That's why I do it this way.

And yes, it's okay to take a break every now and then!

Here's the mighty clippers, taking out the dried up useless cane, leaving the healthy ones to grow next year.

(Aren't those hot pink & white leather work gloves awesome?!)

Here's a nice healthy purple stem...

With lovely green leaves.

These leaves, on the other hand, aren't looking so good. I'm being totally ruthless about culling, so this cane got taken out.

See this vine? If you see this, GET RID OF IT!

I'm not sure exactly what it is. One of my neighbours told me it's Deadly Nightshade. This would only be a useful plant for you if you happen to be a leaf-stuffed rag doll who needs to mix up a lethal dinner for your creepy duck billed captor, enabling you to escape and wander free through picturesque graveyards with your very dapper and thin lover. But you're not, are you? Then you must get rid of this weed.

It will choke out plants that you do want. It grows odd little purple and yellow flowers in spring, then bright red berries in summer. They're probably poisonous but I never gave my kids or dog a chance to find out. Make it go away.

So, we've got the dead stuff out, good stuff trimmed, and weeds yanked. The next step is to go through it with a hand saw and cut out any weedy little trees trying to grow, hidden among the raspberries. Really what you should do is get a spade and dig them out by the roots. Unfortunately I let it get away, and I'm not quite strong enough to get down to the roots. In any case, this has to be taken care of, so that you don't end up with a forest instead of a raspberry patch.

On the left, a pile of weedy saplings. On the right, raspberry carnage!

Because I live in town, I'll drag this stuff to the shoulder of the road and let the town truck haul it away. If I lived in the country, I'd take it out to a burn barrel and stand there watching it with a hose...watching the flames...ooooooo....

The last step in the process is to put it to bed for the winter. Thanks to our two huge maple trees, we have a lot of leaves. Most people bag them for the town to take away, but I am too lazy to scoop leaves into bags. I throw them in here instead. A nice layer of leaves will pack down over winter, making some nice rot to enhance the soil, and hopefully making it a little harder for the weeds to poke through. This weekend I raked all the leaves in my backyard into the patch. It was actually kind of fun. I even talked the Boy into helping. Kids will usually do a bit of raking if they get to jump in the leaves at some point.

This year I tried to rearrange the plants into more orderly rows. These are very hardy plants. I've yanked them up and plunked them down all over this yard. I've even given some away.

I love it. Every summer we have convenient outdoor snacking. I'm so glad we found a place with a little spot of wild country in one corner of the lot!

Soon, the leaves will fall off, and five months from now I'll be eagerly watching for new ones to uncurl. Everything's winding down outside, and I can feel winter creeping in...


Biddie said...

That was so good! I love the photos (Your official photographer ROCKS) and I actually learned something. Plus, you know, there's the whole what to wear aspect. Like, for instance, I would have probably just slapped my pajama pants on, because that is what I wear.
Now I know better!
When is that Pug coming to see Ruby Tuesday. Please don't tell me that we have to wait for Christmas. Her little heart will break.

Anita said...

Fabulous information... LOVE the pics! Great photographer!

We did this in the early spring (a little late, I know) to the gooseberry bushes we had... Right before the tornado destroyed them...lol
Oh well, it was a good learning experience!

CindyDianne said...

LOVE those gloves!

Marni said...

Nice!!!!! What a great post! And a cute pug, too.

her indoors said...

worth the wait that was for sure, and the pug plays his part so well in all this too!

Heidi the Hick said...

Biddie I am quite pleased with my Official Photographer's skills. And I'm really hoping it wont' take til Christmas for another Pug visit!!

Anita- friggin tornado!!!

Cindy, aren't they awesome? I have work gloves everywhere- here at home, in the truck, at the farm. I was so happy to find hot pink ones small enough for my hands!

Marni I hoped you'd come by today to see my little Pug friend.

Indoors, I'm so glad it was worth the wait.

coffeypot said...

Looks like you had a great day, and I really liked the pictures. But I would just burn down the shit and go to the produce store for buy my raspberries. Faster and easier is one of my mottos.

Heidi the Hick said...


But you know what? I don't mind spending a day stomping around out there in the dirt, if it means I only have to walk out my back door to get fresh berries!

(Grocery store avoidance at its best.)

witchypoo said...

Although there was not a berry in sight, the whole post had me drooling for raspberries.
Motorcycle gloves are good for pruning raspberry canes :-)

rain said...

We don't have a place for raspberries in our yard and I want them! I don't care about veggies, but I would love to grow raspies and straws. And now I even know how to take care of them!

Anita said...

BTW - Love the deadly nightshade reference to my favorite movie... lol

dilling said...

We did this at the beginning of fall to combat the yellow rust that comes with too much rain. I think you trim the new stuff back otherwise next year the stalks would be so long you couldn't reach raspberries!!!!
Nothing plunges me into memories of summers with Gramma quicker than that first sun-warmed and slightly dusty raspberry off the vine. mmmmmmm.

Rain, The deer would eat them at your house. You can come pick at my house this year...

The Adult in Question said...

haha! I love the pug!

Redneck Nerdboy! said...

I wonder if the same can be said for blueberries? We have an S-load of blueberry bushes out here, along all the rivers, peoples' fencing, etc.

I love 'em so I don't mind!

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