This section is from the book "The Gardener V2", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Like most of the other varieties of small fruits, the Raspberry is a general favourite, and is found in most gardens from the least to the greatest. It is of easy cultivation, yet, nevertheless, to produce fruit of the highest quality and of the richest flavour an effort has to be made; for although large crops can and are yearly produced from plants which receive little or no attention, except at the pruning season, yet a little good cultural management will be amply repaid in the quality of the fruit produced. We will therefore direct the reader's attention to a few of the most vital points requiring attention in the good management of the Raspberry.
Following the course we have done in all our former papers, we will first direct our attention to the propagation of the Raspberry. This object is accomplished by any one of the following methods - viz., by seed to produce new varieties, by cuttings, and by suckers or offshoots, the latter being the most generally adopted plan. To raise Raspberries from seed the best plan is to select the finest of the fruit, which should be washed at once to remove the pulp, after which the seed should be dried and sown in shallow pans in rich light soil, and placed in a cool frame to vegetate. If the frame is very cold, the young plants may not appear till the following spring. As soon as they are a few inches in height they may be transplanted into nursery-lines about a foot apart, where they will soon rush away into growth. In autumn or early winter they ought to have the young canes cut back to three or four eyes. In spring they will start and grow strong, and in the following autumn will be fit to place in their permanent position; and if the plants are strong, will probably produce a crop of fruit the following year.
If, however, the fruit can be wanted, it is much better not to take a crop the first year after planting, but rather to cut the canes well back in order to get as fine fruiting-plants the following year as possible. The propagation of the Raspberry from cuttings is not easily accomplished, and, unless for the increase of new and rare varieties, is seldom attempted. The best time to do this is February, when the canes may be cut into lengths of 3 inches or thereby, and inserted into light rich soil at the bottom of a wall having either an east or west aspect. If the soil is not of a moist nature it must be kept thoroughly damp by regular waterings after the sun begins to get warm in spring; and if the sun should prove very powerful, it might be as well to shade the cuttings during the hottest part of the day until they begin to form a few roots. After they are ready for transplanting, they must just be treated in the way already directed for seedlings. Very little need be said regarding the propagation of Raspberries from offsets or suckers.
The principal thing calling for attention is to destroy as little as possible of the roots belonging to the permanent plant, while as much root as can conveniently be got ought to adhere to the sucker in order that it may receive as little check as possible. A great deal depends upon how the offsets are removed, one man performing the operation without doing the slightest injury to either the parent plant or the offset, while another may destroy both to such an extent as to cause much damage for several years to come. The best time to perform this operation - the removal of the sucker or offset from the parent - is in October. This month is the best of all the year for planting Raspberries, so that a double gain is effected by performing this operation at this period of the year. There is not so much danger to the plant from the removal of suckers as offsets, because, as a rule, the former are generally thrown up at a considerable distance from the parent canes, while the latter are always produced from the base of the former year's cane. It is thus evident from their position that care must be exercised in their removal.
The best instrument for this purpose is what is known as a sucker-ing iron, which, for this purpose, ought to be nearly as sharp as a knife in order that it may accomplish the purpose of separation between the parent and the offset at the first attempt.
The soil which is best suited for the Raspberry is rich alluvial soil, containing more than the usual amount of moisture. Peaty soils are also very well suited for the Raspberry, but it does not do so well in heavy clay-land, more especially if it is much liable to cracking. In most gardens the position best suited for planting the Raspberry is on a border having a northern aspect, and defended from the full blaze of the noonday sun by a south wall. It is in such a position that the best crops and the finest fruit we ever have seen have been produced. It is almost the only crop which we possess which is thoroughly adapted to this position, and how generally this is known and acted upon is evidenced from the fact that, in almost every garden, this is the very place that is assigned to it. Where a long continuation of the fruit is wanted, it will be necessary, however, to have a few planted in an earlier position, which will yield a few fruit a week or two earlier than those planted on the north aspect. Before planting a plantation of Raspberries, the whole ground should be trenched over as deep as possible; 3 feet will not be too much if such a depth can be reached, and any quantity of manure may be dug in to the bottom of the trench.
The Raspberry is a very hungry feeder, and will greedily devour almost any quantity of manure which may be placed within its reach. In order to give a young plantation of Raspberries a thorough start, it is absolutely necessary to give a good and liberal manuring. If this is done when the ground is being trenched, and the manure thoroughly incorporated with the soil from top to bottom, so much the better, and there will be less need for large manurings for some years to come. The soil having therefore been prepared, the next thing is to procure the offsets for planting it up. This having been done, the line must be stretched in the place where the row of plants are to stand; the rows may be about 6 feet apart. On one side of the line the soil ought to be taken out to the depth of 6 inches, and as wide as will admit of all the roots belonging to the offshoots being nicely spread out. This having been done, let a single cane be planted every 18 inches in the line, the soil filled in around, and gently pressed by the foot to fix and steady the plant. The next thing to be done is to erect a trellis, upon which to train the young plants, unless it be deemed advisable to cut them over to further strengthen them, in which case it will not be necessary to erect the trellis for another season.
The way we erect our trellis is very simple and inexpensive. At 10 feet apart in the line we fix strong upright stakes, of the height of 3i feet, upon the top of which we fix a single rail - generally made of rough fir or larch - about 2 inches broad and 1 inch thick. To these horizontal rails each cane is fixed by means of tar-twine or bast, and is afterwards cut at 6 inches higher than the rail, leaving it thus exactly 4 feet high altogether. This height we consider quite sufficient, and we are of opinion that better fruit and larger crops are obtained from them at this height than if they were left longer. This is how they are done the first year. The second year, in all probability, the young offsets will number from two to four or five, according to the strength of the plants when planted. Three shoots are, however, the required number to each plant, so that if four or five exist, they must be reduced to this at the pruning season, and trained up against the trellis, as on the former year, with this exception, that the distances apart upon the horizontal rail will be 6 inches. They must be cut over at 4 feet, as formerly directed, and this course of pruning and training pursued year after year.
This we consider by far the best plan for Raspberry cultivation, as by this means every branch is fully exposed to the action of light and air, and, as a natural consequence, is in a more favourable position and condition for the production of first-class fruit. In the various other methods, of tying them up in bunches to an upright stake, of plaiting several canes together at two plants and bending them so as to form anarch, or by whatever modification of either or both of these methods they may be trained, there is always a number of the best of the buds very seriously injured, or perhaps destroyed. In doing them by either of these methods, many of the buds must necessarily be crowded up inside the plait, or against the stake, so that before they can approach the light and air they must work their way between the branches, much in the same way as if they had to perforate an old stone wall. All this is obviated by the plan we have described; each separate branch is not only free from the branch nearest to it, but is also clear of stakes and all suchlike, so that it is fully exposed to the action of air and light on every side.
There may be a little more trouble in doing them in this way, but we consider all this more than counterbalanced by the quality and quantity of the crops.
When the soil has been well prepared for the young plantation of Raspberries, we do not consider it necessary to manure the ground till the third year. During all this period we would recommend that the spade never be used, as digging destroys many of the roots, and is highly injurious to the wellbeing of the plants. All that is necessary is to keep them well hoed and raked, to keep them tidy and clean. When the plants require to be manured, we do it in this way: Remove 1 or 2 inches of the surface soil into the middle of the rows in a ridge, thereafter put on a coating of good rich manure to the depth of 3 or 4 inches, replace the soil over the manure, and the operation is finished. This done every second year will be found to be enough to enable the plants to produce a very good crop of fruit.
The diseases to which the Raspberry is liable may be said to be nil, as there is no disease known to attack it where planted in soil suited to its nature and liberally manured. Its insect enemies are also few. The Raspberry leaf-miner is occasionally found to injure and destroy the cellular tissues of the leaf, which soon assumes a blotched appearance. Gathering the leaves so affected, and having them destroyed, is the only known remedy. The grub of the Byturus tomentosus sometimes attacks the fruit when nearly ripe; and although its ravages are not noticed to a very great extent, yet it is unpleasant to think that such a thing should exist within the bright and tempting fruit. There is no remedy known. Another enemy is the grub of the Tinea corticella, which sometimes does great injury to our Raspberry crops by consuming the interior of the young flower and footstalk of the young fruit. About the beginning of June the caterpillar becomes a pupa, and about the middle of that month becomes the perfect moth. In a few days it begins to deposit its eggs on the stems of the young wood, these eggs producing larvae about the middle of August, which feed upon the leaves till winter, after which it hides itself until the following spring.
Gathering those flowers which appear affected by it, and having them destroyed, appears to be the only remedy.
James M'Millan. (To be continued).