Tuesday 22 January 2019

Diarmuid Gavin: There's no better time to plant raspberries than in November - the start of the bare-root planting season

How to grow your own succulent berry treats

The addition of well-rotted manure or compost to your soil and a good mulch after planting will help a great deal
The addition of well-rotted manure or compost to your soil and a good mulch after planting will help a great deal
Succulent: Raspberry

Every morning I stumble barefoot from my bed to the fridge, dog yapping around my ankles and grasp through bleary eyes for tubs of soft fruit. I pierce the plastic film, examine the sometimes mushy raspberries, rinse God knows what off them and then smother in steaming porridge. And every year I make a mental note - remember to plant some raspberries because the ones I could grow will be better that the ones I buy. I'm sure of this because my homegrown spuds, gooseberries and cherries are all delicious, so it's definitely time for homegrown raspberries!

There's no better time to plant than in November - the start of the bare-root planting season. This is when plants that are dormant (sleeping for the winter) can be lifted and replanted without upsetting the plant. It's a cheaper method of buying plants as they come without soil and pots.

If, like me, you'd like to grow raspberries next year, now's the time to buy bare-root specimens and get them planted. You can plant bare-root plants until March but it is best done when the ground is neither frozen nor waterlogged.

So what conditions do raspberries like? Well, they're hungry and thirsty plants so ideally a fertile, moist but well draining soil is best. The addition of well-rotted manure or compost to your soil and a good mulch after planting will help a great deal. Sunshine will produce most fruits but they can tolerate a bit of shade as well. A sheltered position is best to avoid canes snapping in the wind.

Raspberries are divided into two main types -summer fruiting and autumn fruiting. Summer fruiting varieties flower on last year's wood and will start fruiting around July. Autumn varieties flower on canes that are one year old and will produce fruit from late August.

Autumn varieties are the easier kind to grow as you don't need to support the canes and you simply chop all the stems back to the ground in winter. Summer varieties will need support, but this can be as simple as one stake in a smaller garden to prop up a few canes, or training wire horizontally between two posts and attach growing canes to this support.

When pruning summer varieties, you'll only remove the canes that have fruited and leave the one-year-old canes to mature and produce fruit for the following year.

If you're one of the new breed of balcony or patio gardeners, you can grow them in pots, bearing in mind they will need to be fed and watered regularly during the growing season. Thompson & Morgan have a dwarf variety called Ruby Beauty - it's summer fruiting and its canes only grow to 3ft so don't need staking.

If you are ordering by post, try to get plants in the ground as quickly as possible. When planting a row of canes, dig a shallow trench about 2-3in deep. Raspberries are shallow rooting so spread out their roots laterally - it's from these that new canes will emerge.

Space plants along the row, about 18in apart. Cover with soil, firm in and prune just above a bud to 12in off the ground. In spring, give each plant a healthy dollop of food and good mulching and they should take off pretty quickly.

The Apple Farm in Moorstown, Co Tipperary produces a range of delicious raspberries, the most popular varieties being Glen Moy, Tullameen and Polka - dubbed the 'trio of Tipperary raspberries' by the company. You can contact them by calling (052) 744 1459 or visiting theapplefarm.com.

Breeders are constantly striving to produce raspberries that are tastier, more disease resistant and with higher yields. Here's my pick of the bunch:

Glen Moy is one of the earliest fruiting summer raspberries - delivering a crop as early as June.

Malling Admiral is an excellent disease-resistant summer raspberry with good flavoursome fruit.

Autumn Bliss is a high-yielding autumn variety which has the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Polka is a recent Polish introduction, bred from Autumn Bliss, which fruits two weeks earlier and has good disease resistance and large sweet berries.

If you like something a little different, All Gold is a self- supporting autumn raspberry - harvest golden fruits from mid-August.

Berry nice!

For wonderful homegrown raspberries, visit the Conroy family farm in Wicklow next summer. Annie Conroy set her first canes over 40 years ago, and today their harvest of rich and fruity berries are grown on specially-chosen plants. Hand-picked punnets of raspberries are available each day from late June to early August. You'll find them on Rocky Valley Drive, Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, (01) 286 0618. They also sell frozen berries and delicious raspberry jam!

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