Spring Berries

We worked on the raspberry plants a couple of days ago, and I thought it might be helpful to show you how I have them set up.  And once I got that idea, I decided to take pictures of all the different types of berries that I grow, so you can see what they look like at this time of year.  Generally speaking, plants have been kind of slow coming out of dormancy due to unseasonably cold and rainy weather this year.  I saw on a weather report that in a normal year to this point we would have had 17 days of sixty-degree and above weather by now–this year we have had three days.  Historic cold temperatures.  Anyway, here we go with Berries on Parade . . .

These are strawberries that I grow in a hay rack-style container that hangs on a fence.  Slugs tend to devour strawberries when I’ve tried growing them in the ground, so I’ve had better luck growing in containers.  The variety is “Quinalt,” an everbearing variety.

This is a red currant, Ribes rubrum, with a bay laurel tree growing behind it.  This would likely do better if it had more sun exposure, but I’m running out of planting room, and so this has to suffice for now.  It is a tough plant, has pretty white flowers and bright red berries that can be cooked with sugar to make into syrups to flavor drinks or for pancakes.

On the right, a Northwest native plant called Evergreen huckleberry, along with a daylily and some ajuga behind it.  These are reputed to get quite tall if grown in their preferred shady locales.  I am growing it in full sun, and so far it is still teeny.  It is truly evergreen, but it’s a young plant and so far has borne no fruit. 

On some of the next photos, you will see a light-colored granular-powdery substance on the ground.  This is a complete organic fertilizer that I use with berries as well as vegetables.  The recipe is from Steve Solomon, and it consists of four parts alfalfa meal (although Solomon recommends a seed meal, I could not find any that were not GMO-crops, and thus it was advised to try the alfalfa meal instead.  Of course, legislation just passed allowing mega-agricultural corporations to introduce GMO alfalfa into the food supply, so I have no idea what to try next), one part bone meal, one part dolomite lime and a half-part kelp meal.  Mix it all up, and store it in a garbage can with a fitted lid, and you’ll have it dry and on hand when you need it.

On the left is an Aronia shrub, and behind is a raspberry with fertilizer at the base.  To the right is an ‘Etoille Rose’ clematis that is just starting to put up some new growth.  Aronias are great–beautiful white spring flowers, a small shrub loaded with red turning to blue/black fruits that are wonderful cooked and sweetened in summer, and lovely red fall foliage.

To the right of the fairy statue is a petite ‘Sunshine Blue’ blueberry, which right now sports red foliage, and some flower buds that are pinkish but not really open yet.  ‘Sunshine Blue’ is a compact and self-pollinating plant that produces pretty well for me.  They seem to like full sun growing conditions, and produce more in the sun, than they do in the shade at my garden.

Now for the raspberries:

This is one example of how to set up raspberry trellis.  We just used up scrap wood that we had around, but if you are starting from scratch I recommend untreated wood, cedar would be good, so that the fruit does not come in contact with contaminants.  We used eye screws and put 3 spaced along the length of the upright post.  Then wire running across, attached to the eye screws.  It was not fancy, but works pretty well.  Then you plant your raspberries–here I have a mix of June-bearing as well as fall-bearing–and they grow, and you tie the length of the berry cane to the wires, so that they grow upright.  These wires are at about two feet from the ground, four feet and six feet.

You tie the raspberries to the wires with garden twine.  They get tall and when fruiting quite heavy, so having the 3 levels of ties helps to keep the fruit up off the ground, and makes it a lot easier to pick them.

I weeded the raspberry row, and sprinkled on the complete organic fertilizer.  This is pretty much the only time of year I fertilize them, and they produce quite a lot. 

I also pruned them before tying them in to the wires.  Really simple to do–just cut the dead stalks all the way back to the ground.  The stalks that have green leaves coming out of them usually have a top of the cane that is dead, so just cut off the dead part, and you are good to go.

Here is another way to do a raspberry trellis.  We were using up scrap wood, and thus this is painted wood, which I do not recommend.  I am super careful to keep the fruit away from the painted wood.  When it falls apart over time, we will replace it with cedar posts.  However, the shape is the important thing here.  I learned this from Vern Nelson, who writes the gardening column for The Oregonian newspaper.  You will need a 8-foot tall post–2×4 is fine, and a two-foot piece for the top of the trellis.  Underground where the upright piece is, you will have attached another 2-foot long crosspiece, and buried it underground about 1 1/2 to 2 feet deep.  This understory part helps to keep the post upright and not leaning in.

Here’s the top of the trellis.  There are 3 eye screws in each side of the trellis, and we’ve run wire across the length.  I put one wire about two feet off the ground into each side of the main upright posts using eye screws.  This gives many places to tie the cane berries in, for ease of picking as well as good air circulation for the plants.

Toward the center/left are Marionberry canes, and to center/right are raspberry canes, with forget-me-not blue flowers in front.  I can’t really say that I recommend Marionberries for the home garden.  There is a reason why they are so expensive to buy at the store, and that is because this cane produces 20+ feet of cane every growing season and then only produces a handful at best of  berries pretty much only at the end of the cane.  Boysenberry does the same thing, which is why I replaced it with Marionberry, which I was told doesn’t get as big and produces more fruit.  That has not been my experience.

On the right are ‘Lochness’ thornless blackberry canes, with raspberries to the left.  Don’t let the name scare you–it only gets as tall as the raspberries, and it truly is thornless.  It has not been a heavy producer for me, however.  But the flavor of the berries is great.

So that’s it.  What’s new in your garden?  Leave me a comment if you like.  And visit the Garden Party.



  1. Shannan said,

    April 20, 2011 at 3:05 am

    I just planted four raspberry plants this year – thanks for showing me how you stake them – I had seen the technique demonstrated in books, but now that I see it in person – it is totally attainable. Thanks! I hope my produce just as well.

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      April 20, 2011 at 6:40 pm

      Good–glad it was helpful!

  2. sandy said,

    April 20, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I wish I could grow berry plants.. we have tropical birds and critters that would have a field day with berries… I did try a blueberry one year, it’s still growing but every time it gets one berry someone (critter) eats it. The plant looks good….lol
    Your garden is wonderful!

  3. minervasgardenwriter said,

    April 20, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Wow–I didn’t think about berries in the tropics–I guess that would be challenging. The birds are a little bit of a challenge here with the berries, but not too bad–I don’t cover the canes with netting or anything, and still get a lot of berries.

    And thank you for the compliment–I’m glad you liked the pictures.

  4. April 26, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    This is great how-to information- thanks!

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      April 26, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      You’re welcome!

  5. August 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    […] are blackberries and marionberries in various stages of ripeness.  I wrote an earlier post showing and telling about how I trellis, prune and fertilize my berries, and they responded well to this treatment.  I grow a ‘Lochness’ blackberry, which is […]

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