I just prepped (aka covered) the plot we plan to plant raspberries and blackberries in this spring. It was where we grew corn last year. So there were broken down corn stalks, dead weeds, some hay, and bare dirt. I covered it with cardboard and then covered that with a very thick layer of straw. We were planning on letting the cardboard soften until planting time and then just digging into that to plant each plant.
BUT I was wondering if maybe I should do some layering and plant them on top of straw. What have you all found success in?
I have hay/pig manure mixture that has been sitting for about 6 months as well as a wood shaving/horse manure that is probably 70% composted available to me for free I could use. As well as tons of mildly rotten hay that’s about 40 years old.
Also, what is your success/failure with raspberry and blackberries?? We’re in mid Missouri. Just wondering what to expect as far as pests and diseases. From what I read they seem pretty easy care but I really hate going into things ignorantly.
Taylor Cleveland wrote:Also, what is your success/failure with raspberry and blackberries?? We’re in mid Missouri. Just wondering what to expect as far as pests and diseases. From what I read they seem pretty easy care but I really hate going into things ignorantly.
I'm a few hours from you, and in the same zone (zone 6a). I imagine our conditions are practically identical.
I'd suggest doing everything you can to improve the soil prior to planting them. I made the mistake of just digging a half-shovel trench and planting my blackberries w/ some potting soil, without really improving the soil around them, and have been punching myself for 4 years for not taking the time to do it right.
While not fully clay, my soil is a far more clay-ish than I would like, so I should've done a better job loosing up the soil and supplementing it with compost and organic matter. About the one thing I do do right is mulching with woodchips, and watering (it's on irrigation).
It's been four years, and I still haven't had any real blackberries (I've had about 5 berries, from two 100 ft rows of plants =(... ), but the plants that have survived are doing better and better each year, and I got special fertilizer to help them out this year for the first time to see if it makes a difference.
While I'm not positive, my speculation is the lack of prepping the soil for them has been the biggest issue (that, and the fact that they die back to the ground each year during winter - still they're primocanes, so they should be producing).
On the other hand, I planted raspberries two years ago, and they took off immediately and have done much better, and I get a decent amount every year (including the first year!). I'm not satisfied with the flavor of the raspberries (Joan J Primocanes), but I can't fault their growth.
(They taste fine, just not as flavorful as I'd like. Supposedly it may improve as the plants mature, but I'll probably interplant the Joan J raspberries with a second variation to hopefully have the second one be a better flavor)
What I failed to do:
A) Really prep the soil prior to planting. Loosen the soil around them for a decent foot in each direction, or better yet plant them in a bed where the soil is already loose. Supplement the soil so it stays loose (or at least looser than my default ground!).
B) Plant three different variations each of raspberries and blackberries, both because I assume some variations might do better than others in your soil, and also because if some fruit isn't as flavorful as you'd like, maybe another variations' is.
What I did well:
A) Lots of woodchip mulch really seems to benefit them.
B) Planted the rows far enough apart that I can ride lawn mowers between them.
C) Irrigation system waters them fine during the heat of summer.
D) Since in our climate they die back in winter unless covered, primocanes are a must. My raspberries and blackberries are thornless also, but I'd tolerate thorns if it meant better flavor or actual production.
E) Planted a banana under each plant. That's supposed to help (for potassium, I think).
(Oh, if you are planting blackberries and raspberries, don't get black raspberries or it supposedly causes disease problems for the blackberries and red raspberries. But I haven't had an issue with red raspberries and blackberries being relatively near each other)
As far as pests and disease go, I haven't noticed anything abnormal appearance-wise about my blackberries, and don't believe I've had any pest or disease issue with them - they visually look fine, just not as extravagant growth as I'd like, and the absence of bringing their fruit all the way to picking time.
For my raspberries, they've had had some issues, sporadically, with bugs chewing holes in leaves and some leaves dying back - I think just from the intensity of the hot summer sun (e.g. sunscald)- but since they've been producing well I haven't been concerned and have been more focused on weed-control and unrelated plants that are more finicky. I intend to pay closer attention this year, and it's likely I'm just misdiagnosing things via ignorance.
From my experience, you do not want to isolate your plant roots from the soil completely. Even if the soil isn't great, it hosts the bacteria and fungi that will create a healthy relationship between your plant and the soil.
I think you're right on with the lasagna bed, but if you want to plant right away, make sure you puncture that cardboard and straw layer so there are bits of soil allthroughout, allowing organisms to move up and down from the ground to your plants.
When i do something like this i layer up my lasagna bed like it sounds like you are doing, but wherever i want to plant something i put a couple handfuls of compost or soil and then stab it down into the lasagna with a sharp stick, metal rod, or garden trowel until i know there is contact between the ground below and some of the soil that i put down in top. Then i plant into that spot and it usually does really well--especially if there are worms. In fact, i don't even compost anymore; i just do lasagna beds, hugel beds and mulch.
Just remember that whatever lovely mixture of stuff you put down, give your plant roots some soil path to the native ground.
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