Field of Science

Annual Berry Bramble Battle

One of the annual March chores is doing battle with the raspberry bramble. The reason for this is simple: the aerial shoots (canes) of red raspberries have a biennial cycle. In their first year new canes remain vegetative and unbranched, growing into long whips and over wintering in this condition. In their second year, raspberry canes branch, flower, and fruit, and then these shoots die as the season ends. This means you have to do two things each spring: one, remove all of last year’s dead canes, and two, cut all of the year-old canes back to about two feet tall to promote branching, flowering, and fruiting, and less flopping of fruit laden canes. This means you have to make sure you can tell the difference between live one-year-old canes and dead two-year-old canes; this sounds easy, but people screw up easier things than this. Every time you make a mistake, you shoot yourself in the berry basket. All of this is made more fun because the canes tend to tangle together and they’re armed with prickles (yes, this is a technical term for smallish thorns). Now these prickles are nothing compared to the thorns on climbing roses, and those are nothing compared to climbing rattan palms, but the joy and the bleeding are there. Other than this red raspberries are a pretty carefree, reliable, bountiful, and delicious crop, except of course once you realize you must establish a de-militarized zone, preferably a mine field or retired star wars laser cannons, where any entering raspberries get vaporized. Or as an alternative to bramble warfare, let them spread into the neighbors’ yard.


Sheila said...

Oh my, that sounds like quite the chore! I think I'll stick to buying them at the store!

The Phytophactor said...

It only takes 2-3 hrs, but at the prices you would pay in a store, my bramble yields $150-$200 of berries. And we won't talk about the qualitative differences.