This is a shot of two of our rows of raspberries as they looked yesterday morning.
For many years, I was chief-in-charge of pruning and it usually took me two days to complete the job. Then a couple of years ago, I wasn't feeling too perky around the time for pruning, so I asked my husband for help. Wow. Did it go faster with two people! We were able to do it in one day easily with time left over.
This is how the same two rows looked yesterday afternoon.
When I did it myself, I would crawl along on my hands and knees cutting out the old canes close to ground level, from my kneeling position try to pull the 5-6 foot tall severed cane out and away from the neighboring canes (who didn't want to let it go) and then lay the cane in a stack on the ground between rows where there wasn't a lot of room to begin with. (You think this sentence was awkward, you should have tried to do what it described!) Periodically, I'd have to get up, gather the stack of cut canes and carry them on down the row and place them in the garden cart to be hauled away to a burn pile.
Now when the two of us attack the task, one person does the bending over snipping off dead canes while the other, in an upright position, easily grabs a couple/few lopped off canes, takes a few steps to the end of the row where the garden cart is stationed, deposits the canes there and is back in a matter of seconds to take more dead canes from the person cutting. Much, much, much easier . . . she says with a huge sigh.
Piling the old, dead canes in the garden cart.
We still want to build the ultimate, visually attractive trellises to hold up our skyward-growing raspberry plants, but until we get to that item on our To Do List, the simple system we've devised works well.
At both ends of each row, we've pounded two tall metal stakes into the ground. From stake to stake on either side of the row, I string baling twine (good, strong stuff) along the raspberries at three different heights. One about 18" off the ground, another perhaps 18" above that and then, one more near the top of the metal stakes. If I manage to get these lengths of baling twine nice and tight, they do a good job of holding the raspberry canes upright so they don't droop onto the ground, and it makes picking the berries much easier.
This shows two rows with two stakes at each end.
I do have to take the baling twine supports down when it's time to prune, but once the patch has been cleaned up and all the remaining canes cut back to about 4 or 5 feet high, I restring the twine and the canes are ready for the growing season.
Restringing baling twine for support on each side of row.
Next my little tiller gets brought to the raspberries and I till around the perimeter of the patch and inbetween each row to discourage any volunteer, wayward shoots that tend to pop up outside the delineated rows, being careful not to get too close to the canes within the rows because they are very shallow rooted and great damage could be done by 'root-pruning' the main crop.
Then I mulch, mulch, mulch quite heavily with rotted straw or new bales of straw that have been left out in the rain long enough for any weed seeds to sprout and die. This usually smothers the bulk of the weeds in the patch for the whole summer. If conditions exist that allow some weeds to push through the mulch, I pull them out and sometimes supplement the straw mulch with grass clippings throughout the summer.
Pruned, tied, tilled, mulched and ready for summer.
Compare the time I put into our raspberry patch to the time needed for a weed-free strawberry patch and it's no wonder I love raspberries so much. They're simply much less labor intensive than strawberries. But seeing as how the man I live with is somewhat of a strawberry freak, it seems only fair to do what needs to be done to maintain our strawberry patch as well. (I'm nice that way . . . big grin.) So strawberry patch, watch out! You're next.