Sunday, June 14, 2009


They say that you can't grow Raspberries in Davis for reasons of heat stress, hard water etc. I however, beg to differ. I have been harvesting a about a pint a week of golden raspberries out of my EC garden plot for the last month. The pint number is really a guesstimation because the raspberries never leave the garden; they seem to disappear straight into my mouth despite my best efforts to bag them to take home. A few did make it into a raspberry ruhbarb custard pie (my favorite!) But that's all that managed to make it home.

I planted the berries a couple of years ago along the north side of my perennial plot because I thought they would be a clever way of detering people from stealing my produce. The raspberries hanging over the fence would be a great foreground distraction for people, and the thorns would be a deterrent for people who did happen to notice the rhubarb and asparagus ready for harvest deep inside the plot.

I planted a couple of cultivars, Heritige, the red raspberry cultivar that is available bare root at just about every nursery in January, and Fall Gold, a golden raspberry, actually they're kind of peach colored when they're nice and ripe. The Fall Golds have far out performed the Heritiges , with two abundant crops of berries each year, one in late May and one in September. The plants are very happy and doing what happy raspberries do, spreading by rhizomes and sending up fat healthy canes everywhere, including in the paths and other beds. I plan to dig these up when they're dormant this winter. I'll give some of them away and use the rest to replace the Heritige plants that only bear a couple of puny berries each week.

I bought my raspberry canes in Mendocino County, fabulous raspberry growing country, knowing full well that none of the nurseries in Davis even sell them becuse they're not supposed to grow here (telling me I can't grow something only encourages me to plant it). My thought was that if I could mimic the conditions that wild raspberries growing in(cool, moist, dappled sunlight, acidic forest soils with a leaf litter layer on top) then they might just grow for me.

The bed I planted the raspberries in is shaded by a hop trellis on the west side and a few elm branches over the top, so check on dappled shade. Before I planted I worked lots of compost into the soil, and some bone meal too, which acidifies the soil and adds fertility, I also put down a double length of soaker hose which I use to give deep infrequent waterings (4 hours 3 times a week durning the hot part of the year) and mulched over the top of it with rice hulls, so check moist and litter layer. It's pretty sketchy to say that I've actually mimiced the conditions in the raspberry country of the Pacific Northwest, but obviously It worked for at least one cultivar, and hopefully it will work for more than that.

Since there's nothing I can do about the Davis heat I'm interested in trying some other cultivars that are supposedly heat tollerent. Last winter I planted a Tayberry, a hybrid between a black raspberry and a blackberry that is supposed to have very tasty black fruit. I'm also interested in trying other black rasbberry cultivars because black raspberries are native to hotter areas than the wild red ones. And then there's Baba Berries, no longer commercially available in California, these are the holy grail of raspberries to me right now. They're another blackberry raspberry cross, apparently they bear tons of very raspberry like fruit. Alas, I can't find plants! If anyone has some of these I would be happy to trade some Fall Gold canes for some starts.