When anyone asks me what fruit I like best, I answer, "What's ripe?" Although this sounds like a flippant answer, it is not far from the truth. Raspberries certainly come near the top of the list if I were to name any favorites. The delectable melting fruits are so good that I almost feel guilty eating them.

As a young man, I once went hiking in the mountains of Colorado. Wild raspberries were everywhere. The only limitation was how long you wanted to pick and eat. That glorious experience comes back to me each time I taste these extraordinary fruits.I have never seen wild raspberries like that anywhere else. For the most part, we nurture and tend these plants and coax them to produce. Utah conditions, particularly in the desert valleys, are not conducive to easy raspberry production. If possible they prefer cool, moist conditions. Avoid planting them where they will get extra heat on the south or west side of structures.

Raspberries prefer rich, well-drained, organic soils. Heavy clay soils make them difficult to grow because they are susceptible to root rot and iron chlorosis. Before planting, work 2 to 6 inches of coarse organic matter into the soil. Add 4 to 8 cups of 21-0-0 per 100 square feet to help break down the organic matter. Grow the plants on raised beds or berms if the soil is too heavy.

Purchase bare root plants in the spring. Buy only certified virus-free plants from a reputable nursery to insure healthy, productive, disease-free plants. Plant them 2 to 3 feet apart and allow the suckers to fill in the rows. Keep the raspberry rows about 18 inches wide and leave enough room between rows to cultivate. If you plan to till between the rows, leave enough room to get the equipment through.

Water raspberries after planting and then water deeply and infrequently. They do not like the same watering schedule as lawns. Typically, they will grow well with 1 to 11/2 inches of moisture per week. Increase this to 2-21/2 inches per week when the plants are fruiting. Drip or soaker hoses work well and a mulch layer helps conserve moisture. Fertilize producing plants every spring. Use an all-purpose fertilizer (16-16-8, 10-10-10 or 20-20-20) the first year. Apply one cup ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) per 10 feet of row in subsequent years.

The two types of raspberries are June-bearing and everbearing. June-bearing produce a heavy crop of berries from June through early July. Everbearing raspberries produce two crops, one in June and one in the fall from September until they freeze. There are three distinct kinds of berries. Red raspberries are the most common. Yellow berries grow the same as the red except for the different colored fruit. Black raspberries produce differently and are pruned and trained to other systems. Purple raspberries are hybrids between the two and grow much like black raspberries. The following information applies primarily to red berries.

Most raspberries need support to keep the canes from falling over. June-bearing plants are pruned every spring. The fruit is born on 2-year-old wood. After the cane bears fruit it dies. These dead canes are removed each year. In the spring, wait until the buds swell and some green growth is visible. Remove all dead wood that is gray and brittle (cut it at the base). This year's crop will be produced on those canes that grew last year. These look brown and produce new growth. After removing the dead canes in the spring, cut back the remaining live canes to where they start to turn over and hang down. Leave them as long as possible as long as they do not fall over. Most gardeners cut the canes too short and this affects pro-duc-tion.

Everbearing raspberries can be pruned using two methods. If a large fall crop is desired, then all the canes are mowed back to 2 to 4 inches each spring. This will give a great fall crop but no summer crop. To produce crops in summer and fall, prune them as June-bearing raspberries.

If you have no raspberries, then stop at your favorite nursery and pick up some certified virus-free plants to start producing some of these wonderful fruits. Variety descriptions are covered in the accompanying chart. Most of these are available locally. The two most commonly planted varieties are Canby, a June-bearing variety, and Heritage, an everbearing variety. Those with established plantings need to watch for the pesky cane borers, a subject that will be covered in next week's article.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

RASPBERRY VARIETIES

(Summer) June Bearing:

VARIETY SIZE FLAVOR PROCESSING YIELD

Chilliwack Large Excellent Good Good

Latham Medium Good Good Good

Newburgh Large Excellent Good Excellent

Titan Very Large Fair Good Excellent

Tulameen Large Good Good Excellent

Canby (thornless) Medium Excellent Excellent Good

Everbearing:

Heritage Medium Excellent Good Excellent

Ruby Large Good Good Excellent

Redwing Medium Good Good Good

Summit Small-medium Good Excellent Excellent

Amity Medium Good Excellent Excellent

Purple Summer:

Royalty Large Good Excellent Excellent