Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mulching Blackberries and Raspberries

  Our 'Royalty' purple raspberries are still producing well, despite the high heat and drought.  We are having to water raspberries and blackberries.
'Royalty' purple raspberries are still plentiful.

  I've been gathering many loads of grass clippings with our grass catcher lately.  Our workers then spread this as mulch along the rows of our raspberry and blackberry plants.  The mulch helps hold in what little soil moisture there is, and helps smother out some weeds.  I'm also carefully spot-treating pesky perennial weeds with glyphosate (Roundup).
Our son Michael Reid (left), Joe Tillman (right), and our other workers Lucas Epler and Joel Zwahlen (in back) applied mulch to the blackberry rows this morning.
     The thornless blackberry crop is reduced this year, as noted on a previous post, as -17 F temperatures in early Feb. killed back the fruiting canes.  Only the lower blackberry fruiting shoots survived, and they  bloomed two weeks later than normal.  So only a few blackberries have started ripening yet.  The time of heaviest blackberry ripening will be about July 8 to Aug. 6 this year.
Alex holds a 'Natchez' blackberry bigger than his thumb.  He and his grandma, Ann Kress, picked a couple quarts of 'Natchez' blackberries this morning.
   The few 'Natchez' blackberries that are ripe are nice and big.  'Ouachita', our next variety, is just starting to ripen.

Monday, June 20, 2011

4-H Group Tour

  A Cherokee County 4-H group toured Brenda's Berries & Orchards this morning, then picked some red raspberries and purple raspberries.  Kids from young children to older teenagers attended with their parents and grandparents.
  We first looked at the peach orchard, which unfortunately has no peaches this year due to -17 F temperatures early last Feb.  Our workers were pruning the trees, which need even more summer pruning this year since the vegetative growth is much stronger with no fruit crop.  One of our workers, Lucas Epler, was on a similar 4-H tour of Brenda's Berries & Orchards 6 or 7 years ago, and this is now his 4th year of working for us.
The 4-H group (in back) watched our workers prune peach trees and load prunings on a trailer (foreground) to haul off.

  We then looked at our pear orchard of European pears and Asian pears, and seedling apple trees under evaluation in our apple breeding program.  We looked at the thornless blackberries, how they grow, and the damage from last Feb.'s cold to the blackberry crop.  The kids then tasted a few of our earliest blackberry variety, 'Natchez', which is just starting to ripen.
The 4-H group picked lots of purple raspberries.

  Then the 4-H kids and parents picked red raspberries and purple raspberries. Many purple raspberries are ripe now, while the red raspberries are winding down but still have some fruit ripening.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Purple Raspberries & Blackberries Ripening

  Purple raspberries have just started ripening.  They'll be numerous from about June17 to July 12.  Purple raspberries are hybrids between red raspberries and black raspberries (two different native species).  They have hybrid vigor, producing large amounts of larger fruit, with flavor that's a blend of red and black.
  We grow 'Royalty' purple raspberry, which is actually a hybrid of a red raspberry and a purple raspberry, so it's 3/4 red raspberry and 1/4 black raspberry.  This variety is resistant to the aphid vector of raspberry mosaic virus, so it never gets this virus, and plantings last longer than virus-susceptible raspberry varieties.  'Royalty' fruit are very large, and are excellent for fresh eating, jam, freezing, etc.
'Royalty' purple raspberries are just starting to ripen.  They can be picked at the red-purple stage (large fruit in center) for firm mild-tasting fruit, or the deep purple stage (far right) for softer, full-flavored fruit.

  Our red raspberries are still producing very heavily, and the 'Jewel' black raspberries are also ripe now.
  Our earliest thornless blackberries, 'Natchez', are just starting to color, so they'll be ripe in 3 or 4 days.  The -17 F cold in early Feb. killed back the fruiting canes of all our blackberry varieties, since thornless varieties are less cold-hardy than the wild thorny blackberries.  So we had to prune all 1400 plants all over again, cutting back to the live side branches.
This photo, taken 5/7/11, shows the damage to 'Triple Crown' thornless blackberry fruiting canes by last Feb.'s -17 F freeze.  We've since pruned back all the dead floricanes to live side branches.
This photo, taken during blackberry bloom in late May, shows the planting after all damaged fruiting canes were cut back.

  So this year's thornless blackberry crop will be lower than usual, both in quantity and stature.  The berries are still very nice, much larger and sweeter than wild blackberries, but most of them will be at waist height and below.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Red raspberries ripening

  Red raspberries have started ripening, and will be heavy from about June 8 to 28.  We grow 'Reveille', which has outstanding flavor and is practically spineless.
'Reveille' red raspberries have started ripening. They're easy to pick since they're almost spineless.
'Reveille' is very productive, and there will be plenty of red raspberries for those who want large amounts for freezing and jam-making from about June 8 to 28.
    Black raspberries start ripening a few days later, and should be heavy between June 10 and 25.  This is the first fruiting year for 'Jewel' black raspberry, which we planted last year after removing the 'Black Hawk' plants.  'Jewel' is twice the size of 'Black Hawk' so is much easier to pick.  Black raspberries make wonderful jam, syrup or homemade ice cream, with a unique flavor not available in stores.  Black raspberries also have the highest levels of cancer-preventing antioxidants of any temperate-zone fruits.
Many 'Jewel' black raspberries will be ripe about June 10 to 25.

  If you want to come pick raspberries, call 620-597-2450 or e-mail and leave a message saying what day and time you plan to come, and about how many pints you want to get. We're now open our summer hours: 7:30 a.m. to 12 noon Mon. to Sat., and 7-9 p.m. every evening.