Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pruning Blackberries & Removing Winter Mulch from Strawberries

   Our crew and I have now finished the dormant peach pruning, and we're working on dormant pruning of thornless blackberries.  Blackberry and raspberry plants have perennial roots but biennial canes, so canes only live for two years.  First-year canes, called primocanes, are vegetative, growing only leaves.  Second-year canes, called floricanes, produce flowers which become fruits, as well as leaves.  After fruiting, the floricanes die.  So blackberry and raspberry plants need a lot of pruning.
Rachael Triebel prunes back side branches on floricanes of thornless blackberries, that will bear the crop this summer.
   We pruned out most of the dying floricanes last fall, after harvest.  Now we're removing any dead floricanes that remain, and shortening the side branches on last year's primocanes, which are now this year's floricanes that will bear the crop this summer.  Soon new shoots will emerge from the ground, which become this year's primocanes, and we'll pinch these shoots at shoulder-height in May and June to encourage branching.  We'll go over the planting several times in summer to trim back side branches from these primocanes, then cut out dead floricanes again next fall after harvest. 
   Over the last week, whenever the weather was conducive, I've removed the winter straw mulch from on top of the strawberry plants, and placed it in the aisles to control weeds and cushion knees when harvesting strawberries.  The winter mulch protected strawberry plants from extreme winter cold, and is the reason these berries are called strawberries.
I've just removed the winter straw mulch from on top of these strawberry plants.  The cool early spring temperatures have delayed growth, so the strawberry harvest season will likely be later than average again this year.
   The cool early spring temperatures have delayed growth of strawberries, so the harvest season will likely be later than average again this year, perhaps May 14 to June 5 or so.  Strawberries are sold pick-your-own only, by appointment only, as our planting is small since there's so much stoop work with strawberries.
   Fruit tree bud development has also been delayed by the cool early spring temperatures.  I'm thankful for this, since temperatures here have dropped to 25 or 26 F for 3 of the past 4 nights.  Peach flowers have not opened yet, so aren't hurt by these temperatures.  It looks like peach bloom will take place about April 1 to 10 this year.  Pears will follow in early April, and apples in mid-April.  
   We still have cracked 'Kanza' pecans and many 'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples for sale, kept in top condition in our cooler.  Cracked 'Kanza' pecans are $14.86 + tax for a 5.0-lb. bag with loose shells blown out.  Apple prices are still $1.00 less for each 20 lbs. than last fall.  Smaller amounts of harvested #1 apples are still $1.21 per pound + tax, but 20 lbs. #1's are now just $22.29 + tax ($1.11 per pound), and 40 lbs. #1's are just $42.73 + tax ($1.06 per pound).  Lesser amounts of harvested #2 apples are still $0.83 per pound + tax, but 20 lbs. #2's are now just $14.86 + tax ($0.74 per pound), and 40 lbs. #2's are just $27.87 + tax ($0.70 per pound).  You can also get the 40-lb. discount by buying 20 lbs. #1's and 20 lbs. #2's.
   We're open by appointment from Dec. 1 to May 31, so phone 620-597-2450 a day or so before coming to get apples or pecans, and leave a message saying when you'll get here, so I can meet you at the sales building.  (When we're pruning blackberries at the back of the planting, we can't always see or hear vehicles come in the driveway if people just drop by.)  For highway detour directions, scroll to the bottom of the page.