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Growing berries in Marin
Cane berries: lots of fruit for little effort
Cane berries are easy to grow and require a minimum of maintenance. Here is a guide for growing your own berry patch.
Blackberries come in many varieties, both thorny and thornless. Some are trailing and require a wire support system. Others are erect and can therefore stand a little taller on their own. They grow best with plenty of compost added to the soil and consistent water. Like their untamed cousins that invade our wildlands, blackberries are vigorous and long-lived. For best fruit, provide regular water.
Blackberries should be pruned and trained with care so that they don't become entangled monsters. Cut out all the canes that fruited this year, since they won't fruit again, and preserve some of the new canes, which will fruit next year.
Some good blackberry varieties to try are Apache (thornless), Olallieberry (thorny and trailing), and Triple Crown (thornless and prolific). The blackberries that we see growing wild all over Marin are Himalayas.
Raspberries are a little more dangerous in a garden setting, and not just because they're thorny. While blackberries root on top of the soil where they can easily be plucked out if unwanted, raspberries send canes traveling underground. If you don't want your raspberries to spread, be sure to dig a trench around your raspberry patch and put an impenetrable barrier down a couple of feet. You will never regret that weekend's worth of work.
There are two types of raspberries, both of which are four- to six-foot-tall fountain-shaped shrubs. The summer-bearing type produces one crop in early summer. The everbearing type has one main crop in the fall and a smaller one in early summer. For rabid raspberry lovers, plant a couple of each, but be careful because pruning is a little different for each.
For the summer-bearing crops, cut back all canes that have died and browned out. To get a double harvest from an everbearing patch, cut off the tips of bearing canes in the fall after you've plucked lots of fruit. The following summer they will bear fruit on the uncut parts of the same canes. Cut back these canes to the ground when fruit production stops.
Like their blackberry cousins, raspberries appreciate enriched soil and regular water. They perform best where spring is cool, yet they don't like super foggy areas.
Check out the following varieties: Canby (summer), Caroline and Heritage (everbearing).
Contributors: Elizabeth Finley, Marie Narlock