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England: Jewel black raspberry tolerates our climate

POSTED: June 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Russ England/For The Times

The Jewel variety of black raspberry can grow from New England to the Carolinas to the Midwest.

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Question: I want to try growing raspberries. Can you recommend a variety that will grow well in the Gainesville area?

Answer: Based on what I have read, raspberries are not well adapted to much of the South. Most of them are said to require not only winter cold, but also a slowly warming spring to do their best.

When most people think of raspberries, a red berry comes to mind. Indeed, red raspberries seem to be the most popular and are generally considered to be the heaviest bearing.

In my limited experience with raspberries, I find them to be very much like other types of fruit; some varieties look delicious but just don’t taste nearly as good as they look. To me, a good raspberry has to be black, not red.

Again, the literature says black raspberries are less tolerant to Southern climates than the red ones. However, there is one variety, known as Jewel, that I have been successfully growing for about 25 years.

The black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) is a native American bramble with an original range from New England to the Carolinas and into the Midwest. In the wild it grows in clearings or around field borders.

Early plants collected from the wild responded well to cultivation and freedom from competition in home gardens. Nurseries began carrying black raspberries in the early 1800s and plant breeders gradually developed improved varieties.

The Jewel black raspberry was developed in 1954 at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. It turned out to be a disease-resistant and vigorous variety.
Raspberries, like other brambles, have a two-year life cycle. Canes that grow the first year do not produce fruit until the next year.

Q: How should raspberry canes be managed for best fruit production?

A: Left to their own devices, raspberry canes grow so long that they bend over and touch the ground.

Where the tip of the cane touches the ground, roots develop and a new plant is formed.

For best fruit production, prune the canes back to a few feet in length so that they develop lateral branches. If you cut the canes off at two feet or less they will not need support, but I prefer to let them grow a bit longer and tie them to a wire to keep them from drooping over.

My raspberries are planted in two rows about two feet apart. Over each row, I have a single horizontal wire supported by posts so they are about three feet off the ground.

As soon as the old canes finish bearing, I cut them out and tie the new canes to the wire, cutting them off about six inches to a foot above the wire. The following winter or early spring, I cut back the lateral branches to about six to eighteen inches long, depending on how strong they appear.

Raspberries need lots of water between bloom and berry harvest, otherwise the fruit will be small and seedy. They will benefit from lots of organic matter dug into the soil at planting time and they should be kept well-mulched to conserve moisture and control weeds.

I get 2 gallons or more of berries from two 30-foot rows of plants. Considering the store price of berries and the quality of home-grown fruit, I believe my efforts are well rewarded.

Russ England is a Master Gardener trained and certified in horticulture and related areas through by the Georgia Cooperative Extension. Send questions to rhefish@yahoo.com.



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