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Planting and raising raspberries

Singing Gardener: Plus, sauerkraut from crock to jars and making refreshing rhubarb slush


Planting raspberries — and memories of Prairie songs. Also, yours truly had a chance to talk with gardener Margaret Gluska from Cranberry Portage, Manitoba. She’s seeking seeds for Pilgrim tomato and apparently they’re as hard to get as pulling hens’ teeth.

As I get older, thoughts sometimes return to childhood days. A number of Prairie songs from my memory bank have surfaced that I’ve been singing lately. One tune in particular that really touches my heart is: “There’s No One Like Mother To Me.”

I bid my Grainews readers howdy and welcome with a tip o’ the hat. In my mind’s eye I visualize you waving back to me. You’re a great bunch and thanks for being who you are.

Planting raspberries

Soil preparation, preferably a season in advance, is really important, especially for big-scale commercial growers. It is better to wait a year if you’re dealing with twitchgrass, quackgrass or whatever unwanted plant growth there is. When grasses and weeds are eliminated, a future raspberry plantation will be easy to deal with and looking good for many years down the road.

Purchase certified disease- and virus-free raspberry stock and plant as early as possible, preferably on a cloudy or drizzly day. Within the row, canes should be about 60 cm (24 inches) apart, with rows two metres wide and up to three or 3-1/2 metres apart when mechanized equipment is used. Of course, home gardeners can make adjustments according to their space available.

Raspberry pests

Be on the lookout for Spotted Winged Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) (SWD), a vinegar fruit fly of East Asian origin that lays eggs both in unripe and ripe fruit such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cherries and plums. Eggs hatch about three days later and maggot-like larvae feed on fruit to emerge as adult flies about a week or more later. By contrast, what we call the common indoor and outdoor fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) feeds on overripe and decaying fruit. Infestations in recent years have been spotty in some areas of the country including Manitoba since summer of 2013 and Ontario. But, like the lily leaf beetle, the drosophila can spread its wings and may show up elsewhere. Growers should monitor for this pest, correctly identify it and take steps to minimize populations.

Thoroughly pick all near-ripe, ripened and infested fruit from the fruit-bearing canes and berries dropped to the ground. Do this frequently, possibly more than once each day. Carefully remove and destroy the unwanted fruit to prevent flies from feeding on it and hatching more larvae. Bury it away from growing site at least a couple of feet deep. Crushing or composting the fruit and leaving it on the soil surface won’t work, as more drosophila will emerge.

Some research has shown that bagging fruit in plastic or covering it with plastic and exposing it to full sun for a week kills all eggs and larvae. But this could be an awesome undertaking on a large plantation and you don’t want to overheat or cook the fruit. Draping the blossoms carefully with lightweight white floating row cover is another option and makes a useful insect barrier. Such material is available at some garden centres and dollar stores and provides protection against maggot flies, flea beetles, thrips, aphids and other pests without heat buildup. However, it also impedes bees and other pollinating insects. Fasten the material securely with clothespins or other clips so the fabric doesn’t blow off.

I recall one case of a rural raspberry grower who burned an entire raspberry plantation to the ground in an effort to get rid of an SWD infestation.

Another common raspberry pest that’s been around for a while is the cane borer. The sudden wilting of the tip of a cane indicates that the borer is at work. Prune off cane at least 15 cm (six inches) below the bottom of the wilt and destroy the part removed. If you do nothing, the pest will burrow down through the cane and destroy the crown. If young canes wilt in late spring and early summer, the cane maggot is doing its dastardly deed. Control is the same as for the cane borer. Both the raspberry fruit worm and the raspberry sawfly are other pests that can cause periodic trouble. Hanging Safer’s Sticky Strips and/or Sticky Stiks near tops of canes is another option to reduce presence of flying pests.

Raspberry diseases

Viruses can be troublesome for some varieties. There’s no real cure other than to purchase different resistant plants. A virus displays itself by fruits becoming smaller with each passing year. Also the canes and leaves take on a lacklustre appearance and finally die completely.

Orange rust (also found on some roses and hollyhocks) is common on wild raspberries and some cultivated red and black raspberries. The disease manifests itself by bright-orange spores on canes and undersides of leaves. Leaf curl causes new leaves to curl downward and inward toward the cane. If leaves on new canes are mottled with yellow streaks, mosaic virus is often to blame. Raspberries are often susceptible to verticillium, a common disease that also attacks some tomato varieties. Anthracnose is a fungus disease which occurs on raspberry canes as grey blotches with purple edges. The recommended control is lime-sulphur or other sulphur-based sprays.

Subject: Tomato seeds missing in action

The above headline came from Leonard A. Gluska, president of L.A.G. Holdings Ltd., Cranberry Portage, Man. He wrote: “I am actually farming and in the feed grain marketing business, with trucks that transport the feed grain from farm gate to market, which are livestock producers and feed mills. So that is where my true green thumb is applied with a lot of related perseverance and emotion.

“My good wife Margaret begins reading Grainews with the back page; need I say more. She asked me to email you to ask if you could point in the direction of a source for seeds for Pilgrim tomato. You could text her at 204-271-1524 or respond by email at [email protected] or phone her at 204-472-3684 (landline) and maybe engage in a conversation with another passionate gardener. Thanks.”

Ted replies: Here’s a short account of my conversation with Margaret. She told me: “I had beautiful, beautiful, bright, big red Pilgrim tomatoes that ripened in my garden. I bought them as bedding plants in Dauphin one year, and another year in Yorkton. Now they say they can’t get seeds anymore. I’d like to start some myself if I can get the seeds.”

I asked Margaret what else is going on. “I grow enough produce of everything and share with a lot of neighbours. I grow my own potatoes such as russets, Norland and Viking from one year to the next.

“I also grow gladiolus, and all kinds of flowers including big sunflowers. The good Lord let’s me produce more than I need so I willingly share them at no cost. I can about 40 quarts of tomatoes every year and make about 100 quarts of dills — lots of salsa and freeze corn.”

Our conversation turned to Margaret’s method for making sauerkraut. “About 10 pounds of shredded cabbage and about 2/3 to 3/4 cup of coarse salt. I kind of go by taste to make sure I have enough salt or not too much and a little pickling spice. I put it all in layers in a crock and let it sit for three, four or five days or a week or more and then I pack it into jars with new rubber rings and top them off with about an inch of hot boiling water and let sit again for about a week. Then put jars in a canner filled with hot boiling water for about 10 minutes to stop the fermentation. Remove jars and tip them over for three or four days to make sure they’re sealed and no leaks, then turn jars upright and place in storage. My mom made sauerkraut that way; it keeps and stays nice and white.”

No-fuss rhubarb slush

I hope your rhubarb plants are doing marvellous in a sunny garden. Rhubarb is the featured ingredient in this homemade beverage. Keep a pitcher full of rhubarb slush chilled in the fridge. It’s one of the least expensive ways to satisfy thirst other than plain water. This recipe is the creation of a professional home economist. A big thank you to Karla and the good folks at Fruit Share Winnipeg. Some modifications shall follow the recipe for those desiring to make it less sweet.

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups rhubarb, washed and diced
  • 2-1/2 to 3 cups sugar (your choice)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 4-oz. package strawberry jelly powder
  • Lemon-lime soft drink such as 7-Up

Method:

Place first four ingredients in a large saucepan and lightly boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain off liquid and use the rhubarb pulp to add to the compost pile. Add and stir in one (4-oz.) package strawberry jelly powder. Freeze in an ice-cream pail, or appropriate containers. Remove from freezer one hour before serving or while still slushy. Combine equal parts of lemon-lime soft drink and rhubarb slush.

A couple of modifications:

The following reduces the amount of sugar used and enhances the rhubarb flavour. Substitute one envelope of unflavoured gelatin instead of strawberry jelly powder. Mix with club soda instead of lemon-lime soft drink. That’s it.

Here’s notable feedback from someone who tried it. “This slush is delicious! I made it as is, but next time I may try the modification. I was just going to compost the pulp, but my son said, ‘No don’t — it’s good.’ I used the rhubarb pulp in place of applesauce in a recipe for low-fat muffins.”

No-cost paying forward

Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on, pass it on,

’Twas not given for you alone, pass it on, pass it on,

As it travels with you down life’s road, pass it on, pass it on,

Comfort, joy and respect show, pass it on, pass it on.

About the author

Columnist

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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