Question about mulching around new raspberry plants

frmrsdghtrMay 17, 2009

I'm a new gardener - and jumped in a little over my head i think. I planted a whole bunch of raspberries plants in sandy virgin soil that is delinquint in almost all important nutrients. My questions (sorry if they sound dumb!:) are: If I place several inches of mulch - i'm thinking seaweed and/or leaves - around the plants to keep weeds out and moisture in, will it discourage the little shoots coming up from the horizontal roots of the bare root plants? And also, I need to be feeding my plants(roots) lots of compost,fertilizers,nutrients etc., won't that be difficult to do with all the mulch? How will it get to the roots? Thanks for your help!

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sfallen2002(z5 IA)

Congratulations. Raspberries are the marines of the small fruit world - I doubt you could stop them from sending out suckers even if you paved over them.

First, do not dump a ton of leaves on your plants. Mixed in with compost, fine, but massive does of leaves will turn your soil acidic. That will not make the berries terribly happy.

I dunno about seaweed - what I've seen on movies it's the lanky, thin stuff along the beaches - that will never keep weeds down.

I have tried newspaper (lost in the first wave of weeds), 4-5 inches wood chip mulch (lost in the second wave, and no traces exist 2 years later). This year my plan is to layer cardboard and wood chips over.

You do not need to be feeding your plants much. They are able to manufacture food through a process known as photosynthesis. The stuff you buy at a store to dump on them may help in small doses, hurt in larger doses. It certainly will not help you balance your pocketbook.

And unless you do pave over them, whatever you put on the surface or near your plants will make it's own way to the root system, eventually. That is nature's way, and it has worked for millenia before there were discount stores, miracle gro, or even gardeners. Go with what works.

Best of luck to you!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 10:15PM
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I think that spreading some compost around the plants would give them most if not all these plants will need, anyway Raspberries are tough plants once established. I think that in sandy soil these should really take off... BTW, what types did you get.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 1:59AM
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Thank you for your responses! We planted 500 Heritage. I've since read that those are not a top pick :(. If they take off and do well we hope try other varieties. I was thinking of leaves and seaweed as compost because with 500 plants we need to use something we can get in abundance, cheap. I have no idea where to get lots of compost. We did till up the patch with some horse manure and organic fertilizers before planting.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 7:05AM
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We have a bed of everbearing red raspberries, that's been slowly expanding for 12 years. Every fall, I clean up the bed by cutting all the canes down to about 10 inches high, and them I mulch the bed with 6 to 8 inches of shredded maple leaves. The following spring, the raspberries poke up through the leaves, and take off. The shredded leaves help to keep the weeds down during the growing season. By fall, when its time to clean up the bed again, there will be no trace of the leaves left. I am guessing that the worms eat the leaves, but I have never actually caught one in the act. We have naturally alkaline soil here, due to limestone deposits, so there is little chance that our soil will ever become too acidic.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 10:10AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I think the main point is to compost with something. My new bed I put in this fall got 6" of composted yard waste (leaves, plants pulled weeds, etc) and its going like gangbusters now. The other bed I put composted manure on. Some years I did not add compost and they didn't produce nearly as well.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 10:55AM
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Five hundred!??!?

My one heritage has put up 12 new canes this year from last year's one cane.

So maybe next year you'll have 6000 canes to deal with!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 11:46AM
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Actually raspberries like acid soil. The cheapest mulch you can get is wood chips. In MI, 30 cubic yards of wood chips cost nothing (delivery also does not cost), if you call a tree company that would need to pay for landfill space otherwise. that would probably take care of 500 plants. Do not be shy and give them 8 inches or more initially.

Wood chips will make the soil even more acid than leaves (which actually make a mildly acidic compost) initially, but the raspberries will not mind. They will appreciate the water savings, and long term (say, in two years), the mulch will provide all the nutrients they need.

Right now, with new plants and a barren soil that needs time to absorb all that organic matter, you are better off fertilizing and watering a bit. You will appreciate a mulch that lasts two or more years, and that does not smother new canes (like matted maple leaves sometimes do).

I have had raspberries in acidic sandy soil since 1997. They only got whatever yard waste I did not want to use on other plants, so mostly wood chips, but also peeling bark from firewood, whatever I swept from the patio or driveway, etc, probably 2 feet of the stuff over the years. They are incredibly strong plants.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 5:41PM
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I also use wood chips to mulch my raspberries. But Nourse reccommends NO mulch at all.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 11:37AM
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erutuon(4b/5a Mpls)

I've been putting lots of leaves over my small patch of twice-bearing raspberries along the side of the house, and they're thriving. The soil underneath (a quick-draining and drying sandy loam) is moist and loose. The shoots coming up from established plants usually find their way through the leaves, but sometimes they have trouble. Small plants transplanted to a new place are weaker.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 11:59AM
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glenn_russell(6b RI)

I always add a couple inches of nice compost to my raspberries, but I may go with manure next year just to mix it up. I do use mulch on my berries just to keep the weeds down for the first year. In the 2nd year on, the raspberries take over the bed enough that weeds just can't compete. Never tried leaves, as my beds are slightly raised and leaves wouldn't stay in them so well. They'd just blow into my grass. -Glenn

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 12:11PM
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Are you saying that the raspberry plants I just planted a few days ago can be mulched. I have a huge pile of compost and wood chips and was planning on using it but the guy at Nourse farms says not to mulch.

Are raspberries tolerant to the toxin juglone put off by walnut trees? I am concerned that there may be some walnut chips in what I have.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 8:32PM
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I just spoke to Nourse today and they said take leaf mulch away like end of March... we still had snow on the ground, but early spring and replace with straw mulch. They onlu use straw much... But, I had fungus nats from the leaves and grass clippings over wintered. But I have wood chips from last years tree project and am going to use them!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 8:48PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I myself have an endless supply of pine hay, so that is what I use. I use it to keep moisture in, and weeds down. I also add humus/manure you can buy at the big box stores. A slow release organic fertilizer, and also use water soluble fertilizer too, but only at 1/2 strength.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 1:22AM
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I'm in an arid environment with high lime soil so the acidifying effect of organic amendments and nitrogen fertilizers is good. as far as water is concerned, 2 points - first, whole leaves will mat and that can become a problem so mine are run through the chipper/shredder and then applied several inches deep in the Fall. Second, matted leaves can be difficult to get rain or overhead irrigation through, that's a problem in dry climates. In wet climates a leaf matted bed may never dry out and lead to root rot and dead or declining bed health.

Glenn: Howdy, long time no hear! I put 2' chicken wire around my beds in the Fall then dump the leaves in and leave the wire in place until about now when the new shoots are big and numerous enough to keep the leaves in place, try it some time.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 6:21PM
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