Wild Raspberries: to mess with or not?

landwildJune 14, 2008

I have recently moved into a home on the countryside of western PA, and have taken inventory on the wild berries I have growing on the woodlines. I see that I have about 10-different 'patches' of black/raspberries and I want to know if I can 'improve' the yield by clearing out brush around those plants.

Pros: would allow less soil/nutrient competition. Would allow more sun exposure from other invasive species.

Cons: could harm the canes if I am not careful. I might get poison ivy!

Lastly, I know that If I want to increase the size of the fruit (like on a tomato) I can simply reduce a few of the buds and allow a set number of buds to continue to grow. Do berries work the same way?

My more important question will be the clearing around the plant. I would hope that someone has done this with success and can give a testimonial. Otherwise, we will leave em alone this year and hope to have enough to make a bunch of jam and wine!

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I have a large number of wild raspberries growing in an area that I took the top soil off. With that said I doubt that there is much in the way of nutrient in the rocky clay left behind. I also doubt that selective pruning will increase fruit size so that isn't necessary. The only help I'd imagine they need is to keep the other plants from overgrowing them.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 9:13AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I don't think you can really "harm" the plants... they are weedy and aggressive so clearing around them isn't going to do much damage.

I don't think that bud selection will increase the size of the fruit, because they are so intertwined/inconnected. Of course I haven't tried it, but it might be an interesting experiment. You could try it on one or two patches and compare that to the other patches.

I hope you have long gloves, I have the leather gardening gloves that go past my elbows... for pruning my wild berries. I do trim out suckers and other volunteers from the berry patch on my folks property. Mom is getting up there in years and I don't want her doing it anymore. More sunlight and less competition does improve berry production. We definitely notice a difference between the years when we do clearing and the years when we don't.... and its harder to access the berries when the suckering trees start taking over...

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 3:51PM
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well_drained(z6a MA)

Slightly off-topic:

There is a non-native Rubus that is an aggressive weed in some areas (USDA lists it as present in PA, but most reports are from the Pacific Northwest).

Also, my guide book distinguishes generally between raspberries, blackberries and dewberries (which I'd never heard of) - dozens of species of each. I only have a very small area and I've gone back and forth about keeping them because without a Ph.D. in botany I doubt I'll ever be able to definitively identify them as natives.

-- wd

Here is a link that might be useful: Himalayan Blackberry

    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 11:53AM
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greenhaven(SW MI z6)

It is my understanding that with the wild berries all you need to do is mow them down after they have fruited, to help clean an area out. They will quickly resprout new canes and bear fruit the following year. If you mow down the whole thicket it makes it easier to remove all the old dead canes. Mow it, rake it all out, start with fresh canes the next season. Enjoy!

But yes, you better have gloves and a thick, long-sleeved shirt on!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 2:08PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana(zone 5/6)

It is my understanding that with the wild berries all you need to do is mow them down after they have fruited, to help clean an area out. They will quickly resprout new canes and bear fruit the following year.
Not according to the info from the link below.
The crowns and roots of raspberry plants are perennial, but individual canes live two years. Each spring, the plants produce canes (suckers) from buds on the crown and on underground lateral stems. These canes grow vegetatively during the first season, overwinter, and produce fruit during the summer of the second year, while new canes emerge to provide a crop for the following year. Second-year canes die shortly after fruiting.

I want to know if I can 'improve' the yield by clearing out brush around those plants.
I won't say that it will help with the yield, but I lost some patches to non native honeysuckle, and native trumpet vine. I wish I would have acted b4 they got so taken over.


Here is a link that might be useful: Growing Raspberries and Blackberries

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 6:25PM
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greenhaven(SW MI z6)

Hey Sue, is that info specifically for wild black raspberries? There are certainly different fruiting characteristics among domesticated raspberries, even between black and red, and blackberries.

But if they are the wild black raspberries we know here in the midwest, she should have no problem. I know plenty of folks who mow their patch every year and get fruit every year.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 7:04PM
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greenhaven(SW MI z6)

Okay, I take back what I just said above, because I am getting conflicting information, now.

Some raspberries CAN be cut to the ground every year after fruiting and still bear fruit. Some cannot. That much is true. But now I am not comfortable saying that you can mow a wild patch every year. Again, conflicting info; like cooperative extension info versus personal experience.

But. I still would recommend a thorough mowing after fruiting this year to clear out the area of dead canes, nearby overgrowth, etc. Then you will assuredly get fruit the next season or the one after! :o)

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 7:19PM
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Thanks for the helpful info.. basically, I will allow nature to takes its course this year... 'not messing with things too much'. I plan on establishing a few actual berry beds this next year with this years 'new canes'. I think if I am careful in transplanting that we can move a few to some sunnier areas!

As I do this, I will indeed do an experiment with selecting pruning (removing canes that are not baring fruit, removing vegetation once fruiting has begun to allow better ripining etc). I plan to have 2-4 beds, thus having a good control area as well.

'OOPs': I did kill a ton of first year canes early on... I sprayed roundup on the side of the barn where there are MANY raspberry canes. The first year canes were what through me for a loop... last years (this years fruit bearing) were easy to spot. Now that I am educated, I will be more careful!

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 10:56AM
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I have 2 raspberry patches. One is a cultivar for family eating(heritage I think). The other is a huge patch of wild berries that have very tiny fruits. It is a huge wicked patch that no one touches but the birds. Boy, do they love that patch! They hide in it, play in it and consume all the berries. I will continue to leave it be and enjoy the wildlife. /Abi

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 12:45PM
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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

I think that cutting the whole patch to the ground every few years will generally improve the yield of berries. Old patches of blackberries or raspberries become thick with dead canes, other plants, etc., and the shade and competition seems to reduce the berry yield. The best wild berry patches I have seen are in places like roadsides or powerline cuts that are occasionally cut to the ground. Cutting also greatly improves access into the patch. So I would, in the fall or winter, mow a portion of your blackberries and raspberries to the ground each year. I might advise 20% each year, so that it takes you five years to do them all, and each area gets cut every five years. This may reduce the yield of berries the first year, but certainly will not kill any berry bushes and I think will improve yield and your ability to pick the berries. After about five years I think you'll find it is time to cut again.

Here in PA we have about three types of useful brambles. We have one common type of wild blackberry that is a very common and vigorous grower with nasty thorns. The wild Black Raspberry has purplish canes with a whitish blush on them and, once you know what it looks like, is readily identified all year round. It is also quite common and the berries are dark purple when ripe. The third edible bramble is red raspberry, which is a smaller plant that bears red berries earlier than the others. The berries are tasty, but can be hard to find in good supply. There are lots of other species in the same genus Rubus but I haven't found any others to be really much good to eat and common enough in PA to be important. Dewberry is very common - it is the trailing thorny vine found in many old fields - but the berries aren't much good, at least not the ones I have eaten. I haven't personally seen the Himalyan Blackberry in PA. Our native blackberry can grow pretty aggressively and might seem like an invasive non-native plant, but it is native. It can dominate an old field for a while, but saplings and taller shrubs take over after a while, and the blackberry patch turns into a forest.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 12:49PM
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Definite yes. Cultivating naturally growing plants is a plus because they are there and growing!! Raspberries are work, but if you enjoy raspberries, why pay $12 a pint! Generally fertilize, make space corrections by transplanting overcrowded plants to new locations, trim according to plan, and let nature do the rest.

Additional detail may come from the nearest University Botanist. No chemicals, please!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 3:09PM
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