Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Kate and I have spent the past couple of days preparing the new raspberry bed and then planting a single row DSC_0019-2of 32 canes.

As ever in the garden, we started off with a patch of land that had been wild meadow for the past couple of years.  The soil here is chalky clay and very heavy.

The berry beds had already been marked out as part of the earlieDSC_0017-2r preparations, 2 beds running north/south,  each 7m (23' 6") by 1200mm (4 ft) with a 1m gap between them.  I quickly decided that it would be better to use the land as 1 bed 15m long by the 1200mm and so changed the marking.  It meant we lost an access into the middle of the vegetable plot but I don't think that matters.

We had already planted a redcurrant bush at the north end of this bed but the change in length made no difference to that.

Next we started to work the soil.   Clay that has not been touched for a couple of years takes quite a lot of moving but we decided to use our power rotovator and soon starteDSC_0021-1d to break up the surface.  We had also decided to turn in the existing grass as a green manure.    After several hours of walking up and down the bed following and quietly coaxing the rotovator to work the area I wanted we seemed to be making some progress.     I operated the rotovator while Kate wheeled barrow load after barrow load of sand up for me to work in.

The composition of the soil improved in front of our eyes as the sand and grass worked it's magic on the heavy clay, and by the end of the day we had a bed with a much lighter and more workable soil composition.

The next day we returned and spent the morning reworking the bed a little more before resetting the rotovator to a narrow setting to allow us to work a deeper trench in the middle.   All the time we were adding sand, dry grass and compost to the mix.DSC_0023-1

After lunch we laid out the planting of the 32 canes.   This involved measuring the position of each cane and then digging a small hole sufficient for the root structure of the individual cane.   Once the canes were set in the hole to the right height the hole was filled with a good compost to give the canes somewhere to start their new life.  The canes were placed 400mm (16") apart.

Once all 32 had been planted we simply cut the canes, where necessary, back to 300mm (12") above the ground and finally spread a well rotted manure and compost mix in between the plants as a top dressing.


Jane said...

All your preparation and planning looks fantastic. I really love the planning and constructing time in the garden. Good luck. I hope you have a really productive season.

Penelope said...

I'd love a bowl of fresh raspberries.

Patrick said...

You're going to be sorry you turned in that grass! It's going to come back and haunt you as weeds for years to come.

Whatever happened to the idea of making layers?

Ian said...

Hi Jane and Penelope, I'm hoping to get several bowls of raspberries as well. Thanks for the encouragement.
Hi Patrick, I'm sorry I've been slow responding but I've been entertaining family.
This year I am converting a large area from meadow to vegetable garden. Before I started I considered the options on how best to proceed. I decided that I couldn't provide enough homemade compost to make the beds even slightly raised and I didn't really want to import a lot of material from elsewhere.
After a lot of debate I decided to go with getting the land productive this year by aerating the heavy clay by digging with the rotavator. I then decided to add some sand, leaf mold and grass clippings at the same time. The idea of turning in the meadow growth was that I believe it will help to aerate as well. I noticed a lot of locals using this method of lightening up the heavy clay. I'm sure that the grass will come back and haunt me as you put it, but hopefully, by next year I will be able to suppress some of the beds with newspaper covered with compost and keep on top of weeding the others, as well as sowing thickly with a green manure.

Richard said...

I inherited a patch of raspberries about 4m square earlier this year. Bit of a mess so got on my hands and knees cleared some weeds,cut out last years canes and cut the rest down to about 4'. Got a really good crop in JuneJuly. Cut out the canes as soon as the fruiting finished and was amazed to see the young canes take off. By early August they were 2 to 21/2tall & covered in young fruit. We started eating them August 15th and have enjoyed 2 large bowls every evening since. They are just about finished but I have picked about 1/2kilo this evening. My guestimate is that the autumn crop will be about 75 pounds. Amazing ! I have done very little and sadly don't have any idea of the variety. We are in north Burgundy and shortly move to Normandy so I am trying to work out how I can take some with me! Any bright ideas ?