Last winter we planted bundles of new raspberry canes; three summer fruiting varieties and two autumn varieties. The original canes were cut about 25cm from the ground, and through the spring and summer new sprightly canes sprang up beside them.
Now the original summer-fruiting canes have died back; their bark has become dark, brittle and smooth while the new canes – which will give us next year’s fruit – have paler, hairy stems, and are still holding on to their leaves. It is time to cut the old dead canes back as close to the ground as possible, and make sure that the new canes are well tied in to avoid damage in the winter winds.
I had been intending to prune and support the summer raspberries several weeks ago, along with several other autumn tasks, but was caught rather unawares by the early snowfall and descent into winter. The garlic bulbs still wait patiently to be planted, the young espalier apple trees need tying in and are waiting for their winter pruning, which will shape them and encourage new growth, as well as direct their energies next year where required; but as the temperatures remain below freezing, and look set to stay that way for some time to come, I finally seized the opportunity of a marginally brighter day to cut back the old summer raspberry canes once the snow around them had mostly disappeared. Please excuse the slightly blurred focus – it was bitterly cold, and I wasn’t hanging around out there! You can clearly see the difference in texture and colour between the old stem that I was holding, prior to cutting at ground level, and the new cane beside it.
The new canes still require staking; hopefully I can get around to that in the next week or two. The autumn raspberries have finally been thwarted in their last attempts at fruiting, and I shall cut all their stems back hard to the ground too in the next couple of months, before they start to shoot, as they will fruit on next spring’s growth.
This weather is not good for pruning; I should get away with cutting back these dead canes while snow still lies on the ground (albeit only in patches now), but I dare not touch the apple trees until the temperatures rise again, as their living wood will take less kindly to being opened to the elements.
Meanwhile a few more small snowflakes drift lazily down from the darkening sky…