Autumn fruiting raspberries...

22 December, 2012

... in summer.

Ah well, what are rules for except breaking?

When I first started growing my own there seemed to be so many rules. Don't plant tomatoes in the same place for two years running. (Never mind that my dad has been doing that for the last 20+ years and always has a bumper crop.) Plant onions and carrots together to prevent carrot fly. (Do we even have carrot fly in Australia?) Pull off the fruits that set on fruit trees for the first year or two to strengthen the plant. (But I don't want to!)

Now I'm sure some of these rules in gardening lore really do exist for good reason. Pests can build up in soil and planting the same plant (or plants from the same family) year after year can build them up and who wants to give the bugs a nice convenient lot of plants to eat? Not me. Interplanting does help to reduce plant predators who identify their targets by sight or smell by making plants harder to find. Young plants do benefit by not having a load of fruit to bear, and reducing these allow to plant to put more energy into growing strongly. Though I usually don't totally strip the young trees, and really struggle to rip off any fruit at all.

But now more than ever I am questioning the 'rules' of gardening, and am putting them to the test. And the first one is: always prune autumn fruiting raspberries to the ground after they bear.

I grow both summer and autumn fruiting raspberries, and I never really understood why there was a difference in how I pruned the plants that seemed to grow in pretty much the same way. The theory is that summer fruiting raspberries fruit on old wood, so you grow the canes in the spring of year one, they lose their leaves over winter and then in the spring of year two you get fruit. Some of the summer fruiting raspberries produce a small crop in autumn on their new canes too, which is a nice bonus. Autumn fruiting raspberry canes, however, grow in spring of year one and then fruit in the autumn and then are cut back to the ground. They don't get a second year to fruit.

Which didn't really seem fair to me.

So this year I didn't cut the autumn fruiting raspberries down to the ground as my gardening books dictated. And the heavens didn't fall.

The old canes are the ones that are fruiting now and just like in previous years the new canes are growing strongly.

The new canes are easily distinguishable from the old ones; the new ones are a bright fresh green and the old ones are murky brown. Just like the summer fruiting ones.

So from now on I don't think I'll be treating my autumn fruiting raspberries any different from the summer fruiting ones. I'll just cut out all the old canes in winter with them both. Much easier that trying to remember two different pruning regimes.

But in the meantime, there's this...

...  which I wouldn't have had at all if I'd listened blindly to the 'rules.'

What gardening 'rules' have you debunked or ignored?


  1. Thanks for the info. I'm due to buy raspberries next winter so will get some of each and do what you've done.

  2. No problem. I have quite a few varieties (9 in total I think) and for my money I'd go Willamette and Tullameen for summer fruiting. I have Heritage for autumn flowering which is pretty tasteless, and have just bought Autumn Bliss last year so hopefully this year I'll know if it tastes any better.

  3. Like this post very much. I too 'ignore' or at least don't take too seriously many of the 'rules'. I don't rotate beds, I don't pinch out the side shoots of tomatoes (they need the shade they make for themselves to stop the fruit from sun scald), I don't get overly worried about pests - they often sort themselves out or respond to non-poisonous or manual remedies. I often 'overplant' according to some of the experts. I never pay any attention to recommended distances btw plants and I find that cramming things in beds works with plants protecting each other and their shade covering the ground.

    Anyway I have always thought that growing your own is a little bit dissident so may as well ignore or take with a pinch of salt the rules that there are about growing!

    1. Cheers! I love the idea of garden dissidence; so true! And I think so many of the so-called rules may apply in one region or climate, but are totally nonsensical in another. I too over-cram plants but I think in Aus we have more worries with drought and too much sun than not enough!

  4. I like the garden rules because then I get to feel rebellious every time I break them which is often.... Right now I have tomatoes following on from a potato crop. I love planting things out of season and pushing the boundaries of what will grow in Melbourne. Most of all though i always ignore planting distances - do plants really need all that space between them.

    1. Yes, pushing the boundaries! Exactly right! I admire your ability and drive to get things growing so early; I will have to give it a go next year. My boundary pushing is currently limited to attempting mango and lychee here in Melb. They're looking a bit dry but holding in there...

  5. I have a mixture as well but I simply cut the fruiting autumn canes to waist high; they fruit again in late spring/December. I then cut the old canes at the ground and tie back the new canes and wait for autumn friuting!

    1. I like your thinking. Any particular reason behind the waist high chop? And what autumn fruiting varieties do you grow. Mine are heritage and taste pretty bland, but I'd love to know what else is out there.