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Gifts from the Garden

A couple of years after rescuing a few black raspberry plants from a plague of weeds the plants re-pay my kindness with a bountiful harvest.

When we first moved into our house the garden, especially in the the back yard, was completely choked with weeds. I call the worst weed "fire weed", not only because the weed is known for moving into areas after a fire but also because the root of the weed is bright orange-red. The weed root travels about three feet underground and then pops up wherever it has the opportunity, at which point the vines wrap around any plants nearby. It is NASTY stuff to eradicate, especially when it's as entrenched in a yard as it was in mine.

So there I was that first summer, digging down deep to rip the thick roots from the ground, unwrapping the weeds from all the plants in the yard, actually untangling fire weed root from the roots of other plants by digging up the plants and picking the roots apart. It was back-breaking labor.

Two weeks into the project I approached a section of the garden by the side fence that was particularly choked with this stuff. Pulling out the green portion of the weed I realized there were a few canes in there, weak and thin but still alive. I thought they might be raspberries so I up-rooted them, untangled them, and re-planted them as I had so many times before. I didn't really think they'd make it as they were growing almost horizontal to the ground and the leaves of the plants were pale green at best.

A week later I was in that area of the yard again (oh, who am I kidding, STILL..... the area was a mess) when I realized that there were a couple of berries on the canes. I tried to pick the red berries but when they didn't come off easily I left them thinking they must need more time. Two nights later I picked our first black raspberries. I think we MAYBE got a total of a bowl of berries that year. We celebrated the harvest by topping them with vanilla ice cream and having them for dessert.

Fast-forward four years and, as you can see from the pictures, the black raspberries are doing great! I have not purchased a single cane to add to what was in the yard when we moved in. I have, however, read up on the care and propagation of all raspberries and found that, like many older varieties of raspberries, black raspberries fruit on one-year-old canes, so the canes growing this year won't bear fruit until next year and the canes giving us fruit this year need to be cut back at the end of the year. I learned that lesson when I cut back all the canes at the end of the first year and we didn't get any fruit the second year. Oops!

It's nice when the work that goes into the garden pays off with such a clear reward. And, of course, I love to grow what we eat. Berries for breakfast this week!

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