Growing Raspberries for the Whole Family

Long-time love of luscious berries becomes a family project in growing raspberries.

| September/October 2012

Our black Labrador, Molly, developed a taste for raspberries. She began grazing on the berries that dropped to the ground and worked her way up as far as she could reach if we didn’t watch her closely. And Molly’s not the only member of the family fascinated by the taste of this flavorful fruit.

Raspberries get their scientific name, Rubus idaeus, from a legend that claims Greek gods returned from Mount Ida in Turkey with these luscious berries. Considered a delicacy by many since they are so perishable, raspberries have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. After growing raspberries, harvesting the fruit was one of my childhood chores growing up in northern Minnesota, and as a young married couple, my husband and I started our own raspberry patch with plants from my parents’ garden.

Lately, our raspberries aren’t doing as well as we’d like, and it’s no wonder. After interviewing raspberry expert Dave Wildung, retired horticulturist at the University of Minnesota North Central Research and Outreach Center in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, I understand why: We did almost everything wrong. Wildung warns home gardeners to avoid the “neighbor policy” of acquiring raspberry plants.

“Raspberries are very prone to virus diseases that are vectored by aphids,” he says. “Even when you buy certified disease-free nursery stock, there’s a limited time those plants are virus-free.”

Noxious diseases are present in most older raspberry patches, so our plants from my parents’ garden were almost certainly infected.

“Virus diseases are very hard to see,” says Wildung. “Once a virus disease gets into a plant, there’s nothing you can do to get rid of it.”

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