Garden calendar: For the week of March 31
Tools: Consider taking your lawn mower in to get the blades sharpened before the spring rush. Sharp blades make cleaner cuts that don’t wick out moisture like ragged cuts and are also less likely to provide an entry point for disease.
Also check out your garden tools. A metal tool file can be used to sharpen your shovel, and steel wool can help to remove any light rust. Clean your pruning tools and sharpen them as well. Wear gloves to protect your hands while sharpening rusty (or non-rusty!) tools.
UW-Extension has a nice facts heet on tool sharpening at https://pddc.wisc.edu/ under the fact sheets tab titled “Maintaining Lawn and Garden Tools.” There are also businesses that offer this service.
Fruits: If you didn’t prune your raspberries in fall, you can do so now. It helps to know if you have summer-fruiting varieties or ever-bearing (fall bearing) varieties, but I know many people have both and they grow into each other sometimes, so do the best you can if you are in that situation. Remove canes that fruited last year on summer-fruiting varieties and “tip back” canes that will fruit this year by about 25 percent to encourage more branching and fruiting. This means that you cut back the top part of the cane, taking off what looks like 25 percent of the height of the cane. Thin out any weak, spindly canes, removing them at ground level so you have four to six strong and healthy canes remaining per linear foot of row.
Summer-bearing raspberries only fruit on second-year canes, so the ones that are left that you tipped back will fruit this year. Overwintered ever-bearing (also called fall bearing) raspberries can either be cut down by half, and you’ll get a light harvest in spring (after they bear, cut them to the ground and you’ll get another crop from new canes later in fall), or cut them to the ground in spring for a fuller crop in September-November for some varieties. Their canes fruit on new canes (same season) so if you cut all old canes to the ground before the season starts, that is fine, unlike with summer-fruiting ones.
Visit http://learningstore.uwex.edu/ to view or print the publication “Growing Raspberries in Wisconsin” #A1610 for more information on raspberry culture.
— Lisa Johnson, Dane County UW-Extension horticulture educator