Trellising

It's a good idea to trellis plants to keep them from drooping over to the ground when they are heavy with fruit. Trellising makes harvesting fruit easier and keeps berries from rotting when they come in contact with the ground.

With primocane-fruiting raspberries, some growers use a temporary trellis during the fall harvest season. One system that works well consists of T-shaped wooden or metal posts approximately 7 feet tall with 3-foot-long cross-arms (see Figure 20).

Figure 20. Temporary trellises for primocane-fruiting raspberries make it easy to mow canes during the dormant season.

3' in ground

Figure 20. Temporary trellises for primocane-fruiting raspberries make it easy to mow canes during the dormant season.

3' in ground

25' apart

Dig post holes no more than about 25 to 30 feet apart in the center of each row. Make the holes slightly wider than the base of the post and 3 feet deep so that the trellis is about 4 feet tall when assembled. Line the holes with a 3-foot section of plastic pipe.

As harvest approaches, insert the posts into the holes. Run baling twine (tied to screw eyes in the ends of the cross-arms) along either side of the row. Twine is cheap and biodegradable yet strong enough to support the canes. After harvest, cut the twine and remove and store the posts for next season. Because the plastic pipes are buried, they do not interfere with cane-cutting operations.

Trellising floricane-fruiting raspberry and blackberry plants helps reduce interference from primocanes and improves production. Without trellising, fruiting canes must be cut short in the dormant season to prevent the canes from breaking or tipping over. Because most of the fruit buds are on the top half of the cane, pruning low can significantly reduce yields.

Use a V-shaped trellis to reduce primocane interference and increase yields by separating the fruiting floricanes from the vegetative primocanes (see Figure 21). Set pairs of opposing posts about 1 1/2 feet apart every 30 feet. Angle the posts away from each other so they are about 20 to 30 degrees from perpendicular to form the V. The posts should stand about 6 feet tall. Run two wires (twine works well for short runs) between the posts and secure them to the anchor posts at the ends of the rows. The top wire should be about 4 feet from the ground, and the second wire—about 2 feet high— provides additional support. These can be adjusted depending on the size and vigor of the plants or how much winter damage they suffer.

Trellising reduces competition and increases yield and quality.

After thinning in early spring, tie the floricanes to the top wires. Allow the primocanes to grow in the middle of the V where they won't interfere or compete with the floricanes for light. Spraying, harvesting, and pruning are easier because trellising pulls the floricanes to the outside where they are accessible. The presence of primocanes in the middle forces lateral growth by the floricanes outward. Studies of several raspberry cultivars showed higher yields using V-trellises, primarily because the practice increases the amount of light reaching the canopy (see Figure 22).

Figure 22. With a V-trellis, primocanes grow in the center of the V the first year (left). During their second season (when they become fruit-bearing floricanes), tie them to the trellis to keep them from shading the new primocanes (right). This system also makes the berries easier to harvest.

You can build a similar system using T-shaped posts by adding a second cross arm to support the lower wire. The disadvantage of the T-posts is that they aren't as flexible when it comes to adjusting the height of the wires to accommodate annual variation in cane height.

Select trellis posts and anchors from readily available materials. You can make them from wood, steel fence posts, rebar, or similar materials. Monofilament plastic wire, now the material of choice for trellis systems, is as strong as wire but much lighter and easier to handle. Inexpensive devices are available to hold the monofilament taut at the anchoring post and to rejoin lines that have accidentally been cut. Consult nursery and commercial grower catalogs for more information on trellising materials. When designing a trellis and choosing materials, keep in mind the potential 15-year life of the planting. Strong anchor posts are essential for a good trellis.

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