In the Garden: Raspberries to cucumbers to beans

Dear Anne,

“Last year we had tremendous blossom development on our raspberries but then nothing happened – not one berry. I thought it might be a lack of pollination, but our blackberries, red currants, and scarlet runners produced more than we could eat, and I watered and manured them the same as the raspberries. What am I missing?”

Forston Tylor, North Vancouver

Raspberries have some ability to be self-fertile, although they produce far more and larger berries when pollinated. Even without pollination, you should have had a few tiny, half-hearted attempts at berries.

Did you actually see bees around your raspberry flowers?

Disease is a suspect.  

How old are the raspberry canes? The older they get, the more likely viral disease becomes.

New raspberry plants planted them in the old raspberry bed would have exposed them to any problems the old canes had.

Symptoms of viral problems include curly leaves, yellowing leaves, or yellow mottles and streaks on leaves.

Try digging up one old raspberry and check for round root galls. It’s a disease that can be spread from wild blackberries.

The kind of manure used and whether it was composted before it was spread can be an issue. Fresh manure can cause problems. Manures from poultry, sheep, and llamas can actually burn roots, if spread fresh.

I’d suggest experimenting by buying one new, certified virus-free raspberry plant and planting it in another part of the garden, far away from the under-performing raspberry bed.

Clean any tools used on the old raspberries with a bleach solution (one part bleach to 10 parts water) before using them on the new raspberry or in its new area.

Dear Anne,

“Last year I tried ‘Green Dragon’ cucumbers. The writing on the package says ‘never bitter.’ The plant was a heavy producer, but the fruits were all bitter. What makes cucumbers bitter?”

Bernie Epting, Vancouver

Even the so-called non-bitter cucumbers can become bitter, if they’re stressed enough.

My guess would be that our long, hot summer was the cause – not from the heat, but from the extremely dry conditions.

If we get another summer/fall that is so hot and dry, it would be best to water twice a day, and mulch thickly around the plant to slow evaporation and hold moisture in.

Good drainage is best for most crops, but in drought, water moves through well-drained soil too quickly, and when spot-watering, the dry surrounding soil quickly wicks water away from the target plant.

If you get the same problem again, increase watering even more, and wait until a new flush of fruit is ready. By then the bitterness should have vanished.

Dear Anne,

“Since beans need warm soil, would you advise wrapping the plant pots with bubble wrap?

Carol Moore, New Westminster

I don’t think you’d gain enough extra growing time to justify bubble wrap for green beans.

Bubble wrap protects deeper soil in a container from colder temperature fluctuations. But  beans need to be planted much closer to the surface, which remains at the temperature of the surrounding air.

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