Invading raspberry soldiers

We knew after this house was built that we wanted to have a variety of fruit trees growing on our acreage. There were already mulberries in the Timber, but we also planted an orchard with cherry, apple, plum, pear, apricot and peach trees, and several grape vines. We planted some currant bushes from my parents’ place in Michigan, and along the side of the garage we planted a few pathetic, dead-looking bare-root raspberry plants.

I knew from previous gardens that those raspberry plants could be deceiving. When we planted them in spring, they looked a bit like old, bent sticks. We planted only three, since I also remembered that they like to spread; I knew that three plants would soon become six, and then more. I also remembered that they didn’t like to stay put. We’d plant them in one area, but then they would begin to multiply, outgrowing the assigned raspberry bed and coming up in the flower beds, the lawn, or wherever they could get a foothold. I planted those three little bent sticks in a well-defined area bordered by the garage wall on one side and a 6- to 8-foot wide walkway on the other three sides. This way, I reasoned, they were hemmed in, and our new yard was safe from wandering raspberries!

Years went by and all was well. Our raspberry plants produced enough fruit that, from midsummer on, we had our fill of raspberry jam and pies, bowls of fruit and an occasional bottle of raspberry wine. The canes would get rather long and begin to block the walkway around the garage, so we put up corner posts and ran wires between them. I would gently tuck the canes behind the wires to keep their reaching branches from snagging and scratching unsuspecting people or dogs who used the walkway. The plants stayed put and we were all happy.

Then in 2005, I was in a vehicle accident. I rolled my pickup truck and was left with a multitude of health problems, unable to do much in the way of yard work for quite some time. The raspberries were quite crowded in their bed next to the garage and they took advantage of the opportunity. Shortly after my accident, two little sprigs of raspberry came up in the flower bed across the wide walkway. I recognized this for what it was: the beginning of the raspberry invasion. Unable to fight this battle on my own, I enlisted the help of my husband, Rick. I told him as we lunched with my mother in town one day that these sprouts had to be removed, immediately. I knew that leaving them, even for a little while, could lead them to believe that their presence there was acceptable. If we didn’t dig them up right away, they would invade, destroying everything in their path. I knew this from experience. I sounded like the harbinger of doom — and they laughed at me!

Both Rick and my mother felt sorry for the little raspberry plants! They cajoled and teased, insisting that a couple of raspberries on the other side of the walkway would be nice, that we could use a few more berries each summer and fall. “What could they hurt?” they asked. “If they get in the way, then we’ll dig them up. Don’t worry about it!”

But worry I did. I knew about raspberry plants. I knew that these two were simply scouts for the army that was to come. If we didn’t crush them now when we could still count them, it would be hopeless. I begged and pleaded, but they were deaf to my pleas — and the raspberry scouts sent word back to home base that the coast was clear; the army could come!

The next year, we had over a dozen raspberry plants on the other side of the walkway. After that, there were too many to count! I invited friends and neighbors to come and dig as many plants as they wanted. Several friends came that year — and in the years that followed — but although they left with a dozen or more plants each, there were still so many left that hardly a dent had been made in our resident population. Rick now agreed that they had to be stopped. “But how?” he argued. “They’ve taken over! It’s too late!”

In the ensuing years, the invading raspberry plants totally took over the flower bed on the other side of the walkway. They pushed past the arbor and fence that separated them from the front yard – and essentially killed off all of the irises and other flowers that originally resided there. The army of raspberries was moving through my yard and there was no longer much hope of stopping it.

Eventually, the raspberries killed several of the grape vines that grew beyond the flower bed. I replanted them, but the raspberries choked out the new grapes even more easily than they had annihilated the old. There are still a couple of grape vines there, but they become weaker each year. With so many raspberries fighting the fight, the grapes get little sun or moisture. Those raspberries are nothing if not determined. I swear, it sometimes seems as if they are trying to take over the world, one small area at a time!

Now that these plants have essentially finished off the flowers and grapes in those beds, they have set their sights on our chicken yard and little sprouts have begun poking through the sand within the cyclone fencing. I’ve stomped on these early scouts, and although they wither and die, others appear almost overnight. The chicks peck at the leaves and eat what they can, but honestly, it seems hopeless. I believe the raspberry army may just win the chicken yard too.

I have one weapon in my arsenal that the raspberries have not yet met — and it will be coming out soon. Beyond the chicken yard lies the lawn, and I have a commercial riding mower lying in wait! Finally, when the raspberry army reaches the lawn, it may meet its match. Until then, I stomp on small unsuspecting scouts and threaten — it’s about all I can do. And then I retire to the house to enjoy a slice of fresh raspberry pie. After all, I might as well take full advantage of the enemy while they are here!

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  • Erika says:

    Great story! I too have battled the raspberry army and, I hope, won. When we bought our new place 3 years ago the previous owners had let red and fall gold raspberries take over their vegetable garden (all 35×60 feet of it!) I finally have most of the raspberries out of there. It was like giving away zucchini! I tried to find good homes for all the plants but that got tough. I moved about 150 plants to beds in the middle of lawn so they can be mowed around. Nothing like a mower to keep raspberries in check.

  • Elisabeth says:

    Several years ago my parents had a raspberry patch….. HAD being the operative word.

    We had a round pen near that patch and two Rams that needed to be separated for lambing that spring. The Rams enjoyed the grass in the round pen for the first day – week… then they started trimming around the outside as far as their necks would reach… then they took their broad chests and pushed against the round pen figuring out that when they worked together they could MOVE the entire round pen… well they made quick work of the raspberry plants.. and that patch is no longer… 😉

  • Rik & Jamie says:

    Thanks for sharing the fruit of your battles with us tonight, it was delicious! We had a great visit, thank you for taking time to show us around and for Ellie’s new fuzzy friend! ~Jamie

    • Dee says:

      You are so welcome! We would love to have you out anytime – just give us a call and come! And I’m happy you are enjoying the pie – and that Ellie’s new friend is settling in. We’ve been giving out occasional stuffed lambs and other small trinkets to kids when they visit for years, and it is always fun to hear from those kids five or six years later when they tell me they are “still sleeping with that lamb” or some other such connection. It never fails to make me smile! I hope we see you out here again soon!

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