Classes help gardeners prepare for Spring planting


Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

A recent N.C. Cooperative Extension class on “caneberries,” drew 60 people who signed up to learn how and when to grow berries – as well as how and when to prune them in order to maintain health and longevity of bushes. “Caneberries,” the umbrella category that includes blackberry and raspberry variations, was taught by Macon County Extension Director Christy Bredenkamp who provided practical information to attendees packing the session.

Through detailed power-point charts, helpful information was provided regarding both summer and fall fruiting types, life expectancy and yield of variations, and soil and sun conditions. 

While red raspberries are the most common type grown in the United States, attendees of the Feb. 27 event learned that purple, yellow, and black varieties exist as well. This area’s hardiness zone of between 6a-8a, but primarily 7a, provides an ideal climate for growing raspberry bushes that thrive and produce significant yields. 

“Raspberry bushes can take the cold,” said Bredenkamp, “and some raspberry bushes can even handle -20 degrees.”

She added that most blackberries also thrive in Western North Carolina due to cooler temperatures. 

Some do’s and don’t’s associated with planting blackberries and raspberries include: 

– Test the soil and determine if lime or sulfur needs to be added in order to increase or decrease pH, which should be around 6.5.

– Avoid mulching with wood bark or chips as it could possibly breed bacteria that can affect bushes; use pine needles or landscape cloth instead.

– Thin out dense bushes by cutting out some of the canes.

– If canes flop to the ground, consider tying up to a trellis.

– Follow specific pruning instructions, which are different for floricane (fruiting on two-year-old canes) varieties versus primocane (fruiting on current season canes) varieties. 

Printed information about growing caneberries is available at the Extension office. Plus, soil sample kits are available, and soil samples are free after April 1. 

The Extension office offers a Master Gardener class on Wednesday mornings starting April 12 that lasts for 10 weeks and takes place from 8:30 a.m. until noon each week. A cost is associated with this program due to materials needed, but most educational programs at the Extension office are free to the public – but they require registration so that the number of expected attendees is determined. 

Other upcoming programs include “Fruit Trees: How to Start and Foster Your Home Orchard,” March 16, from 6-8 p.m.; and “Gardening Basics 101,” March 21, from 6-8 p.m.

Event information is available at, or the public can stop by the Extension office at 193 Thomas Heights Road in Franklin to pick up printed information sheets.