Autumn Bliss

My Autumn Bliss raspberrry bushes, about thirty, have produced excellent crops for the last 6/7 years. This year about half of the bushes are short in growth and have light green leaves. They are not producing, although the remainder are producing an excellent crop. The bushes are pruned back to ground level every February. Are they lacking the proper fertiliser, or just getting beyond it? Any advice would be welcome. Alistair
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Alistair Macdonald said:

As my oldest raspberry planting is over 15 years old and still producing, I doubt that yours is "just getting beyond it." It's some problem with disease or fertility or (not knowing your layout at all) possibly a growing competition with trees for resources after seven years. (And I can tell you from experience that trees can send out roots a surprisingly long way to tap into richer, better watered territory.)
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Pat in Plymouth MI

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Thanks Pat for your advice which I think may be relevant to my problem. Within six feet of my raspberry row I have a vigorous Golden Delicious, and equally vigoroue Bramley and this year a heavily laden peach tree. If their close proximity is causing the problem and I have no wish to dispose of the fruit trees, what kind of feeding (for next year) would compensate? Alistair in Kent

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Alistair Macdonald said:

Yes, trees growing up near the raspberries will compete for water and nutrients! Depending on which direction they are in relation to the raspberries, they will also "compete for light" -- that is, cast shade.
I fertilize my raspberries in spring with a balanced organic fertilizer mix, plus a thin layer of alfalfa pellets topped with a mulch layer of shredded leaves (saved from the previous Autumn). They also get some overshoot of the (organic) lawn fertilizer I apply a couple of times during the summer.
It may be wisest (if you have the space) to start another row somewhere farther away from the fruit trees.
In my opinion, in terms of crop value for space and effort, raspberries would come first, followed by the peach, with the apples last.
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Pat in Plymouth MI

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Thanks again for the advice. I think you have hit the nail on the head. I would appreciate it if you could describe the <balanced organic fertilizer mix> After pruning at the beginning of the year I apply phosphates, bone meal and Growmore, and give regular Miracle Grow feeds during the growing season. Is this enough or should I be better following your mix? If so what exactly does it consist of?

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Alistair Macdonald said:

I usually use Espoma brand Garden-tone on the raspberries in the spring. I apply that, then a layer of alfalfa pellets topped with shredded leaves as a mulch. The alfalfa give a boost of nitrogen as well as potassium.
Your routine sounds very high in phosphorous (which can accumulate in the soil) and maybe short of nitrogen and potassium (which can become depleted and/or leach away, especially in sandy, well-drained soils). My soil tests to have a fairly high level of P to begin with. That's why the bulk of my spring fertilizer is alfalfa (for the N and K).
During the growing season, the only fertilizer that gets applied to the raspberries is what hits them when I fertilize the surrounding lawn with high nitrogen, low phosphorous organic lawn fertilizer (end of May, end of June, beginning of September, and late October -- this last being a high potash, 'winterizer' formulation).

I'm not so keen on liquid fertilizers even for potted plants, where I instead use something like Osmocote Plus (or similar products). That is, an encapsulated, slow-release fertilizer with micronutrients.
One heavy rain, and the water soluable fertilzer could be washed away.

It's not my mix, just a commercial mix whose brand name I didn't mention in the first go-around (as other brands of balanced, organic fertilizers could be substituted).
Ingredients and analysis of the brand I frequently use here:
http://www.espoma.com/p_consumer/pdf/products/tones/Esp_Garden.pdf
If there is any 'trick' to what I'm doing, it would be the alfalfa + leaf mulch, I guess...
--
Pat in Plymouth MI

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An excellent coverage of solutions to my query. I have visited the web site bur unfortunately cannot find the brand Espoma listed in any UK sites. It would appear that you are domiciled in America and I am resident of the UK. Does anyone know of a comparable British brand? Alistair in Kent UK

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