Q: I have always had bumper crops of raspberries with minimal care. Last spring I ordered several dozen new plants and only about half of them took root. What could I have done wrong? — Pat Couhig, Worcester, Mass.
A: When buying plants by mail, it’s very important to unpack the boxes right away to examine your new babies. Tight plastic wraps should be loosened to let in the air all plants need to survive. Before planting keep the plants out of direct sun and in a cool place. The roots must be kept damp but not wet. Don’t leave roots sitting in a bucket of water longer than an hour or two. If you can’t plant them immediately, put the roots in a loose plastic bag with some moist newspaper or peat moss. Or plant them temporarily in some out-of-the-way place in your garden. Raspberries are tough. Unless you neglected to follow this routine when the plants arrived, the odds are good that the plants were dead before the box arrived. I’m sure the mail-order firm you got them from will send you new plants at no charge this spring, but my advice is to request a refund and order from a company that specializes in nothing but berries. In every area of gardening there are specialist firms, which do the best job of supplying well-grown, well-handled, properly labeled plants, seeds, or bulbs. The large firms tend to be more like middlemen, one or two steps removed from the nursery fields, and sometimes quality suffers.