Growing raspberries

Article by: Nadia Hassani  |  Picture by: Ted Rosen
Growing raspberries
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The red raspberry is a hardy variety that is available in both summer-bearing and ever-bearing types. Because raspberries are fragile and perishable, the quality of fresh raspberries from your own garden always beats the shop-bought product. Raspberries are an especially valuable addition to your home garden, and they are easy to grow. Once raspberries are established, they require relatively little maintenance. This article tells you how to select, plant, maintain and prune your raspberry canes.

Growing raspberries
Red raspberries are the most winter-hardy, and are the topic of this article. There are two types of red raspberries: summer-bearing raspberries, also called 'common' raspberries, and autumn-bearing raspberries, also known as 'everbearing' raspberries. The canes, or brambles, of the two varieties, have different life cycles.

Summer-bearing raspberries have two types of canes: canes from the previous year that bear fruit between late June to August and then die, and this year's canes which will bear fruit next year. Autumn-bearing raspberries bear fruit on this year's canes so you can expect fruit the first year. There are many varieties of red raspberries providing different productivity, size, firmness, hardiness and overall quality.

Raspberries will usually produce good fruit for about 10 years, after which the canes should be replaced with new plants.

Each 30cm of row yields 600 to 700 grams of raspberries.

Planting raspberries
Raspberries should be planted in early spring in a sunny location with sandy, well-drained loam soil that has a high content of compost and humus. Do not plant raspberries where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, aubergine or strawberries were previously planted because those crops can transmit the Verticillium fungus into the soil indefinitely, which kills raspberry plants.

Plant raspberry canes in a row 60cm apart. Leave at least 2 metres between the rows. Dig a hole or furrow large enough to fit all the roots. Cover the topmost roots with a maximal 3cm of soil; if planted too deeply, they will not grow.

After planting, cut the canes back to 15cm above ground. This will cause the raspberries to send strong canes to both sides, with the result of more fruit.

Water deeply after planting and keep it up daily for the first week until you see new growth. As they take root and become established, raspberries will need watering about once a week, twice if there has been no rain or in especially hot weather. Mulching around the plants will help maintain moisture and control weeds.

Once the summer-bearing raspberries start blossoming, cut off all flower blossoms. Sacrificing those few first-year raspberries will give you a better crop the second year.
Support the canes
Raspberries can stand on their own but some sort of support – canes tied to a wire between two poles, or planting them against a fence or a wall – prevents them from breaking, especially if in high wind, or when the canes are loaded with fruit.
Caring for raspberries
Growing raspberries step picture 4
1. Controlling the suckers is necessary. Raspberries send vigorous suckers, ancillary plants growing from the root of your main canes that fan out underground and can pop up as much as a metre or more from your main plant. You must cut the roots of the expanding network with your shovel around your raspberry patch every few weeks during the growing season. By keeping after it you can easily avoid having raspberry suckers all over your garden.

2. Fertilise the raspberries annually in early spring with a balanced fertiliser (containing equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash). Adding compost to the soil once a year is also a good way of improving the soil quality.

Pruning raspberries
Pruning is essential to get a good crop. If you plant both summer-bearing and autumn-bearing types, do not interplant them. Keep the two types in different rows or groups so you can prune each type at the proper time.

Summer-bearing raspberries are pruned immediately after the harvest. Cut the canes that have fruited to the ground. The next spring, leave 3 to 4 of the largest remaining canes per 30cm of row. These canes will bear fruit the same year. From the new canes, you again leave 3 to 4 per foot of row. Those canes will grow the following year, and so on.

Although autumn-bearing types can be pruned to yield two crops per year, the following pruning technique results in only one harvest, but it will be a bountiful late summer crop extending into autumn. In autumn, cut all canes to the ground. In the following spring only leave 3 to 4 of the new canes per 30cm in a row and remove all others before the end of July. In autumn, cut all canes to the ground again, and proceed the same way year after year.
Growing raspberries in containers?
Due to their need for very large containers necessary for their deep and wide root systems, raspberries are usually not grown in containers.
Harvesting and storing raspberries
Raspberries are ready for harvesting when the berries are red and easily separate from the stems. Gently pull the raspberries between the thumb and the index and let it drop into your cropped hand.

Raspberries require gently handling. It is best to pick them into shallow containers; piling them in a deep container easily crushes them.

Do not wash raspberries, as this will spoil them and dilutes their flavour.

To freeze raspberries, place them on a tray or baking tray without the berries touching each other. Put them in the freezer. When frozen, fill them in a freezer bag or container.
Do not compost
Do not compost raspberries cuttings because they can carry diseases. The cuttings must be destroyed by burning or other means of disposal away from your garden.
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