Growing your own raspberries is a lot easier than you might think. The yield of just a couple of raspberry canes can fill 4 or 5 punnets over the course of a season so the investment is well worth making. In this article we are going to take a look at growing raspberries in your garden.
Growing Your Own Raspberries
Raspberries are perennial plants that are renowned for their delicious berries. They belong to the Rubus genus, specifically the subgenus Idaeobatus, native to various regions from Asia, across Europe, to North America and Australia. The color of berries varies among species, from red, black, purple or golden yellow.
Many important cultivars are introduced by crossing European red raspberry (Rubus idaeus), American red raspberry (Rubus strigosus), and North American black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis).
Raspberries are self-pollinated, they do not need to be planted with other raspberries and will produce berries without any pollinators. However, planting a few different varieties that fruit at different times will see a constant supply of fresh ripe berries for many months of the year.
They will also start producing fruit in the second year after planting, although you may get a few berries in the first year as a bonus. Invest the time in planting and you will be rewarded every year after.
Types of Raspberries
As mentioned above, raspberries are perennial plants, this is partly true. Actually, the raspberry roots are perennial, while the canes (branches) are their annual or biennial (depending on the variety) extensions. Meaning they live only for one or two summers. Roots produce fresh new growth each year, early in the spring.
New canes are called primocanes and this is the part where two main types of raspberry plant take separate ways.
There are two main types of raspberries – summer-fruiting varieties and autumn-fruiting varieties. Choosing one of these two types will determine the fruiting time so as the pruning method.
Summer Fruiting Raspberries
Summer-fruiting raspberries have a short, but vigorous fruiting season during the mid-summer.
These varieties bear crop on last year’s growth. That means that primocanes, or new canes, grow until the winter when they go dormant. When the spring arrives following year, these canes become floricanes – old canes that produce berries.
At the same time, from the early spring, the roots produce new primocanes, that grow vegetatively (developing only leaves) throughout the year, but will bear fruit next season when they become floricanes.
Autumn Fruiting Raspberries
The autumn-fruiting type or ever-bearing raspberries develop berries on new canes. They produce berries through the fall and early winter. Admittedly, it is easier to prune autumn fruiting raspberries because of this but both types have advantages.
All raspberries require annual pruning – removing dead canes, damaged, weak or broken ones. But how and when should you prune raspberries? Well, it depends on the type.
Pruning Summer Fruiting Raspberries
Summer-bearing raspberries are pruned in the summer, right after the harvest. Those canes that have been producing the abundance of fruit throughout the summer are done with their life cycle.
Cut back these old canes to the ground, keeping the new-grown canes only. You will easily recognise which are which – dead canes are woody, with dark brown bark, while new canes are green, fleshy and quite flexible.
Remember that summer fruiting raspberries will fruit on the previous years growth so the fresh new canes need to be left for next years crop.
Remove any new-grown cane if they reach a number higher than planned. It’s important to leave enough space for the canes to develop foliage and fruit. You can thin the canes in the spring as well to maintain the desired cane number.
Pruning Autumn Fruiting Raspberries
Autumn-fruiting raspberries should be cut back to the ground entirely in the late winter. The roots will develop new growth early in spring, and the canes will produce berries in their first year of growth.
However, ever-bearing (autumn) raspberries can produce fruit both in the fall and in the summer following the season.
To achieve that, don’t cut the canes, but leave them to overwinter. Prune them in the spring, for about 12 inches above the support, and wait for the summer yield. This will result in smaller yields but in both the summer and autumn.
Note: If you’d like to have a prolonged yield season, you can combine both types of raspberries, but mark which is which since they have different pruning requirements. Mixing two types of raspberry canes can make pruning and sucker-control perplexing causing mistakes and reduced yield.
Tipping or Pinching Raspberry Plants
In the early spring, before leaf buds appear, the canes that are going to bear fruit are probably grown in height. Tie their tips to the supporting system and cut back each cane by 6 inches (15 cm) above the highest supporting wire. This will encourage the number of buds on the remaining cane.
Supporting Raspberry Canes
Depending on the type, you will need some kind of support for raspberry canes. Summer fruiting types grow higher, while the fall-bearing raspberries are lower, so they require minimal to no support.
There are many different types of support. The most common support method for summer-fruiting raspberries is training along a post or T-trellis with 3 horizontal wires.
When the harvest ends and you cut back floricanes, you will need to tie up the primocanes to the trellis’ wire before they go dormant. As mentioned previously, you will tie up those canes once again, but on a higher wire, in the early spring before they develop leaves. This way, canes are equally spaced and shaped in a way that improves harvest and yield.
Another important type of pruning is sucker control. Suckers or runners are canes that grow randomly around raspberry plants roots.
Although widely cultivated and appreciated, raspberries are pervasive plants and will grow out of control in not maintained. Remove any unwanted canes by cutting them off with a sharp pair of secateurs.
Planting and Taking Care of Raspberries
Plant one-year-old canes early in the spring in cool regions, or late in the fall in mild climate areas. Don’t plant them if the ground is still frozen, so be sure to check the first and last frost dates in your region.
Bare Root Raspberry Plants
The easiest and simplest way to buy raspberry plants is as a bare root. The plant is simply supplied as a root with a small amount of stem which is planted whilst the plant is dormant in late winter to early spring.
When planting raspberry canes, give them a proper spacing so each will have enough space to grow. Multiple canes are planted in rows, so it’s easiest to dig a trench. Plant canes 18-20 inches (45 – 50 cm) apart, 10 inches (25cm) deep.
Space the rows for about 6 – 6.5 feet apart (1.8 – 2 m), so you’ll have enough space to walk between the rows when harvesting and maintaining.
When planted, cut each cane by 9 in (22 cm) to encourage new growth.
Soil and Water Requirements
Raspberries need a fertilised, rich soil. Apply compost or well rotted manure on raspberry canes each spring at a mulch.
The soil for raspberries should be well-drained. The canes need regular, daily watering, but they don’t like being water-logged. Never let the water sits on the surface of the ground. Water just the base of canes, not the foliage. During hot summer days, increase the watering.
Mulching raspberry canes is beneficial in many ways. A 2-inch thick layer of organic mulch can improve the soil quality, it retains moisture, keeps the canes from freezing, and keeps the weeds off. Let a layer of mulch surround the plants at all times.
Temperature and Sunlight Requirements
Raspberries are cool-season plants. They do best in a cool climate, but they prefer sunny places although they tolerate partial shade. The more sun they get, the more fruit they will produce. If you live in a warm climate where summer temperatures go pretty high, consider planting them in a slightly shady position to protect from the hot afternoon sun.
They are frost-hardy plants when they’re in a dormant stage. But, a sudden freeze during an unexpected time of the year can damage plants severely. New, green cane growth is sensitive to frost in early spring, as well. You can protect them with cover blankets during freezing nights.
Summer-fruiting varieties: ‘Ruby Beauty’, ‘Glen Magna’, ‘Glen Ample’, ‘Malling Jewel’, ‘Summer’, ‘Glen Prosen’, ‘Leo’, ‘Mailing Admiral’, ‘Tulameen’, ‘Glen Moy’
Autumn-fruiting varieties: ‘Polka’, ‘Autumn Bliss’, ‘Heritage’, ‘Herbsternte’, ‘Zeva, ‘All Gold’, ‘Joan J’