So you want to know how to grow raspberries do you? I mean why wouldn’t you? For the cost of a tub or two of raspberries from the store, you can get a plant that will keep you rolling in berries for years. Raspberries are a great addition to any backyard garden. They are high in fiber and contain vitamin A, folate, antioxidants, vitamin C. Even those annoying little seeds are good for you as they contain some vitamins E.
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Now that we have established that this is something you should do. Your first decision is whether you want a summer-bearing or ever-bearing (fall-bearing) type. This is a decision that will be influenced by what hardiness zone you live in. If you live in the US and are not sure of your hardiness zone you can check here. Or if you are a Cannuck, like me then check here. Another decision could relate to the look of the berries you are going to grow as they can vary by shapes, sizes, and colors—red, purple, golden, white.
Summer-bearing varieties will only give you one harvest a year but are slightly easier to prune. Some varieties are…
- Boyne – Dark red berries of good quality. Vigorous, very hardy plants (Zones 3-8).
- Killarney – Winter hardy, red early-mid season type (Zones 4-7).
- Royalty – Dark red-purple large berries with excellent flavour, it is a late season variety (Zones 4-7).
- Raspberry Shortcake – Compact, thornless canes with red fruit (Zones 5-8).
- Cascade Delight – Highly productive, large red late-summer berries and resistant to root rot (Zones 6-9).
Everbearing (Fall-Bearing) raspberries will give you two harvests a year, which is pretty much the definition of a win-win situation. Some varieties are…
- Anne – Exceptionally flavoured yellow berries that have a light pink blush (Zones 2-8).
- Jewel – A black raspberry which is vigorous with large berries with excellent flavour. (Zones 3-8)
- Heritage – Large, firm red berries, which are juicy and very sweet (Zones 4-8).
- Joan J – Large, firm berries on one of the earliest fall raspberries, very large yields (Zones 4-8).
- Fall Gold – Sweet, mild flavoured yellow berries on vigorous and prolific canes (Zones 4-9).
Now that you have decided on a variety or two that you plan to grow lets look at some of the most important things you need to know to ensure you have load of plump berries to fill your pies, jam jars and belly.
1. Give your raspberries a trim
Raspberries may be yummy to eat but they are sh*tty to pick or prune….I currently look like I have been attacked by a herd of rabid cats. That’s not because of the picking (though I looked the same then) it’s due to the pruning. At this point for full transparency I have to state that I have never pruned my raspberries before. ,
You can stop with your judging looks….at least I am being honest. But after my recent research into growing better raspberries I found out that pruning is a (necessary) thing. Who knew? Or maybe it’s just me? Anyway this is what my raspberry bush looked like before it’s spa visit…its a mess!
While it does have a bit of a wild and wonderful appeal, but I refer you to the above stated sh*tty picking experiences I have had in the past. To better understand the need for pruning you have to become one with the raspberries. How you prune your raspberry will depend on what variety you have chosen. This is important as they have different growth cycles and pruning need.
My current raspberry bush is a summer-bearing one (but I did plant two Fall Gold’s this year), and they are a cyclical beast. Say what? Summer-bearing varieties won’t give you berries on the canes that grow in the current year. These are (scientifically) called the primocanes. The fruit will grow on last years canes which are known as floricanes. For the fall-bearing varieties, you will get most of your fruit on the floricanes, but you will also get some fruit on the primocanes.
For summer-bearing varieties, the rule of thumb for easy pruning is cut the brown (floricanes) and keep the green (primocane). I just kept repeating this mantra as I was deep in raspberry territory and it made it go relatively quickly, my new pruners helped a lot too…like cutting butter!
The time to prune this type is once they’ve stopped fruiting for the year. The brown canes (floricanes) need to be cut to the ground, then you need to tie the strongest canes that remain to supports using garden string. The goal is to have one cane every 4 inches and then cut out any additional canes.
For the fall-bearing varieties the hot ticket is to cut the brown 1 year old canes (flurocanes) back to below the fruiting area, in the spring. These shortened canes will begin fruiting in July. Then the new leafy green canes (primocanes), grow rapidly up from between the old canes. These new canes will flower and fruit later in the summer. The following spring, remove the 2-year-old flurocanes completely to make room for new growth, cutting them off at the ground, and trim back the 1-year-old canes (last year’s primocanes).
When I was done this is what I was left with….in truth I probably should have cut out some more of the primocanes. But baby steps…..you may notice some of the leaves look a bit eaten…and they are. That is thanks to the Japanese Beetle, but more on those little #!@#&s in a later post.
Just remember the one cane you plant this year, will turn into a dozen or more in the same spot next year. Raspberries spread via underground runners, poking up impressive numbers of healthy new plants all around your original planting area. That being said, this is what I cut off….don’t mind all the wood. That’s part old fence and part falling down deck. Later this month we are having a deck-wrecking party to remove the deck and start the process of redoing the whole back yard…hallelujah!
2. Keep them warm and dry
Raspberries are best grown in a sunny, sheltered position where their “feet” (aka roots) will be kept dry. They will also produce fruit in partial shade, but they really do prefer the sun. Raspberries need rich, moisture retentive soil, and will thrive in cool climates. While you can dig a hole and put that potted raspebrry plant right int the whole. If you have the room it is better to dig a trench for bare-root canes. Then spread the roots of each cane out along the row. Space out your raspberry canes 18 inches apart, with about 4 feet between rows. Unfortunately, I don’t have that much space so into the holes mine went (and they have done fine, but picking and pruning is much easier with the row method).
3. Help them grow tall
Ideally your raspberries will have raspberry supports (mine don’t…because I am a bad raspberry mom). So don’t be like me, be better. You can drive in a pair of 6-foot tall upright posts on either end of your row of raspberries and stretch strong galvanized wire between them. You only need two horizontal wires to support fall-bearing raspberries, but you will need three horizontal wires for summer-fruiting varieties.
4. Feed them
Like any living thing, raspberry plants need to eat to grow! Their guilty please is nitrogen and lots of it, given enough they can to grow to their full 6 or 7 feet. One key thing to note is that you should stop putting high-nitrogen fertilizer on them as fruiting time approaches. This is when they need to focus on making fruit instead of leaves. Also keep in mind that raspberries prefer a soil pH of around 6.0, so depending on how hardcore you are you may want to test your soil. That said I have no idea what my soil is (but I should probably check) and mine do great.
If you are planting a new raspberry bush, make sure to add some compost into the hole first to give it a great boost. The best compost you can use is some you have made yourself. This allows you to know (for the most part) what it is it. If you’re curious about making you own compost then this will help you get started.
5. Pick raspberries early and often
I start picking (twice a day) as soon as the berries are ripe as the sweetest berries are from the heat of summer. I hope that next year with my first ever-bearing raspberries entering their first fruit bearing season that I will be drowning in raspberries! In milder zones you can even find a few berries into December! My current summer-bearing raspberries fruit for about a month, then it’s all over (the fruit and the work) until next year.
Look at all those lovely berries, and that was from one quick pick before I had to head to my day job! I can’t wait until next year when I have my yellow raspberries to harvest (Anne and Fall Gold)! In my opinion they are far better than the red raspberries! I wouldn’t mind having a Jewel or Royalty plant in the back as well….maybe after the deck is gone I will have room for one more!
6. Freeze any extra raspberries
Freezing raspberries is seriously easy, just spread clean, firm berries on a cookie sheet (I line mine with parchment paper) and pop it in the freezer. When they are frozen, you can put them into ziplock bags (I like to use the gallon bags). I freeze them in batches, and keep adding them to the ziplock bags until the bag is full.
If you’re feeling lazy you. can skip the cookie sheets and parchment paper and just throw them into the ziplock bags. It really depends what you plan to do with them after. If you are just making jam just chuck em in, as it won’t matter if they stick together. The problem in my house is keeping the bags full as The Hubby likes to get into them for his smoothies. So lots of raspberries is key if I have any hope of having enough left over to make my homemade raspberry jam.
Hopefully with this knowledge you can go forth and grow so many raspberries that you give them away to everyone in sight, including the mailman…because sharing is caring.