The Q&A Archives: Growing Raspberries

Question: I would like to grow Raspberries in my small garden . How do I care for them and what do I do in the fall when they are through producing.
Thank you

Answer: The best site for bramble fruit such as raspberry is a slightly sloping, sunny hillside where cold air "drains away". Berries can take a little bit of shade but sunny locales result in a much better fruit yield. One important tip: avoid growing raspberries anywhere where members of the tobacco or nightshade family have grown. This includes tobacco and nightshade as well as eggplants, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes. This family is disease prone and together with raspberries, share a propensity toward verticillum wilt virus so crop rotation is a must. Is the area well drained? Raspberry plants demand good drainage and simply won't put up with "wet feet". Have you had the soil tested? A soil test lets you know what you have to work with regarding soil components and pH. Raspberries prefer a pH that is slightly acidic, shoot for the ideal of 6.0 or, somewhere between 5.5-7.0. Inquire about soil testing from your local county extension agent.

Prepare the area by digging or tilling and working in some organic matter. A helping of rotted manure or compost would be great and will improve the soil's ability to hold moisture without getting "mucky". You could also work in a bit of bone meal at planting time, this will aid in developing a good root system. Be sure to remove all the rocks from the planting area that you can.

Raspberries are planted in early spring. Start off with a dozen plants, spaced 3' apart. Each foot of row will produce about a quart of berries. If planting more than one row, the rows should be about 10' apart ideally. Be careful not to let the roots dry out while awaiting planting, air and dryness are bad news to roots. When planting the raspberries, I would recommend setting them a few inches deeper than they were growing at the nursery. Remember while growing (especially during flower/fruit production) your plants will need a regular water supply. To This dormant pruning should remove all of the unruly canes and leave you with nice, neat groups of straight canes. You can tie them together to keep them from whipping around in the weather. Untie in the spring and train the new canes to your support. Hope this clears up some of the confusion.
help keep the plants from drying out, a thick layer of mulch around the plants is beneficial (salt hay is good). The mulch also helps keep weeds at bay. Plants should be topdressed each year in the early spring with a generous amount of organic material such as compost or rotted manure. You can also apply a fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 as a sidedressing at the same time.

There's always confusion over how to prune raspberries because there are two types; summer-bearing and fall-bearing, each with their own pruning requirements. Things are complicated even further if you're raising black raspberries. So, here's how to properly prune raspberries; fall-bearing are easiest - just cut the canes all the way down after they've finished fruiting. New canes will grow in the spring and produce fruit in the fall. If you have ever-bearing raspberries, cut back the fruiting part of the cane after harvesting in the fall, but leave the rest of the cane. After harvesting the following summer, prune the rest of the cane all the way down to the ground.

Summer-bearing raspberries bear fruit on two year old canes called floricanes. Prune the bearing canes off at ground level immediately after harvesting. Canes that have not produced fruit should be cut back to 4' or 5'. These canes will develop fruiting wood the following spring. If the canes are crowded, thin them in early spring, before growth begins, to 2-4 strong canes per foot of row.

Black raspberries bear fruit on second-year canes. During the summer, cut the tip off each cane when it's 2 1/2' - 4' high. This will force it to develop sturdy side branches (where fruit will ultimately develop). After harvest, cut the spent floricanes back to the ground. In the winter, thin the remaining canes, leaving 4-5 (per foot of row) of the largest, straightest ones. Prune back the side branches to 8"-12", and remove any spindly ones.

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