The Q&A Archives: Planting Raspberries For the First Time

Question: Please advise me on how to plant raspberries in an area that was grass for a long time. Any information on planting them will be helpful.

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. Since this particular area has been grass for awhile, you should be fine. 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? That is a good start. 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. The area of course will have to be cleared of grass, and preferably tilled. Work in some organic material at tilling time. 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, except for zone 6 and south (those areas can plant in fall or even late winter). I would 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 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.

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