The Q&A Archives: Raspberry bushes are not doing well

Question: I bought 2 large raspberry bushes from Home Depot.. they look like they are about to die.. I have even replanted them in more of a hill..I have watered.. I have not watered.. I have tried everything.. I don't think they are gonna make it. I have also tried a small amount of fertilzer.. the leaves are all turning brown, drying up and dying.. the bunch of fruit it had has almost stopped and look just as bad.. I really want these plants to live (the were 25.00 a piece) can you please help me!!!

Answer: To get the most out of your raspberry planting, choose your site carefully. Raspberries prefer full sunlight and grow best in well-drained, sandy loam soils rich in organic matter. Avoid low areas that remain wet late into the spring, but select a site with access to a water supply. Irrigation is important for good plant growth during dry periods and can improve fruit size and yield. Do not plant raspberries where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, or eggplant have been grown within the past four years, because these crops carry a root rot called Verticillium that can also attack raspberries.

Too deep planting is a common error with raspberries: the roots should be covered by no more than 3in of soil. If the canes have just arrived from the nursery, it is usually possible to see the old soil mark on the stem, indicating the correct depth. The quickest way to plant a row of raspberries is to take out a shallow trench the width of your spade. As you set the canes in position, spread out the roots evenly and trim off any damaged parts. Replace the soil in the trench, holding each cane erect in turn as the soil is placed over its roots and made firm.

The crowns and roots of raspberry plants are perennial, but individual canes live two years. Each spring, the plants produce canes (suckers) from buds on the crown and on underground lateral stems. These canes grow vegetatively during the first season, overwinter, and produce fruit during the summer of the second year, while new canes emerge to provide a crop for the following year. Second-year canes die shortly after fruiting. Everbearing raspberries bear a crop on the tips of first-year canes in the fall, followed by a typical summer crop on the lower portion of the canes the second year.

Since the roots and crowns of your plants are the perennial parts, you need to concentrate on keeping them healthy, even if it means sacrificing the current crop and having the current canes and leaves look sickly.

Make sure the plants receive one to two inches of water a week for best growth. Mulch can be used to reduce weed problems within the plant rows and also to help retain soil moisture and add valuable organic matter. Spread wood chips, bark, pine needles, or rotted leaf mulch over the plant rows, and maintain it at a depth of three to four inches.

If you're patient with your raspberry plants and keep them adequately watered, the roots will become established and next spring you'll see lots of new growth.

Best wishes with your raspberries.

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