Learning to grow your own raspberries is a fairly easy way to get more of these summer treats and also supplement your emergency garden. Raspberries are delicious and a good source of vitamins but they can be expensive.
In order to grow raspberries successfully first you should choose a variety that grows well in your area and produces fruit you find tasty. Be sure to obtain certified disease-free stalks. Till your soil and make sure it will drain well. Well-drained soil is very important for healthy raspberry plants. Plant your raspberries in rows, in a hole about 1 foot deep and space them at least 3 feet apart. To help keep your garden orderly and to support heavy raspberry stems, you may also want to build a trellis along your raspberry rows. Finally, prune back any second year stems in late winter to help your raspberry plant grow the healthiest.
In the following article I’ll give you all the information you need to successfully get your raspberries growing in no time.
Popular Varieties of Raspberry
The first thing you’ll want to know about raspberries is that there are endless colors (red, yellow, purple, black and white) and sizes of raspberry to grow, but that they all fall into one of two categories: Summer bearing and everbearing.
Summer bearing raspberries: These raspberries, also known as June bearing, will only produce fruit for 4-6 weeks on average, usually around June and July. Summer bearing raspberries will also not likely produce fruit in their first year, so you’ll have to wait until the second to reap your rewards.
Everbearing raspberries: Everbearing raspberries produce fruit from the summer into the fall. Everbearing raspberries will usually produce fruit on the first year’s canes and for my money, time and effort, I’d go with everbearing raspberries.
Some Popular Varieties of Everbearing Raspberries Are:
- Fall Red. These are said to be hardy and will start producing fruit early in the season.
- Fallgold. These are a yellow raspberry with a mild flavor and robust canes.
- Dorman Red. These raspberries have been cultivated so they no longer have thorns on them, which makes them a big win in my book. The fruit is said to be sweet and red.
- Jewel. This is a black raspberry with a large, sweet fruit and minimal seeds. This variety, along with the other black and purple varieties, appear to be somewhat resistant to root rot (see below).
- Polka. This variety has fewer thorns and produces pinkish red fruit when ripe. The Polka variety also tends to ripen early in the season.
How To Choose The Best Variety of Raspberries For Your Area:
There are a few things I would do to help me decide what type of variety to pick. After all, you’re investing precious time and money into these plants—be sure you like the fruit they produce! You can contact your local extension office to get advice about the best variety of fruit for your area. In addition to that, you can also find out if there are farms in your area with raspberry bushes and ask them if they either have advice, or even if you can try their fruit.
Where To Plant Raspberries
Raspberry bushes can grow most places in the United States except for deserts and extremely cold regions. This generally included gardeners from Zone 3-10. Raspberries like full sun (6-8 hours) and a rich, well-drained soil. This last point needs to be emphasized. Raspberries do not like wet feet, so if your soil tends towards clay-y or you live in a region with lots of rain, you’ll need to do some soil amending to loosen up the soil and create an environment where the roots can breathe.
Planting Raspberries in a Raised Bed
If raspberries are left in standing water (like in a low lying part of the yard) they can develop phytophthora root rot, which will kill your plants.
One of the easiest ways to create the right soil environment is to make a raised bed. Then you’re really the master of the conditions in your box rather than having to fight against the natural parent material. It will also likely be cheaper at the end of the day to create the right environment from the start rather than continually adding large quantities of amendments.
In terms of “where in your yard” raspberries grow best, my advice is to plant them in rows, and if you plant more than one row, give yourself a solid 7-10 feet between the rows. Raspberries grow as big, sprawling bushes out in the wild, and your row will get crowded quickly.
Planting Raspberries in the Ground
If you do choose to plant your raspberries in the ground and you have soil quality issues, make sure you till and amend your soil a few feet beyond the last plant. This prevents the last plant in the row from butting up against a wall of incompatible soil and gives it the best chance to produce good fruit for you.
You can use a rototiller to till up to 12 inches deep to prepare the soil in the ground.
When To Plant Raspberries
You should plant raspberries according to where you live in the country. If you live in a warm environment year round, you may get away with planting them in the winter. If you live anywhere with an appreciable winter, try to plant them in early spring. The point of planting your canes early is to give them sufficient time to develop a strong root system, which will in turn help them produce better fruit.
How To Plant Raspberries
Space Raspberries Out Properly
Raspberry plants tend to be somewhat easy to grow if you have the right conditions. They will produce dozens of new canes every year if you don’t cut them back. For this reason, plant raspberries in a hole about a foot deep and about 3 feet apart from other raspberry plantings. You’ll want to give them plenty of space between the other plants.
Only buy raspberry canes that are certified disease free. When you purchase a raspberry plant from a nursery they may give you what’s called a bare root plant. It looks like a naked stem with just some roots dangling off. Don’t worry—you haven’t been taken advantage of—this is normal.
Using Root Stimulator to Give Raspberry Plants a Boost
You can stimulate growth in bare root plants with root stimulator, but be advised to read all labels very carefully. More is not necessarily better with root stimulator and you can inadvertently kill your plant if you soak the roots for too long or use too strong of a solution.
Whether you use a root stimulator or not, when you place your plant in the ground, toss in some fertilizer to go with it. Fill the hole back in and gently tamp down the soil.
Water the Plants In
Now, time to give your plants a good watering. Any newly planted plant needs water to help it establish quickly.
Don’t Forget to Mulch
Apply wood chips or straw mulch over top of your raspberry plants to help keep the soil moist.
For a complete video guide on planting raspberries, check out this video.
Create a Trellis for Raspberries
You do not have to make a trellis to grow raspberries, but they’ll help you out in a number of ways.
As I’ve mentioned, raspberries will grow into wild, sprawling bushes if they grow unmanaged. If your area is prone to big summer thunderstorms a trellis may help keep your raspberries from getting flattened. Additionally, for ease of access to the fruit, as well as to help create a more orderly looking garden with the healthiest plants, a trellis is the way to go.
The purpose of the trellis is to support the canes as they get loaded down with berries. A well producing plant will simply be bent over with all the fruit it’s fruit season.
There are several ways to make a trellis but the main strategy is to stake two posts on either end of your raspberry row (for four stakes total). The two stakes on each end should be about as wide as your row, and you’ll string either twine or wire between the stakes at several heights to support the canes at various stages of their growth.
The trellis stake should be around 6 feet tall (trellised raspberries can certainly grow up to 7 feet tall), and 1-2 feet of the trellis will go in the ground.
If you’re concerned about the stability of your trellis you can anchor it down with an “earth anchor.” An earth anchor looks like a long, thin metal rod with a circle at the end. You’ll twist the earth anchor into the ground just behind the ends of each row (1-2 feet) until just the circle is exposed. Then use metal or twine to tie down the trellis and give it some tension in the opposite direction of the plants. This way your plants don’t pull your trellises together over time.
Check out this video for a tutorial on making a raspberry trellis.
Stringing Wire or Twine Between Trellises
Depending on what type of stake you’re using for your trellis you’ll either need to drill holes into the stakes or screw in an I-bolt to affix your wire. I would recommend putting in two or three holes at various heights to support your raspberries throughout the season.
You can use either galvanized wire or twine for your trellis, but I would recommend wire as it is stronger and will hold up better throughout the season.
Once you have your holes punched or bolts screwed in, attach the wire to one end and spool out enough to attach it at the other end. You’ll want the wire to be fairly tight as raspberry canes can get pretty big and heavy.
Once your trellis is built, plants are planted and berries harvested, you may wonder if raspberries need any extra care. The answer is yes. Raspberries really should be pruned once you have a good patch going.
Why Do Raspberries Need To Be Pruned?
The short answer is because it will make your plants healthier and your raspberry harvest bigger.
Without pruning your canes will grow big and unwieldy and they’ll outcompete one another for sunlight. Leaves and fruits that don’t get enough sunlight won’t ripen, or won’t ripen quickly enough, and can wither.
Additionally, a giant, overcrowded bush may hold on to too much moisture at the base. This excess moisture can encourage fungal development. Finally, by cutting back your canes every year, the plant will put all its energy into the brand new canes, which means that less water and nutrients will be going to support old canes with less fruit.
Should Primocanes or Floricanes Be Pruned?
There are two types of canes that a raspberry plant produces, and you have to know the difference in order to know how to prune properly. Don’t worry, it’s not too hard to figure out!
Essentially, most raspberry plants produce stems, or canes, on a two year cycle. The first year’s canes are called primocanes, and the second year’s canes are called floricanes. Depending on the variety of raspberry you have, either the primocanes or floricanes, or both, will produce fruit. But after their second year, the canes will stop producing an appreciable amount of fruit.
For this reason, floricanes should be pruned right at soil level in late winter. The floricanes often have grey, peeling bark, and will look older than the newer primocanes. In addition to last year’s floricanes, you should also prune any canes that crop up outside the row you planted. This concentrates the plant’s energy on your existing canes and makes it easier to reach all the fruit. You’ll also want to prune back any canes that appear weak, thin, or have evidence of insect infestation.
You can check out this video about how to prune everbearing raspberries. Since most of this article is focused on the everbearing variety, this is the video for you.