What better shout out to summer than biting down on a fresh, sweet raspberry? The only problem is: they're expensive, and the best tasting ones are often hard to find in grocery stores.
Beyond their unbeatable flavor, raspberries are nice to have around because they're so undemanding. While your veggie garden might constantly be needing care, your raspberry bushes are off in the corner doing their thing. Come late summer they start offering up bushels of fruit that you can eat fresh, in desserts, at breakfast, or even turned into a sauce for your steak dinner.
That's why growing raspberries at home is such a brilliant idea. Here's how to get started.
Raspberries belong to the genus Rubus and are rhizomes, which means they grow by producing canes that spring up from their roots.
There are two types of raspberries, which is determined by when they fruit. Summer-bearing raspberries have one fruiting, typically in June or July. They're self-fertile, so you only need one variety. They usually start bearing fruit after the first year.
Everbearing raspberries produce in summer and then a light crop later in the fall. Regardless of the type you prefer, there are numerous raspberry varieties to choose from.
- Boyne – Boyne is a summer red variety that's popular with growers. It's a hardy variety that thrives in zones 3-7. Boynes is ideal for making jam and freezing.
- Killarney – Killarney is another red summer bearer. It is a bit larger and sweeter than Boyne. This berry is the perfect choice for fresh eating, or if you want to sell your fruit at a farmer's market.
- Heritage – Heritage is popular in the Ohio Valley region and is one of my favorites. It's an everbearing variety that has a deep, dark red color and tastes incredibly sweet. It produces two crops, the first on floricane that ripens in July. Later in September, the primocane berries ripen. Upright canes are 4 feet tall and self-supporting.
- Anne – Anne is a yellow fall bearing variety that does best in zones 4-7. I love the taste of Anne’s, but they can be a bit temperamental to grow. The yellow berries have a mouth-watering flavor which makes the trouble worthwhile. Finding yellow raspberries in a store can be difficult, so if you have extra, you can sell them. They look beautiful in a salad and are delicious fresh or in preserves.
- Jewel – Jewel is my all time favorite. It's a black raspberry and is hardy and prolific. I can't tell you how many times my goats or fawns have munched away on the canes and they come back bigger than ever. Jewel is a summer bearing variety and does well in the heat of zones 5-8. The plants are large – 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide – so give them plenty of room to grow. The berries are large as well and have a delicious sweet flavor that is ideal for eating fresh or making jam. Try them with pancakes on Sunday morning.
Purchase raspberry plants online or at a local nursery. You can buy them bare root or in pots.
The Right Area
Raspberries can be picky about where they grow, and I think the yellow ones are the pickiest. I planted yellow Annes three times before I found a spot where they flourished. It was worth the perseverance – YUM!
Keep in mind that raspberries don't like wind, so pick a location that doesn't get gusty or put them near a windbreak. You also want to keep plants away from wild berries.
Bees and other insect pollinators can benefit raspberries and visa versa. If you're a beekeeper, you might consider putting your raspberries near your hives.
You want a spot that has full sun but is protected from the harshest afternoon light if you live in a hot region.
Raspberries don't like wet feet so pick a location that drains well. Your spoil pH should be between 5.5-6.5. Slightly acid soil helps prevent iron and manganese deficiencies.
Test your soil and add amendments if necessary. If your soil is heavy add some sand and peat to help with drainage.
As with most perennials, it is a good idea to prepare the soil before planting. Work in compost or aged manure to the top few inches of your earth and till to get rid of weeds. Have your holes ready before your plants arrive so you can plant them as soon as possible.
Raspberries need full sun, at least 6-8 hours a day.
Some gardeners soak the roots before planting raspberries. I don’t do this since I plan to water the hole after planting to help the roots get good contact with the soil. Before putting the plant in the ground, examine the roots and trim any dead or twisted ones.
The plant's crown should be 1-2 inches above the soil line. The crown is the part of the plant where the stem joins the roots. This is an important point of energy transfer in the plant.
After planting, prune your raspberries to 4 inches above the soil. This will help the roots get established, which will ensure healthier plants down the road.
Plant black raspberries 4 feet apart. Yellow and reds can be a little closer at 2-3 feet apart. Leave 6 feet between rows.
Trellis or Support
Some varieties of raspberries get tall and need to have their canes supported. You can do this by building a trellis or by using a fence for support. I plant mine on exterior garden fencerows.
Caring For Raspberries
Raspberries are heavy feeders. At the time of planting, mix one-half cup of all-purpose organic fertilizer into the soil. Annual applications of two inches of compost in the spring and some fish emulsion when flowers appear will do wonders. Apply a second round of fertilizer later in the year.
Start a regular fertilizing schedule the second year of growth.
You'll need prune growing raspberries annually. I know that pruning can be intimidating, but don’t worry, raspberries are uncomplicated.
While the raspberry plant will live for many years, each cane only lives for a few years. It's important to remove those dead canes and encourage new growth.
Pruning Summer Bearing Raspberries
In the first year of growth, the raspberry develops a primocane. This green colored cane grows the leaves that provide the plant with food. The primocane does not produce any berries.
In its second year, the primocane becomes darker in color and becomes what is called a floricane. The floricane produces fruit and then dies. Spent floricanes are what you will prune away.
Indiana Berry Company has a great video on identifying each type of cane.
Pruning Red Raspberries
The best time to prune reds is in fall after they are done producing. Cut out the dead canes. Cut the primocanes down to 12 inches.
Pruning Black and Purple Raspberries
In fall cut back all canes that have fruited.
Pruning Everbearing Raspberries
Cut down all the canes after harvest. Many people use a lawn mower at a three-inch setting and mow the plants.
Raspberries benefit from having a thick layer of mulch. Straw and wood chips both work well to help keep in water and stop weed growth.
Berries take lots of water to become sweet and juicy. Your plants need one inch of water per week during the growing season.
Companions for Growing Raspberries
These are the best companions for raspberries.
The following plants are the worst companions for rasberries:
Problems and Solutions for Growing Raspberries
Some fruits take a lot of work, but raspberries are hardy and get few diseases.
- Yellow leaves: Raspberries can suffer from iron deficiency, especially if your soil pH is too high. Test your soil and make sure your pH is between 5.5-6.5. Add iron sulfate to the earth to remedy.
- Vanishing canes and leaves: My biggest problem growing raspberries is with my goats and fawns. They think raspberries are a delectable treat. Raspberry canes and leaves are nutritious, but I want all the goodies for me! During the fruiting season, I drape netting over my plants. This helps to protect them from my four legged buddies as well as birds.
- Rabbits: Bunnies also like to nibble on raspberries. Especially in winter when there is less fresh food. There are lots of ways to deter rabbits.
- Light spots: If your raspberries get full afternoon sun and they start to develop light spots, it's probably sunscalding. Shade your plants in the afternoon or buy resistant varieties.
- Stunted plants: If your plants don't get enough water they may suffer from water stress. This will cause reduced yields and smaller fruits. Be sure to give growing raspberries plenty of water.
Powdery mildew is sometimes a problem for raspberries. Make sure your plants have plenty of air circulation around them. If you do have powdery mildew on your plants dispose of the canes when you prune.
Cane blight can cause wilt and plant death. You'll notice cankers on first-year canes that gradually expand and will begin to ooze. Cane blight can be prevented by giving plants plenty of space and watering at the base of plants. Don't over-feed with nitrogen. Remove and destroy any infected canes.
Raspberry Leaf Spot
Raspberry leaf spot is caused by a fungus. It causes small dark spots that eventually develop into yellow spots on raspberry leaves. It can weaken plants and reduce your harvest. Make sure plants have plenty of air circulation by keeping plants pruned. You can also use a fungicide to control it.
Yellow rust is a fungus common on red raspberries. In the early spring, you'll see yellow spots on upper plant leaves. As the summer progresses, the spots move down the plant. Fruit may die on the cane and plants may lose their leaves. Make sure plants have lots of air circulation to prevent it. Remove and burn infected leaves and canes. You can also plant resistant varieties.
Red raspberries are particularly susceptible to fire blight. It causes tips of canes to turn black and curl down. Eventually, leaves may wither and die, and fruit may turn brown and dry up. Remove and destroy infected canes and keep pests like aphids away using neem oil, because they can spread disease.
Cane borer is a beetle that attacks raspberries. You'll first know you have it if the shoot tips of your plants start turning black in the early summer. If you see two rings below the dead tip, it's a surefire sign that you have cane borer. To control it, cut the shoot at the bottom ring and destroy the pruned cane.
Raspberry mosaic is a group of different pathogens that attack plants. Because it can be caused by numerous viruses, the symptoms can vary. It can look like weak or slow-growing plants, loss of fruit or low fruit quality, or yellow spots on leaves. Aphids are the major culprit for spreading this disease, so do your best to keep them at bay. Look for resistant varieties if you struggle with raspberry mosaic.
Also known as a raspberry fruitworm, this small white and brown beetle feeds on fruit buds and new leaves. They overwinter in the soil and emerge in April or May to start snacking. Use an organic pesticide to control.
Harvesting and Storing Raspberries
Raspberries fruit over a two week period in either summer or fall, beginning in the second year after they are planted. Fruits are ripe when they reach the desired color, and they pull away from the plant without a fight. A ripe berry is easy to pick and will fall off in your hand. If you have to tug then the berry is not ready yet. They need to be picked frequently during this time – at least every two days.
Raspberries don't have a long shelf life. That's one of the reasons that they're so expensive in stores. Store them in the refrigerator for up to five days. Make sure they are dry before you put them in the fridge. Don’t wash them until right before you are ready to eat them.
You can freeze raspberries by laying them out on a cookie sheet with a little space between them. Stick them in the freezer. After they're frozen put them in freezer containers and place back into the freezer.
Now for the best part: eating them. Tell us how you like to snack on raspberries.
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