Raspberries

raspberry ready for picking
raspberry ready for picking

Introduction

A raspberry – delicious, sweet, tangy, and sometimes even a little sharp. This guide covers both summer and autumn raspberry varieties. If a gardener chooses to grow both types, it is possible to enjoy a raspberry harvest from May until October.

Raspberries come in many colours, from the traditional red to yellow, gold, and purple types. There are differences in sweetness levels and size of fruit depending on the variety chosen. Raspberries have been crossed with blackberries to create hybrid berries like tayberries, loganberries, and boysenberries, fruit that combine the best characteristics of both parents.

Planting

  • Planting depth: roots 5 -10 cm below surface
  • Planting spacing: canes 50 cm apart, 1.5 m between rows

Harvesting

  • May – September (if growing both summer and autumn raspberry varieties)
  • Eat fresh, make jams, or freeze
Sow
(inside)
Sow
(outside)
Harvest
(fresh)
Harvest
(stored)
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
= jar, = freeze, = store

Varieties

It is worthwhile spending a little time to understand the differences between summer and autumn varieties, and how to get the plants established. The canes are named after when they produce their delicious raspberries.

When I first researched raspberries – before I started to grow them – I was immensely confused by descriptions given for pruning raspberries. I hope I do not confuse you now. The basics are as follows:

  • All raspberry canes should be cut to about 6 inches / 15 centimetres off the ground after they have fruited

And that basically is as complicated as it needs to get! And nature makes life easy, as fruited raspberry canes look half dead, making them very easy to tell them apart from the young whippy green fresh canes.

Nevertheless, what seems to cause all the confusion, is this one important difference between summer and autumn fruiting raspberries, as follows:

For summer fruiting raspberries – plants that fruit between June through to early August – only prune the raspberry canes that have fruited. You will want to keep the young whippy green fresh canes for next year’s fruit. In other words, in winter, you will have kept the fresh growth of the previous summer (as these will not have born fruit).

For autumn fruiting raspberries – plants that fruit from mid August onwards – prune all canes back to the ground before the start of the next growing season (February / March). So, in winter, you will not have kept any canes. All canes will be cut back to 15 cm above ground level (as all canes will have fruited the previous year).

It is easy to distinguish fruited canes with their dark brown and dried out skin, from the fresh green canes that will produce delicious raspberries.

If space is limited, you may want to consider a clump forming raspberry variety (rather than spreading type) that can be grown in pots on a patio.

See all varieties in the allotment shop.

Growing

Late autumn or early spring is the ideal time to plant raspberries – it is a job often done in cold weather. Raspberry canes are dormant during the winter months, and having them in the soil before the growing season starts will give them the maximum time to establish themselves.

It is important to plant the canes with their roots horizontal along the ground, rather than down into the earth, and not too deep, about 5 to 10 centimetres is all they need. A successful planting will lead to the canes establishing themselves, developing their root systems, and throwing up many new canes in future years. Mixing in large amounts of well rotted compost will improve the health of the canes and the size of the fruit.

Five canes per pot is the usual number when purchased from a garden centre, and this is sufficient for one 2 m line of raspberries.

I suggest choosing different types of raspberry bush for each line of raspberries you have, so that you can enjoy their different flavours, and because each variety fruits at different times, making it possible to have a continuous supply of raspberries from early summer to autumn.

Raspberry canes need to be supported, and the frame has to be of sufficient strength to protect the plants when in leaf during strong winds. A line of raspberry canes acts like a fence in blocking the wind, and therefore the supports have to withstand considerable force. I have learned the merits of using strong metal poles (scaffolding type) for the posts, or alternatively thick wooden posts (but these can rot in the ground). Ideally the posts should stand 180 cm high above ground, and have 50 cm below ground. Strong wire is strung between the posts, spaced 30 cm apart in height, with the canes tied to the wire.

Once planted, caring for raspberries is quite a simple process. The humble raspberry grows well in Scotland, a country that is famous for raspberries and is the source of many raspberry varieties sold in garden centres. From this, it is perhaps not surprising that they like warm, but not very hot weather in the summer, and they do especially well with a good amount of rain (or watering).

Establishing a watering regime is the best way to care for raspberries and maximise the harvest. Raspberry roots are close to the surface which means that in dry weather they can quickly dry out. From experience this is something to regret, as canes can ‘go over’ before they have produced a plentiful crop of fruit due to insufficient watering.

A good solution is a thick mulch early spring, that both feeds and protects the roots from drying out. The soil my raspberry bushes stand on has excellent drainage, in fact almost too good, meaning that it is impossible to over water. Given this, I find that throughout the summer in dry periods I need to give the raspberry canes a really good watering at least once a week.

A mulch helps to suppress weed growth. Raspberries grow tall rather than spread over the ground, which provides weeds the light and space they need to grow. A gardener needs to regularly clear the soil of any weeds whilst they are still small, to avoid disturbing the roots of raspberry canes.

With good luck and good weather (plus netting against birds) it is easy to achieve a good harvest. If possible, try and sample homegrown raspberries of any friends or relatives, and then purchase canes of the same type – or even better ask them at the end of summer whether they have any new canes that they can spare.

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