Raspberries are delicious, delicate members in the same botanical family as the rose and the blackberry. Also known as Rubus idaeus, raspberries contain more vitamin C than oranges and are high in fiber. In fact, raspberries have one of the highest fiber content of any plant foods which makes up for about 20% of the berry’s total weight. These berries are also low in calories, rich in folic acid, high in potassium, vitamin A, calcium, beta carotene and manganese.
The Key Reason You Should Grow Your Own Raspberries
Many of us don’t realize is that the valuable nutrients in raspberries degrade the longer they are stored. This means that you need to consume them as soon as they’re picked to get the full benefit. When you grow your own raspberries, you’re most likely to do that. And a small cup of fresh berries may meet half your daily requirement of Vitamin C when picked and eaten fresh. That’s an amazing incentive to grow these special little berries.
Raspberries are also easy to grow – no need to be scared of growing this fruit if you are new to gardening. Many raspberry cultivars are cold hard and others are heat and drought resistant. This means that no matter where you live, you can find a variety that is just right for you. There is more good news, raspberries are, for the most part, very resistant to most pests and a number of diseases that often plague other plants.
So what’s keeping you from growing your own raspberries? Let’s see how to go about growing buckets full of delicious raspberries. Follow the tips below for a plentiful harvest.
The Total Guide To Growing Baskets Full Of Delicious Raspberries
Choose The Right Spot
Decide on a suitable area in your garden before you even get your raspberry plants. Once they are established, raspberries stay around for a long time. Raspberry canes need support such as a fence or trellis and should be trained initially. Consider it a long term investment guaranteed to give you rich rewards indefinitely. Once established, a yearly pruning is all it takes by way of maintenance.
Raspberry plants need full sun to have the maximum amount of fruit. The plant can tolerate some amount of shade, but that will severely reduce fruit production. So, choose an area that gets plenty of sunlight throughout the day.
Well draining soil and good air circulation are also important, but some protection against wind is necessary. Planting on a slight slope is ideal as it allows for quick drainage.
Choose The Right Plants
Traditionally, raspberries prefer a cooler climate, but several varieties are now available that will grow anywhere between USDA Zones 3 to 9. Be sure to choose a cultivar that’s right for your USDA Zone. Your local garden center might be the best place to procure potted raspberry plants that are certain to do well in your area.
You can also get high yielding named varieties from growers across the country, but they usually ship bare root canes. These have to be planted earlier than the potted plants, that is, as soon as the ground thaws, so remember to place your order well in advance.
There are two main types of raspberries based on their fruit bearing habit.
- Summer-fruiting raspberries: These are the most common type and bear only one crop a year, starting from midsummer and continuing until the end of the season.
- Everbearing raspberries: These typically have two crops a year, once in fall and another the following summer.
Red raspberries are the most commonly cultivated, but you can also grow purple and black raspberries as well as golden yellow ones. Since these plants are self-pollinating, you can choose to have just one type or several growing together. However, if you want both summer bearers and everbearing raspberries, it might be best to grow them separately, since they have different pruning requirements.
The Right Time To Plant
Spring is the raspberry planting season. As mentioned earlier, barefoot raspberry canes have to be planted in early spring as soon as you can work the ground. This will give the canes enough time to grow roots and become established before summer.
With potted plants, wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting. You don’t want an unexpected late frost to catch you off guard and kill young plants.
How To Plant Your Raspberry Canes
Raspberries are traditionally grown on trellis, although some allow plants to ramble. While you may still have a few fruit from your patch, trellises help maximize yield as the vines get good sun exposure and air circulation. Growing your plants vertically also makes harvesting and pruning easier.
Make a simple, yet sturdy trellis by stringing heavy-duty wire between two strong posts. As the plants shoot out new canes, attach them to the wires with plastic ties or garden twine.
Preparing The Planting Hole
Raspberries thrive in rich soil, hence it pays to prepare the chosen area before planting. Work the soil well, adding a good amount of compost or manure. Dig holes 18 inches wide and deep for each plant. While this may seem like overkill for a small bare root plant, keep in mind the mature size when digging.
Space holes three feet apart to give adequate space for the canes to spread. Black and purple varieties are more vigorous growers, so leave four feet in between for these plants.
If you’re planning to have more than one row of raspberries, allow eight feet between rows to facilitate good air circulation. It will also make harvesting and pruning easier.
Place the plants in the prepared holes and fill the hole in with soil, taking care to keep their crowns an inch above the ground. Pack the soil around the plants to keep them upright and steady. When using bare root canes, soak them in water for an hour prior to planting.
After-Planting Raspberry Care
Once you get your plants in the ground, they require a little TLC to really take off. The time you spend babying your raspberry plants in the beginning will be well worth it later on.
Raspberries prefer regular watering to occasional deep watering. That’s because they are shallow rooted plants. The surface soil should always contain some amount of moisture for healthy growth. This is especially important when newly planted canes are establishing themselves. It may be a good idea to place a soaker hose around the plants. Good drainage is a must, though.
Raspberry plants should be mulched to prevent the soil from drying out completely. Although they don’t like wet feet, absence of sufficient soil moisture would affect growth in young plants and fruit set in mature ones. A thick layer of mulch around the plants will prevent this. It will also suppress weeds and spare you an additional chore.
Raspberries planted in rich soil with good amount of organic matter do not require frequent feeding. Soon after planting, an application of balanced organic 10-10-10 formula is recommended. Nitrogen-high fertilizers will boost vegetative growth, so an application in early spring can encourage vigorous growth.
Thereafter, top dressing with organic manure such as bone meal, fish meal, kelp extracts etc., and a spring application of nitrogen fertilizer once a year should be sufficient. Avoid fertilizing in the summer and fall, and also over fertilizing. The surface roots tend to get burned easily.
You don’t have to wait too long for your first taste of homegrown raspberries. You can normally expect a reasonable summer crop in the second year of planting because these plants produce fruit on two-year old canes.
If you have planted 2-year old potted raspberries, they may produce a small crop in the next season. Everbearing raspberry plants bear fruit on their new shoots, so they may even give you a small fall crop in the very first year.
The summer heat accelerates the ripening of the berries and they might be ready for harvest in two weeks. The soft berries are easily bruised, so they must be harvested gently by hand. It is not necessary to tug or pull hard on the berries. When they are ready, they should easily come off in your hand with a slight touch.
Starting from early summer you may have to pick the berries every other day. Don’t hesitate to eat some straight off the bush. That’s the best way to enjoy these delicious treats. If you have more than you can manage, consider sharing first, freezing, or making some preserves.
If you decide to keep berries for later use, make sure they are dry when you pick them. Even the slightest amount of moisture will promote mold growth and spoil the berries. When kept dry, berries will last in the refrigerator for up to five or six days. Wash them only just before you intend to use them. Or let them air dry after washing and freeze in a single layer. Frozen berries and a delectable touch of sweetness to smoothies.
Pruning is necessary for successful raspberry cultivation. Rambling plants bear fewer fruit because more energy is spent on vegetative growth. Of the innumerable canes that shoot out from the plant, the majority should be selectively pruned, leaving only a few healthy ones.
Apart from maintaining good form, the most important function of raspberry pruning is to ensure good fruit set, and larger fruit.
Let’s look a bit more closely at the growth habit of raspberry plants to understand this.
Raspberry canes have two stages of growth. The first year, the new canes only grow vegetatively. These are called primocane, and they remain green. Five to six healthy primocanes per plant are allowed to grow and they are tied to the support.
These branches will mature by the second year, gradually turning brown in the process. They are then called floricane. They are pruned to encourage branching before the next spring. This prepares them for flowering, and eventually to bear fruit through summer.
The major pruning event happens post harvest. Once fruiting is over, the 2-year old canes serve no useful purpose, and they will eventually die. It is up to us to remove these at the end of the season to make space for the next batch of canes. A thorough yearly pruning ensures abundant crops every year.
Pruning the spent canes is not as difficult as it sounds. For one thing, they are easy to tell apart from 1-year old canes by their brown color. All you need to do is cut them down to the ground. You can do it any time between the end of harvest and the next spring.
Everbearing varieties require a slightly different approach though. The new canes give a fall crop in the first year and then bear another crop in the following summer. Therefore the canes should not be removed after their first fruiting, but only lightly pruned in early spring to encourage branching and summer fruit set.
Protecting Your Crop
If you don’t protect your crop you may find that the birds rob you before you have a chance to get your fruit picked. If this becomes an issue, use nets to protect your crop. You may also need to use chicken mesh to keep rabbits from nibbling on the tender spring shoots.
Controlling Insects & Pests
A number of fungal diseases can affect raspberries, the most destructive of them being root rot. Waterlogged soil predisposes the plants to this disease, which is characterized by sudden wilting and death of the plant. This is one of the reasons why excellent drainage is so important.
Overcrowding can also encourage fungal infections. Remove all unnecessary canes and branches to promote good air circulation around the plants. When watering, avoid wetting the leaves. Timely pruning and regular cleanup around the plants helps prevent pests and diseases to some extent. You can also purchase resistant plant varieties. Japanese beetles and spider mites may occasionally trouble raspberries, especially in summer. Keep on the lookout for these and control as necessary.
Spotting & Remedying Nutritional Deficiencies
Deficiency diseases are rare in raspberries growing soil rich in organic matter. If you see yellowing leaves and weak stems, an extra dose of nitrogen applied in the spring should take care of it.
Nutritional deficiencies may not always be due to lack of any specific nutrient in the soil. Their availability to the plant may depend on various factors, the most important one being soil pH.
Raspberries do well in slightly acidic soil (between pH 5-5 and 6.5.), but both highly acidic and alkaline soils may prevent the plant from thriving. It’s a good idea to test your soil and amend it, if necessary.
Raspberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow, they produce an abundant harvest and are packed with nutritional value. Follow these simple steps and enjoy your own freshly picked berries all through the growing season.