Few fruits prompt as much childhood nostalgia as the raspberry. If you grew up or vacationed in a northern state you probably enjoyed your first raspberry on a nature walk or family hike in the woods and not the local supermarket.
Of course, raspberries were a good snack to find in your grandmas garden too. Even if you enjoyed your first raspberry by way of the supermarket, and not a bush, the wonderful flavor was not to be forgotten. With some careful planning and attention you can soon be growing and enjoying your own raspberries.
Raspberries: Packed with health benefits
Raspberries not only taste good they are very beneficial to your health. Raspberries are one of a select number of foods considered to be a “super-food” – that is, they contain chemicals (phytochemicals) that science has learned help directly fight disease, including cancer.
David Geffen from California’s School of Medicine notes that raspberries have “the ability to counteract, reduce, and even repair damage resulting from oxidative stress and inflammation.”
Raspberries are packed with nutritional value including high levels of folate, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, and calcium. They also have the added health benefit of being an anti-oxidant.
What is a Raspberry?
Raspberries are a part of the rose family and considered a bramble shrub due to their prickly branches and stems. They produce fruit every year and so are considered a perennial plant. Raspberries can be found growing in a wide range of zones, from 3 to 10.
Raspberries are classified according to their color and fruiting habit. You will find raspberries in a variety of colors including purple, pink, white/yellow, black, and of course, red. Raspberries can also be classified as either:
Summerbearing and Everbearing Raspberries
Summerbearing raspberries produce fruit one time in late summer or early fall. Red raspberries are the most common type of summerbearing raspberry. Red raspberries come in different varieties such as Latham, Prelude and Killarney.
Everbearing raspberries produce fruit twice a year: once in the springtime and once in the fall. Some common everbearing raspberries are Polana, Summit, and Golden. With good cultural practices and attention, some gardeners have had success getting certain everbearing varieties to produce fruit for many weeks.
It takes two years after planting for the bush to produce fruit. The first year is vegetative growth. If planted in a good location and well tended, raspberries can produce fruit for many years.
Picking Your Site for Planting Raspberry Plants
Raspberry plants require full sun (at least 6 hours a day) and grow best in fertile sandy-loam soil with good drainage. Avoid planting raspberries in an area where water tends to pool as this will lead to an increased susceptibility to disease, root rot and poor fruit production. The ideal pH for raspberry plants is between 5.6-6.2.
The best way to determine your soil’s quality, composition and pH level is to contact your local extension office for directions on gathering and sending in a soil sample. To find your local extension offices check out this map of Cooperative Extension System Offices.
Raspberries should be planted in early spring after the threat of frost is gone. Red raspberries can be planted to form nice hedge rows as they mature. Each plant should be spaced about 2-3 feet apart and each row 10-12 feet apart.
Black and purple raspberries do not become full enough to create a proper hedge and should be planted about 4 feet apart in rows that are 8-10 feet apart. Using the hill system for black and purple berries is a good option and the best use of space.
Adequate spacing between plants is needed for weeding, fertilizing and pruning as well as aiding in proper air circulation and sunlight. Plant depth should be about the same as, or slightly deeper than, they were at the nursery.
Avoid planting raspberries within 300 to 600 feet of wild raspberries or blackberries if possible, because they can transmit viruses to your new plants. Additionally, you should not plant raspberries in the same area that potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants or strawberries have grown in the last 3-4 years as the soil may contain a fungal disease that causes Verticillium Wilt.
Upon initial planting, you can apply a general fertilizer (10-10-10) at the rate of about one pound per 100 feet of row. Work the fertilizer into the soil with a tiller or spade. Another dose of fertilizer should be applied 2-3 weeks later.
Organic matter such as manure or compost can also be applied. Side dressings or additional amendments should be used only after getting your soil results. A mulch can be applied to a depth of about 3-4 inches to cover. Do not put too much mulch down if the area tends to stay wet or retain moisture, as this will encourage fungal diseases.
If you are planting one-year-old canes, you should cut the plant to about 6 inches above ground.
Supports and Trellises for Raspberries
Using a trellis or support system is recommended for red raspberries. Black and purple raspberries grow in clumps and do not need trellising, but can benefit from individual support systems. Trellising provides the following benefits:
-Aids in keeping the fruit healthy by increasing air circulation, keeping the fruit off the ground, and allowing access to full sun. This will increase your crop.
-Makes pruning and weeding easier to manage.
-Makes harvesting easier.
-Helps prevent certain diseases and pests.
Trellises do not have to be overly complex. You can build your own or buy one partially assembled. Iowa State University has great information related to Training and Trellising Raspberries.
Pruning Raspberry Plants
Pruning plays a vital part in the health and crop production of raspberries. In order to properly prune your raspberries you will need to understand their two types of canes. The roots and crowns of raspberries are perennial, but their canes live only two years. Raspberry canes come in two varieties: primocanes and floricanes.
Primocanes are first-year canes and floricanes are second-year canes that produce fruit.
In the spring raspberries grow new canes from the buds on the crown of the shrub and underground. In the first season, these canes grow vegetatively only (floricanes). The first-year canes will overwinter and then produce fruit in their second year (as primocanes), and then the cycle begins again.
The second-year canes die soon after producing fruit; this is a recommended time to prune them. Everbearing raspberries will produce fruit on the tips of the new canes and well as a later crop on lower branches.
Summer red raspberries should be pruned two times a year: once in late winter/early spring and again right after they have produced fruit (that you have harvested).
Spring pruning will include removing all dead, diseased, overgrown or weak canes. Keep only the strong and healthy canes to ensure a good shape and quality fruit production.
The second pruning includes removing the canes that just bore fruit.
Pruning should also be done whenever new shoots become overgrown, diseased or damaged. After you are done pruning, be sure to dispose of the waste properly so disease is not transmitted.
Raspberry Plant Diseases and Pests
Raspberries can be susceptible to certain diseases and pests. These can vary depending on what part of the country you live. Some of the more common pests include:
– raspberry cane borer
– red-neck cane borer
– raspberry aphid
– raspberry cane maggot
– clay-colored weevil
Diseases that raspberries are susceptible to are usually fungal or viral diseases such as anthracnose and cane blight. One of the best ways to prevent diseases is to purchase certified plants and use disease-resistant varieties. Good cultural practices will also help prevent many diseases. Dispose of any canes or part of the raspberry plant that has disease or extensive pest damage.
You will know your raspberries are mature and ready to harvest when they are easily separated from the core; if you have to pull hard to separate them they are not ready for picking. Raspberries will keep only for a few days to a week after harvesting.
Place them on a paper towel no more than 3 berries deep and put them in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Do not rinse with water until you are ready to eat, as this will cause them to quickly mold.
Raspberries are wonderful in jams and jellies and can be frozen and enjoyed all winter long. And, of course, for all your hard work, there’s nothing better than enjoying a handful of freshly picked raspberries!
Want to learn more about raspberries and growing raspberries?
Raspberries.us has an exhaustive list of raspberry varieties.
Check out Raspberry Recipes for many delicious recipes for dishes that can be made with raspberries.
Here’s a great resource for Integrated Pest Management for Raspberries.
The University of Minnesota has a lot of info related to Raspberry Insect Pests of The Home Garden.
A lot of information about raspberry diseases can also be found on the University of Minnesota extension.
Read about Insects & Diseases of Raspberries to increase your knowledge.