Any fruit that is ripe from your own garden is the best you ever tasted, but there is something about the flavour of fresh raspberries that make them my favourite. When you add the benefit of ease-of-growth and the fact that you don’t even have to bend over to pick them raspberries are as close to perfect as it gets!
Raspberries like a good, rich soil full of organic matter and they don’t do well in heavy clay soils. Amend dry, sandy soils with manures or compost before planting. Plants can be grown on berms or in raised beds if clay soil is present. Like most berry plants raspberries like a sunny location, but try to avoid planting them where they will get added heat on the south or west side of a fence or building.
Moisture is key, especially when the fruit is forming, so water regularly through the summer. Drip or soaker hoses laid alongside the canes are ideal as they efficiently deliver moisture right to the roots. Mulching at the base of the canes with shredded bark will help keep the soil moist and will also control grass and weeds. Trust me when I say that you do not want to spend time trying to pull weeds amongst raspberry canes.
When you buy canes plant them about two to three feet apart in rows about 18 inches apart. They’ll look somewhat lonely the first year, but suckers will fill in the space by the second year.
There are two main types of raspberries; junebearing types produce a single crop for about a month from June through early July, while everbearing raspberries produce two crops, one in June and another in September through until frost. If you’re a fan of fresh berries plant a row of each and enjoy them every morning over your cereal.
Plants will need support to keep the long canes from falling over. Install posts at each end of the row and nail a piece of 2×4 across the top with holes drilled through each end. Run wire through on each side and keep the canes between the wires. If you only have a few plants you can stake the canes to a post, or simply cut the canes down to four feet high in late fall to keep them shorter.
Pruning is the most important step in having a productive raspberry patch. Failure to prune will allow you to experience first hand what a “briar patch” is and you won’t get the full production of berries. Canes are biennial; they grow to their full height in the first year and then produce fruit the second year. After the second year they die, so they need to be removed. You’ll see differences in live and dead canes quite readily as the dead ones are grey and brittle.
Put on your garden gloves and prune out the dead right at ground level. After a few years there will be many new canes and you’ll want to take out some of the weaker ones at the same time you’re removing the dead canes. This can be done in the fall or in early spring.
Fertilize your raspberry patch each spring with a granular all-purpose fertilizer or one formulated specifically for fruit-bearing crops. Keep the canes properly pruned, spaced and weeded and your breakfast cereal will be forever enhanced.