How to Grow Raspberries

How to Grow Raspberries: Raspberry Growing Requirements - Soil, Location, Water, Mulch. Difference between Summer Bearing and Fall Bearing Raspberries.

Raspberries can provide delicious sweet tart fruit for fresh eating, cooking and preserves such as jams and jelly. I can only speak for myself, but homemade raspberry jelly is my favorite.  It tastes nothing like the product you buy in the store – the raspberry flavor is much stronger. In this post I’ll share what I’ve learned about how to grow raspberries in northwest Wisconsin.  I’ll also include information from the USDA Cooperative Extension Office.  There are Cooperative Extension Office throughout the United States, and they are a great resource for information specific for your climate and location.

Raspberry Basics

Raspberries come in a rainbow of colors – from yellow to red to purple to black. Only the yellow and red are  hardy in Zone 3 where I garden. A well established, vigorous, disease and insect free planting should be able to yield 2500-3000 pounds of fruit per acre, and for the urban homesteader could be a source of income. If you want follow this dream I would recommend a “pick your own” planting because of the time involved in harvesting. Organic Raspberries get a premium price in farmers markets of $4 a pint, the down side is the shelf life is short. That goes for your harvest as a home gardener as well – you will  need to pick at least twice a week to avoid fruit spoilage.

Raspberry Growing Requirements – Soil and Location

Being a perennial a well maintained raspberry patch can last for years. Raspberries grow best in full sun on well drained soil rich in organic matter. They like a slightly acid soil with a pH 6.0 to 6.8, but can tolerate a pH as low as 5.5 and as high as 7.5. Ideally, the soil should be tilled a year ahead, soil tested, and amended with organic matter such as worm castings, compost, or rotten manure and lime if the pH is 5.5 or below.

When selecting a site, avoid garden spots where tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, or strawberries where planted in the last 3 years, they share many of the same diseases and could undermine your best efforts. It may seem like a good idea to plant where wild raspberries are already growing, but it is not. Wild raspberries can harbor disease and harmful insects that will move into your planting.  (You may be wondering, “Why not simply grow wild raspberries?”  Wild raspberries are *much* less productive than cultivated varieties.)

Good air circulation will help keep you plants healthy. Ideally raspberries should be planted on a slope or hillside with good air drainage like most other plants to prevent damage from late frost, something we deal with every year in the north.  Also, your berry patch must have water.  If you get a period without rain, you will need to supplement with a watering program, or the blossoms will dry up and end your harvest in as little as 10 days.  (Editor’s note – I have successfully used a combination of soaker hoses and mulch in my patch in past years.)

Pick a spot where you can cultivate around the outside of the patch to keep rhizome grasses like quack at bay, or at the least where you can mow the  grass short, this will make your maintenance much easier.

unripe raspberries

Two Types of Raspberry Plants – Summer Bearing and Fall Bearing

There are 2 categories  of raspberries, summer bearing and fall bearing. Summer bearing raspberries produce one large crop between early July and August. Fall bearing raspberries (sometimes called Ever Bearing raspberries) produce a large crop in the fall and a smaller crop the next summer.

The difference between the two types is due to the fruiting cycles. Raspberries have perennial roots and crowns, but the above ground canes only live two summers. The new growth is called the “primocane”. On summer-bearing varieties, the primocane produces non-fruiting growth only.  Fall bearing raspberries will produce fruit on the tips of the primocanes sometime after August 1st, and keep producing until a killing frost.

In the second summer the primocane that grew the last summer is now called a floricane. In summer bearing varieties this floricane  will produce one large crop of berries then die. In fall bearing cultivars the cane will  set fruit on the lower half of the cane and then die.

Removing these dead canes and burning or getting them a good distance from your patch is the best way to keep your plants pest free, as some insects will over winter in the dead canes. Also by removing the dead canes you may remove diseased plants, giving the new growth a better chance.

Raspberries are self fruiting and do not need to cross pollinate. Most of the pollination (90%) is done by bees so using any insecticide is just a bad idea.

Raspberry patch

Vigorously growing raspberry patch

I chose to grow the fall bearing variety for a couple of reasons. Old canes must be removed each year if you want to have a healthy planting. With fall bearing varieties, you simply cut the entire patch to the ground with a SHARP tool to avoid damaging the crowns, which is quicker and easier than pruning individual canes. Also, the weather is cooler and rains come more often in the fall, so I don’t have to water as often to keep the harvest coming.  The only down side is that an early hard frost can cut the harvest short.

raspberry tools

I use a weed whacker with a blade attachment to trim the raspberry plants to the ground.

When to Fertilize Raspberries

You should fertilize your raspberry patch early in the spring for maximum growth. Avoid fertilizing after August 1st so you don’t encourage new growth when the plant should be preparing for the winter, late season growth makes plants susceptible to winter damage. An established planting will need nitrogen for growth the new canes.

Mulching Your Raspberries

A 2 inch layer of mulch would be very beneficial to your planting.  Old silage, leaves, lawn clippings, wood chips, sawdust, wood shavings, or rye or sudan grass straw are free of weeds. All of them will help keep in moisture and add to the soils nutrients as they break down over time. If you use sawdust you will have to add extra nitrogen because of the small particle size it will steal it from your soil.  If you want to maintain paths between rows, multiple layers of cardboard under the mulch will slow down the raspberry runners.

Harvesting and Storing Raspberries

Ideally, raspberries should be picked into shallow containers because they crush and bruise easily.  In dry weather they will be more durable.  They will normally store a few days in the refrigerator, except under wet or very humid conditions, which will cause them to mold quickly.  Do not wash them before storage, or they will become soft and mushy.  If your patch is clean, washing should not be required at all.  For nutritional information, freezing instructions, a red raspberry jelly recipe and information on preserving raspberry leaves, please visit Raspberry Storage and Health Benefits of Raspberries.   You can also use the seeds leftover from jelly making to make Chocolate Raspberry Granola CookiesRaspberry Cream pie was a favorite of my mother.

I hope you enjoyed this information on how to grow raspberries, and that you’ll consider growing your own home raspberry patch.

How to Grow Raspberries: Raspberry Growing Requirements - Soil, Location, Water, Mulch. Difference between Summer Bearing and Fall Bearing Raspberries.

This is a guest post by my brother, Richard Poplawski, Master Gardener in training, who lives in Northwest Wisconsin and has an amazing garden.

 

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Comments

  1. Rick says

    Great information. Thanks for the article. Can black raspberries be planted near the red varieties? I read recently (and can’t remember where) that they should be separated by at least 150 feet.

    Rick

    • says

      Ideally it is best not to plant them close to each other, because reds may harbor disease without showing signs of disease, but can still transmit the disease to the blacks.

      From the University of Illinois Extension:

      “Red raspberries tend not to show virus symptoms if infected but aphids can still spread the virus to Black raspberries that tend to be very susceptible. Plant black raspberries away from red raspberries but if you have a limited space, always plant black raspberries upwind from the red raspberries so that aphids are not blown by wind from red to black raspberries.”

      The North Carolina Cooperative Extension states:

      “All raspberries are self-fertile and may be planted alone. Plants of red and black raspberries should be separated by 700 ft.”

      • Rick says

        Thanks. 700 feet is a long way to have to keep them separated. Families with close neighbors would need to keep this in mind.

  2. Cynthia Wilson says

    Love your web-site and facebook page! So I started vegetable gardening 3 years ago, and am fairly new to this. That said my raspberry patch is only on it’s second year, and was looking quite nice until about a week ago when I noticed some skeletonized leaves. Apparently I have a sawfly infestation. There is no way I can handpick them all off. I’ve tried and am not getting anywhere! I’ve read about Spinosad which is an organic pesticide, but it carries a “low possibility of honey bee death.” There are hives on the property next to mine, and I purchase my honey from a local apiary so I don’t think this is an option. Is there any advice you can give me on how to deal with this? Also, if I can’t control them how will the fruit be impacted? Thank you so much!

    • says

      Handpicking and insecticides seem to be the two recommendations I’m finding.

      http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/GARDEN/FRUIT/PESTS/raspsawfly.html

      “Handpick and destroy infested leaves. The raspberry sawfly does not generally warrant further control unless plants are threatened with defoliation.”

      Give your plants some extra TLC. Anything you can do to strengthen the plant/improve the soil will lessen damage and improve recovery time. Unhealthy plants invite insects and disease. I have seen this in my own garden. Top dress with some compost or rotten manure, foliar feed with compost tea, weed tea or fish emulsion. Add mulch to reduce swings in soil moisture and temperature.

      • Cynthia Wilson says

        Thank you for the advice. I have plenty of fish emulsion so I’ll feed them today. I did add lots of compost to the soil before planting the canes, but I’ve never “top dressed” them so I’ll try that this weekend.

        Thanks for all the time and advice you share with us!

  3. Becca says

    How many plants should I plant for a family of 6? I am new to fruit crops and can’t seem to find the answer to my question anywhere.,

  4. Michelle Proper says

    I have summer bearing I believe. They are red and they are everywhere slowing taking over my garden. I want to move them somewhere else but I’m not sure how to do that or when. Is this advisable? I always remove the dead canes in the Spring here in western NY and would love to move the whole patch so I have more room in my veggie garden. Thanks for any help!

  5. Gail Emerson says

    I live in the New England state of NH and have several raspberry bushes close to several blueberry bushes. The blueberries did not grow and the one lovely raspberry I managed to eat was all there was. I don’t know why this year is different from other years other than he extreme heat. I enjoyed reading your comments and hints and am going to do,some research on my own. I love reading everything that you all post. I am a farm, prairie lady at heart and enjoy your ideas and comments.

    • says

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Have you ever done a soil test? That may be a place to start. Also, good thick mulch is very good for soil building, keeping down weeds, preserving moisture and protecting the roots of the plant from temperature extremes.

  6. Dana D says

    Very nice article! I love raspberries and have had limited success growing them. The only thing I would add is to consult your local Cooperative Extension service (US) before planting. I live in NE OK (US) and raspberries will most likely burn up in full sun no matter what soil or how well you water. I lost mine in 2011 and switched to blackberries. If you check the PLANTS database, you will see they don’t want to grow in the SE US at all.

  7. AnneMarie says

    Does it take a few years for a plan to produce fruit? This will be my 3rd season with my plants- I didn’t get anything the 1st or 2nd year. Do you know if this is normal? Or maybe I’m doing something terribly wrong….
    And here’s another (dumb!) beginner’s question: How do I know if mine are “summer bearing” or “fall bearing”??
    Thank you for your help! Great article!
    AnneMarie

    • says

      It’s been awhile since my patch was new, but I’m pretty sure I had a small harvest one year after planting, and then the patch grew and spread and the harvest increased.

      do you know what type of plants you have? Most are labeled summer bearing or fall bearing. If you don’t know what type they are, you need for them to produce fruit so you can tell if they produce more in summer or fall. Summer bearers produce a heavy crop in June, then peter out. Fall bearers produce some earlier, but their main crop is in fall.

      If you still don’t have any signs of fruit after three years, I’d be a little concerned that either something is lacking in your site/soil, or you’ve got a variety that’s non-productive. We got some free canes from a neighbor when we wanted to expand our patch. They introduced disease (to which they were immune) and killed off the rest of the patch. (The patch in the photos is my brother’s.) Those “free” canes cost us our raspberry patch, and they never produced more than a couple of tiny berries.

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