Growing raspberries is a rewarding endeavour for both beginner and experienced gardeners alike. These delicious and nutritious fruits can be enjoyed fresh, used in various recipes, or frozen for future use. By understanding the basic needs of your raspberries, you will achieve a bountiful harvest year after year.
Raspberries thrive in areas with full sun and well-drained, fertile soil. There are two main types of raspberries, summer fruiting & autumn fruiting. The difference between the two types comes down to how you prune them.
Site Selection and Preparation
Choosing the Right Location
Raspberries grow best in full sun, so selecting a planting site with ample sunlight is crucial for optimal fruit production. Although they can tolerate some shade, they will produce fewer fruits in such conditions. Remember that raspberries prefer well-drained soil and avoid planting them in low-lying areas where water may accumulate.
Preparing the Soil
Before planting, ensure that the soil at the chosen site is rich in organic matter and well-drained. Raspberries thrive in loam soil types; think a forest floor. You can improve soil quality by incorporating organic materials, such as compost or well-rotted manure, into the planting area. This will provide essential nutrients and improve the soil’s structure.
Raspberries prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH ranging from 5.6 to 6.2. If your soil is too alkaline, you’ll need to amend it accordingly. Adding sulphur will lower your soil’s pH, and you can also add ericaceous compost. Woodchip and pine needle mulches are also great for raspberries as they help to mimic their natural environment.
There are numerous raspberry varieties available for home gardeners. The main types of raspberries grown are generally classified into two categories: summer-bearing raspberries and autumn-bearing raspberries.
Summer-bearing raspberries produce fruit once a year, typically in early to mid-summer. They require careful pruning and fruit on the previous year’s growth. Some popular summer-bearing raspberry varieties include:
- Glen Ample
Summer raspberries tend to produce bigger crops, which is understandable as they only crop in their second year so have a much longer growing season.
Autumn-bearing raspberries produce fruit in late summer to early autumn. They typically require less care as they fruit on the current year’s growth. Some well-known autumn-bearing raspberry varieties are:
- Autumn Bliss
- All Gold
These raspberries are appreciated for their lower maintenance requirements compared to summer-bearing varieties.
When to Plant
The ideal time for planting raspberries is autumn, but they can also be planted while dormant, between November and March, as long as the soil isn’t frozen or wet.
Proper spacing is essential for the healthy growth of raspberries. In general, raspberry plants should be spaced 3 feet apart in a row. Remember that as they grow and develop, lots of new canes will start to appear so you want to leave plenty of room between plants.
Planting Bare Root Raspberries
Raspberries come either as full rooted and potted plants or as bare root plants (essentially a stick with some roots on the end!)
When planting bare-root raspberries, you need to do the following:
- Soak the roots in a bucket of water for an hour before planting to rehydrate them.
- Dig a narrow hole as wide as the roots, roughly a foot deep.
- Add ericaceous compost and natural fertiliser like chicken manure to the bottom of the hole.
- Fill the hole with an ericaceous and multi-purpose compost mix.
- Water well.
When planting potted raspberries, follow these steps:
- Dig a hole 1 foot deep and 1 foot wide per plant.
- Add a handful of ericaceous compost and organic fertiliser to the hole before planting.
- Place the plant in the hole, ensuring its roots are spread out evenly.
- Fill the hole with an ericaceous and multi-purpose compost mix.
- Water the newly planted raspberries well to help establish their root system.
Caring for Raspberry Plants
Watering and Feeding
In the UK raspberries require little watering except in dry summers. If we are going through a dry patch, they benefit from a heavy deep watering once or twice a week rather than a shallow watering daily.
I like to apply a healthy handful of chicken manure to the base of each plant in early spring when they are starting to wake up again, this goes for both autumn and summer fruiting varieties.
I will do this again when they start fruiting and add sporadic feeds of blood, fish and bone too.
Pruning and Training
Proper pruning and training are essential for maintaining healthy raspberry plants. Pruning should be done in the autumn after harvesting for summer-fruiting raspberries, which bear fruit on one-year-old canes. Remove the canes that have fruited but leave the new canes. These will fruit next summer.
For autumn-fruiting raspberries, pruning should be done over winter by cutting back all stems to ground level. New growth will replace these in the spring and bear fruit later in the year.
It’s important to train raspberries by tying the canes to a support system such as wires or trellises. This helps prevent the canes from becoming entangled and allows for better air circulation and light penetration, reducing the risk of diseases.
Weed and Pest Control
Proper weed management is crucial for the overall health of your raspberry plants. Eliminate weeds by either hand-pulling or using a hoe, being careful not to damage the shallow roots of the raspberries. Applying a layer of mulch around the base of the plants can help suppress weed growth and retain soil moisture.
The main pest problem you will have with raspberries is birds pinching your harvest. To protect your crop from birds, consider using netting over your plants.
Harvesting raspberries at the right time and using proper picking techniques can make a significant difference in the quality and yield of your fruit.
When to Harvest
Raspberries should be harvested when the fruits are ripe, as unripe raspberries will not ripen off the plant. Ripe raspberries will be soft and come away from the plant with little effort. The plug or core remains behind on the plant when you pick the fruit, further indicating the fruit’s ripeness.
When picking raspberries, dont tug too hard on the fruit, as a ripe raspberry will leave the vine willingly. Picking with a gentle twisting motion helps prevent bruising and ensures that the fruit is ripe. If the berry is resistant to being picked, it’s likely that the fruit is not yet ripe and should be left on the plant for a few more days.
After harvesting, raspberries can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen.
Storing and Preserving Raspberries
As raspberries have a very short shelf life, you must know how to store and preserve them properly (unless you eat them all before you leave the allotment… nobody does that right??). In this section, we will discuss ways to store raspberries in the refrigerator and freezer and create jams, jellies, and other preserves.
To freeze raspberries, first, wash and pre-sort them. Place the raspberries in a single layer on baking paper and freeze them. When frozen, transfer the berries to an airtight bag or container for long-term storage.
Jams, Jellies, and Other Preserves
Raspberries can also be preserved by turning them into jams, jellies, or other preserves, which can last for several months when stored properly. Follow these general steps:
- Prepare the fruit by washing, removing stems and leaves, and crushing the raspberries.
- Combine the crushed raspberries with sugar and other ingredients as needed, such as pectin or spices.
- Boil the mixture, stirring frequently until it thickens and reaches the desired consistency.
- Pour the jam or jelly into sterilised jars, leaving some headspace, and seal the jars.
- Process the jars in a boiling water bath or pressure canner according to the recipe’s instructions.
With these methods, you can successfully store and preserve raspberries to enjoy their flavour long after you’ve harvested them from the garden.