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Raspberries: How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Raspberries at Home | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Raspberries

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Pixabay
Botanical Name
Rubus spp.
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Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Raspberries at Home

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Raspberries are among the easiest fruits to grow and, for the space they occupy, produce even more fruit than strawberries. Isn’t it time you gave them a go?  Did you know that there are both summer-fruiting and fall-bearing raspberries? Learn all about planting and growing raspberries, one of the most popular berries in North America. One raspberry bush can produce several hundred berries per season!

About Raspberries

Raspberries are shrubs belonging to the Rosaceae family, in the genus Rubus. Not only are raspberries perfect for picking and eating straight off the stem, but they’re also wonderful in jams, pies and tarts, or smoothies and drinks. Plus, fresh raspberries are an excellent source of vitamin C to support the immune system and help fight infections.

There are two types of raspberries, both with their own specific requirements for growing: 

  1. Summer-fruiting raspberries are more common, developing their fruit on last year’s growth. They bear one crop per season, in summertime (often June or July).
  2. Ever-bearing raspberries (also called fall-bearing or autumn-bearing) produce berries on new canes. They bear a fall crop and can also produce fruit the following summer.

A mix of both types of berries would be an ideal way to maximize the harvest period.

All raspberries are self-fertile, so you only need one bush to produce fruit. They’re best pollinated by bees and will start producing fruit a year after planting.

Though raspberry bushes are naturally inclined to grow in cooler climates, the plants now come in many varieties suited to a range of planting zones.

The Importance of Pruning Raspberries

All raspberries will need pruning annually! Raspberries are perennials, however, it’s important to realize that their branches (or canes) that bear the fruit, live for only two summers. During the first year, the new green cane (primocane) grows vegetatively. The cane develops a brown bark, is dormant in winter, and during the second growing season is called a floricane. The floricane produces fruit in early to mid-summer and then dies. New primocanes are produced each year, so fruit production continues year after year. It’s your job to prune out those dead canes each year.

See more pruning advice below.

Planting

Raspberries grow best in a sunny location, but unlike many fruits, they will also grow successfully in a partially shaded spot. However, the more sun, the more fruit!

The planting site should have rich and well-drained soil, great air circulation, and shelter from the wind. Avoid a wet and windy area, as raspberries do not like to stand in water or totally dry out.

Every year, feed your raspberry plants with a couple of inches of compost or aged manure; dig it into the soil a couple of weeks before planting (A good rate is about 3 1/2 cubic feet of compost per 100 square feet).

Plant your berries far from wild-growing berries. Otherwise, you risk spreading wild pests and diseases to your cultivated berry plants.

When to Plant Raspberries

  • Start with one-year-old raspberry canes from a reputable nursery. Plant the early spring once the ground thaws out and can be worked (See your local frost dates).
  • In mild areas, you could also plant in late autumn to give the plants a head start.
  • Plant potted transplants in the spring after the threat of frost has passed.

Raspberries on branch

How to Plant Raspberries

  • Before planting, soak the roots for an hour or two.
  • Dig a hole that is roomy enough for the roots to spread. If you’re planting multiple bushes, it’s easiest to dig a trench.
  • Whether you’re planting bare-root or potted plants, keep the crown of the plant 1 or 2 inches above the ground.
  • Canes should be spaced 18 inches apart, with about four feet between rows. 
  • Fill the soil back in, and tamp it down with your foot. 
  • Once the canes are planted, cut them down to 9 inches tall to encourage new growth. (Yes, it will look like a broken branch sticking out of the ground!)
  • Depending on your plant variety, you may need to fashion a support to hold up canes. Many grow to head height.
  • A trellis or a fence are good options. If you have a row, drive in two six-foot posts at the end of the row and stretch galvanized wire between the posts. Summer-fruiting raspberries need three horizontal wires, and the fall types could do with two wires.

Check out this video to learn how to plant raspberries. 

Growing
  • Mulching is important throughout the season to conserve moisture and suffocate weeds. Keep a thick layer of mulch surrounding plants at all times.
  • Water one inch per week from spring until after harvest. Regular watering is better than infrequent deep soaking.
  • Keep your raspberry bushes tidy by digging up any “suckers” or canes that grow well away from the rows; if you don’t dig them up, they’ll draw nutrients away, and you’ll have fewer berries next year.
  • If you wish, you can replant the suckers, and you’ll have new plants!  Dig them up, set them in a fresh area of prepared ground, and water them after planting.

How to Prune Raspberries

Prune summer-fruiting raspberries immediately after you’re done picking! Cut only the canes that produced berries back down to the ground.

(Remember, this plant produces berries on two-year-old canes while one-year-old canes grow right beside them. You shouldn’t have trouble telling which is which: the older canes have brown stems, and the young ones are still green. Prune only the older ones, the ones that have finished their fruitful year.)

Tie the remaining canes to the supporting wires with garden string. There should not be any more than one cane every four inches of wire, so cut down additional canes.

Ever-bearing or fall-bearing raspberries 

  • This is easy. Just cut all canes back to the ground in late winter before growth begins in the spring. They give fruit on canes that are in their first year of growth, after which there is no reason to keep them. Mow them to the ground or use pruning shears for a small patch.
  • Clean up all debris—diseases and pests overwinter.
  • Pruning is only required during the growing season if you want to keep a uniform order. Dig or pull up new canes that grow well away from the rows. If your raspberry canes are disease-free you can transplant them to raise more plants.

Note: The above assumes you are harvesting a fall crop. To get both fall and following summer crop, do not remove the primocanes that produced the fall crop. Prune them back in spring to about 12 inches above the support, or to the last visible node that had fruit, cutting off the dead tips.

Spacing for Raspberries

Harvesting
  • All varieties will begin to produce fruit in their second season. In some cases, ever-bearers may bear small berries in their first autumn.
  • In early summer, berries will ripen over about 2 weeks. You will need to pick berries every couple of days!
  • Try to harvest berries on a sunny day when they are dry.
  • Gently pull raspberries away from their central plug once they’re richly colored all over. They should come away easily. Don’t tug too hard on your raspberries when picking. A ripe raspberry will leave the vine willingly. 

Raspberry harvest

How to Store Raspberries

  • Raspberries won’t keep for long, so enjoy them soon after picking them!
  • They can be kept refrigerated for about 5 days. Don’t wash the berries after picking unless you’re going to eat them straight away. They will grow moldy and mushy if not kept dry in storage. If you do need to wash them, let them air dry completely before storing them.
  • Raspberries can be frozen! As with freezing blueberries, make a single layer of berries on a cookie sheet. When frozen, place into airtight bags. Use on waffles, in cereal, or whenever you need a refreshing, healthy snack!

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Wit and Wisdom
  • Raspberries are a great source of dietary fiber and Vitamin C, and may help to protect against disease. Check out Raspberries: Health Benefits to learn how healthy raspberries really are!
Pests/Diseases

Raspberries are one of the few fruits that are hardly bothered by pests and diseases. (Black raspberries are more susceptible to this type of damage than red or purple.)

  • Keep an eye out for spider mites and Japanese beetles from June through August. Raspberries are a favorite of Japanese beetles in particular.
  • Rabbits love to eat the canes in winter. A chicken wire fence will help prevent rabbit damage.
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Cane Borers
Cooking Notes

Fresh raspberries are wonderful in cereals or paired with a dollop of Greek-style yogurt or cream and an indulgent drizzle of maple syrup.

Freeze excess berries to use in smoothies and desserts, or make them into raspberry jam.

If the fruit is to be made into preserves, it should be done with fruit that’s as fresh as possible.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprise that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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