There’s nothing sweeter than a home grown raspberry, picked fresh from the cane and eaten right there in your garden. They may cost a fortune in the supermarket but they are one of the most popular summer fruits and they are very easy to grow at home – There’s really no not reason to! The fruits are perfect for crumbles, jams and puddings! Raspberries do, however, require some patience and care in order to perform at their best.
How to care for your raspberry canes
How you care for your raspberry canes depends on whether you have the summer fruiting or autumn fruiting kind. Grow both for a prolonged harvesting time, or try different varieties, such as golden raspberries, or one which thrives in containers for smaller gardens or patios. Pruning raspberries encourages them to grow more vigorously, increases fruit production and improves their overall health. Here’s your guide to pruning raspberries for heavy crops in summer or autumn.
Raspberries thrive in rich, fertile, slightly acidic soil, and sunny, sheltered positions. In spring, apply some slow release fertiliser such as fish, blood and bone, and mulch with well rotted organic matter. Like most soft fruits, raspberries need to be kept well-watered, but they dislike being in waterlogged soils and shallow chalky soils. In the growing season you can add a general purpose liquid feed weekly.
Planting your raspberry canes
Plant your raspberry canes between November and March, avoiding soil that is waterlogged or frozen. Once planted, water in well, mulch, and prune the canes right back to the ground.
Raspberries send out suckers, so you may find new canes shooting up a surprising distance from the parent plant. Dig up any which are more than 9 inches from the main row, don’t worry this won’t harm the parent.
Unpruned, raspberries are their own worst enemy, being extremely enthusiastic and quickly becoming overcrowded. They will then have to compete for sunlight, causing the leaves and buds in the lower, shaded section, to wither and die. These buds would have become fruit and so without them your yield will be greatly reduced.
An overgrown raspberry patch will also be competing for nutrients and water which will lead to smaller, less sweet berries, and the moist, dense conditions provide the perfect habitat for fungal diseases. So although pruning back to the ground can seem harsh, and even a little scary at first, it really is for their own good – and yours, as it’s the most effective way to avoid these issues and grow heavier, sweeter tasting crops.
The first thing to do is to find out whether your canes are summer fruiting or winter fruiting. Canes which bear fruit in June or July are, of course, summer fruiting, whereas canes which fruit in September or later are autumn fruiting.
Once raspberry canes have established, they will grow heavily, producing around 1.5kg of fruit per cane for 10 years or more.
Autumn fruiting raspberries
Autumn fruiting, or primocane raspberries, flower and fruit on the current season’s growth. It is important to cut back your canes to 30cm above ground at planning time and then in late winter, before new growth begins, using some sharp secateurs simply prune your raspberry canes down to the ground. As autumn fruiting varieties fruit on the canes which grew this year there is no reason to keep them – so just cut them back.
Summer fruiting raspberries
Pruning your summer fruiting, or floricane raspberries is slightly more complicated. Summer fruiting varieties fruit on last years growth – canes which are in their second year of life. Each autumn you must cut back the canes which have fruited this year, leaving this seasons new growth to fruit next summer. It may be difficult to tell which canes are old and which new, and so it’s worth marking the fruiting canes in summer until you develop the trained eye necessary to discern between the two.
Once all the old canes have been pruned back to soil level, you can begin to thin the remaining new canes to ensure they have enough room to flourish next summer. Aim to keep 6-8 of the strongest canes, leaving a distance of around 4 inches between them to allow light to penetrate and air to circulate.
Protecting your raspberry canes
Raspberries are usually trouble free, but it is important to watch out for damage to the fruit from the raspberry beetle. If this becomes an issue, then it can be controlled by installing raspberry beetle traps. Also, don’t forget to protect your raspberry plants with netting to prevent the birds from stealing your precious berries.
How to protect them from birds in particular
Even though it is vital to protect your raspberry canes from insects, you also have to take into consideration that birds will be interested in your crops too. Hopefully, you should not have a problem with this, but if your garden frequently receives a variety of birds, then you might want to consider the option of purchasing (or even making your own!) scare device which helps to deter them away.
However, some birds are a lot more clever than you think, so if you are looking for a secure option to protect your fruit, then the purchase of either a bird net, barrier or a bird control pop-up tent may be the best option for you to take. Plus, they can be reused again and again, so you can protect the rest of your successful crops, for years to come.
Get planting some raspberries!
Now is the perfect time to consider buying your raspberry canes, because not only is it the perfect planting time from late Autumn to early spring (which isn’t as far as you think!) But this is also an amazing way to help involve yourself and your family more with the great outdoors. Plus, you get to taste amazing raspberries, that are so much fresher compared to store bough raspberries, and are a much cheaper option too!