Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Raspberries
In a small space, raspberries yield a phenomenal quantity of ravishing berries—and they fruit year after year with proper care. Raspberries can be harvested all the way from midsummer through to the first frost. See our tips on how to plant, grow, harvest, and prune raspberries!
There are two types of raspberries, both with their own specific requirements for growing:
- 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).
- 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
All raspberries will need pruning annually! Raspberries are perennials, however it’s important to realize that their branches (or canes) which 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.
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 threat of frost has passed.
Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site
- Raspberries grow best in a sunny position but also, unlike many fruits, they will also grow successfully in a partially-shaded spot. The more sun, the more fruit.
- The planting site needs rich and well-drained soil, great air circulation, and shelter from wind. Avoid a wet area, as well as a windy spot, as raspberries do not like to stand in water nor totally dry out.
- Every year, feed your raspberry plants with a couple inches of compost or aged manure; dig in a couple weeks before planting. (A good rate is about 3 ½ cubic feet of compost per 100 square feet.)
- Plant far from wild growing berries; otherwise you risk spreading wild pests and diseases to your cultivated berry plants.
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 the variety you plant, 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.
Want to see how to plant? Watch our video demo on how to plant, harvest, and prune raspberries!
How to Care for Raspberries
- 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 less 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 in 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 the ground in late winter before growth begins in the spring. They give fruit on canes which 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 not required during the growing season unless you want to keep a uniform order.
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.
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.)
How to Harvest Raspberries
- 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 a time of 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.
- Don’t tug too hard on your raspberries when picking. A ripe raspberry will leave the vine willingly.
How to Store Raspberries
- Raspberries won’t keep for long so enjoy them soon after picking!
- 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.
- 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 just need a refreshing, healthy snack!
There are many, many raspberry varieties available today—and each one is unique! Here are a few to get you started. Ask your local garden center or cooperative extension service which raspberry varieties are best-suited for your area.
- ‘Canby’: red berries; summer-bearing; nearly thornless; recommended for New England, Upper Great Lakes, and Northwest
- ‘Heritage’: red berries; ever-bearing; recommended for the Mid-Atlantic and Ohio Valley
- ‘Plainsman’: red berries; ever-bearing; does well in higher altitudes (the Rockies and High Plains)
- ‘Fallgold’: yellow berries; ever-bearing; recommended for the Upper Midwest and Canada
- ‘Double Gold’: yellow berries tinged with peach; ever-bearing; better for warmer areas, as the fall crop can be quite late
- ‘Royalty’: purple berries; summer-bearing; better for warmer areas
- ‘Jewel’: black berries; summer-bearing; disease-resistant and great for warmer areas
- ‘Black Hawk’: black berries; summer-bearing; heat and drought tolerant
Wit & Wisdom
- Raspberries are a great source of dietary fiber and Vitamin C and they may help to protect against disease. Check out Raspberries: Health Benefits to learn how healthy raspberries really are!
Fresh raspberries are wonderful in cereals or paired with a dollop of Greek-style yogurt. Use in smoothies, too!
If the fruit is to be made into preserves, it should be done with fruit that’s as fresh as possible.