Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Raspberries
Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Raspberries
Raspberries are relatively easy to grow and can bear fruit indefinitely with proper care. Here’s how to grow raspberries in your garden—from planting to harvest!
There are two types of raspberries, both with their own specific requirements for growing:
- Summer-fruiting raspberries bear one crop per season, in summertime (often June or July).
- Ever-bearing raspberries (also called fall-bearing or primocane-fruiting) bear a fall crop and can also produce fruit the following summer.
Most raspberries are summer-bearing varieties and all are self-fertile, meaning you’ll get fruit with only one variety. 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.
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.
When to Plant Raspberries
- Raspberry plants can be purchased as dormant, bare-root plants or as potted plants. Plant bare-root transplants in the early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Plant potted transplants in the spring after threat of frost has passed. (See your local frost dates.)
How to Plant Raspberries
- Pick a site with full sun to produce the most fruit. The plant will grow in part shade, but harvests will be meager.
- Your 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 dry out.
- Prepare soil with a couple inches of compost or aged manure a couple weeks before planting. (A good rate is about 3 ½ cubic feet of compost per 100 square feet.) Till the soil well before planting.
- Plant far from wild growing berries, otherwise risk the spread of pests and diseases to your garden.
- Before planting, soak the roots for an hour or two.
- Dig a hole that is roomy enough for the roots to spread.
- Whether you’re planting bare-root or potted plants, keep the crown of the plant 1 or 2 inches above the ground.
- Space red and yellow raspberry plants from 2 to 3 feet apart, in rows 8 feet apart. Space black and purple types 4 feet apart.
- Depending on the variety you plant, you may need to fashion a support. A trellis or a fence are good options. If you chose to use one of these, establish them at or before time of planting so the plants are not disturbed when maturing.
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.
- The roots send up an abundant amount of shoots, called canes. Keep order by pruning away the majority of them, so that the survivors can produce lots of berries.
How to Prune Raspberries
Summer-Bearers produce 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.
- Red raspberries: Prune any time after the last harvest and before growth begins in the spring. Cut all canes that produced fruit to the ground. Thin to 6 sturdy canes per hill (per foot of row). In areas where winter injury is common, you may delay thinning the primocanes (new growth) until the following spring, when you will be able to tell which canes have survived. Before growth starts in spring, cut the canes to about 12 inches above the support. Don’t cut back more than 25% of each cane, to avoid reducing yield.
- Black and purple raspberries: When primocanes are between 24 to 30 inches in height, pinch out the tip of each shoot to induce branching. This will make the fruit easier to pick and increase production. After harvest, cut down all canes that bore fruit to ground level. Before growth begins the following spring, cut back all side branches so they are 12 to 18 inches long. Select 6 canes per hill, and prune out the rest. Tie these canes to the support system.
Ever-bearing or fall-bearing raspberries
- This is easy. Just cut all canes to the ground any time after harvest and 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 and Store 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.
- Raspberries can be kept refrigerated for about 5 days.
- If possible, 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.
- If the fruit is to be made into preserves, it should be done straight off the plant.
- Raspberries can be frozen. As with freezing blueberries, make a single layer of berries on a cookie sheet. When frozen, place into airtight bags.
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!