Raspberries are a favorite summertime fruit produced by perennial bushes that are easy to grow and maintain. Plants naturally flourish in cooler climates, and through a century of cultivates and crosses several varieties are suitable for a range of hardiness zones. Good site selection, a bit of pruning and soil amending results in healthy raspberry beds that fruit for decades!
Raspberry patches are a source of flower nectar for pollinators and serve as effective property boundaries. Berries are rich in vitamin C, manganese, flavonoids and antioxidants. They are a perfect ingredient for desserts and salads!
Select a raspberry variety to grow based on your climate. Summer-bearing varieties are most common, tolerant of harsh winters and produce an annual summertime crop. Everbearing varieties are more suitable for warmer climates and can produce both a summertime and an additional fall crop.
Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Harvesting Raspberries
- Select a variety suitable to your climate
- Plant in well-draining areas with full sun and good air circulation to prevent molds
- Maintain soil acidity (pH 5.5 to 6.5) to avoid iron deficiency
- Give plenty of space for plants to grow out into “beds” and provide vertical support
- Plant 500′ from wild berry patches and do not plant near Verticillium-host plants
- Prune annually to increase yields and amend soils, as needed
- Pick berries when ripe and store at low temperatures
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How to Plant
Select a gently sloping site to maximize water drainage, as water-saturated soils can suffocate plants and cause crown gall and molding. Plant in full-sun; raspberries can tolerate partial shade, but may reduce harvest. Afternoon shade may be needed in warmer climates with high UV.
Raspberries prefer acidic soils. A pH of 5.5-6.5 helps prevent iron and manganese deficiencies and annual amending to maintain appropriate acidity may be needed.
Weeds compete for water, nutrients and light. Manually pulling weeds is best or spot treat with a good organic herbicide between canes, and mulches contribute to rodent infestations, which can damage plants.
A few weeks prior to planting, till beds and prepare with 1-2″ of organic compost or well-rotted animal manure. Raspberries are sold as either bare root or container grown plants. Transplant bare root plants to outdoor beds 4-6 weeks prior to last frost. Transplant potted plants in late spring after last frost, with crowns 1-2″ above ground. Plants may produce fruit the first year after planting, but more likely will produce fruits the second year.
Allow raspberries space to fill out into “beds.” Space rows at least 5′ apart, and plant summer-bearing varieties 2′ and everbearing varieties 4′ apart. Plant near a vertical support, such as a trellis or fence.
Pruning and Fertilizing
Raspberry plants are perennial shrubs that need annual pruning. In early spring, remove all dead, damaged or weak canes (branches) prior to bud swell. In late summer, pinch new cane tips that are at 4-5′ in height to promote load-bearing branches.
Everbearing varieties produce a heavier fall crop with summer tip-pruning. Summer-bearing varieties sucker (grow from roots and lower stems) and need annual pruning of suckers to promote hearty harvests.
Use an all-purpose organic fertilizer rich in nitrogen and phosphorous and do not fertilize later than June. Reduce pH of alkaline soils with humus, peat, pine needles or an organic fertilizer specifically designed for acid-loving plants. Iron deficiency in raspberries manifests as yellowing leaves, because plants are not producing insufficient chlorophyll; saturate soil with chelated iron, as needed.
Harvesting and Storage
Tangy raspberries are ready for harvest in early summer and fruit for about two weeks. They should be picked when fully red and ripe. Berries have a short shelf life of only 2-3 days. To slow decay, harvest in early morning, store berries at low temperatures soon after harvest and be sure to remove decaying berries from the crop.
Pest and Disease Problems
Raspberries are susceptible to a host of diseases. Plant beds at least 500′ from wild patches and use caution when transplanting from existing beds, as diseases will spread into new beds.
Raspberry plants are vulnerable to Verticillium wilt, a pathogen transmitted by potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cotton, petunias, roses and other ornamental bulbs. Verticillium can live in soil for years, and soils must be fumigated prior to planting to kill spores.
Birds, cane borers, spider mites and Japanese beetles are common pests of neighborhood berry patches. Learn how to identify these unwanted visitors and use proven, organic methods to get rid of them. Remember – store bought raspberries are among our most pesticide-laden fruits, with 58% of fruits tested registering positive for contamination. The peace of mind knowing that the sweet, juicy fruits you harvest contain no chemical residues… priceless!