How to Grow Red Raspberries

by on February 6th, 2011
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The fresh, crisp flavor of red raspberries is the wonderful result of growing them in your own vegetable garden. Learning as much as you can about red raspberries is one of the most important tools you can use to your advantage when it comes to producing these flavorful morsels of sweetness. They can be grown in almost any USDA Zone; however, they are not necessarily great producers in southern states. I’m currently growing them in northeast Texas. With a little effort, though, you can become the recipient of a high yielding crop for many years.

There are two different types of raspberries that can be grown in the garden. Fall bearing raspberries (considered everbearing) produce fruit twice before the cane dies back. First in the fall (autumn), and then the following year in the summertime. The plants produce large clusters of white flowers followed by the fruit. The second type is a summer-bearing plant that yields fruit on a two year old cane. There is nothing prettier that a cluster of ripe red raspberries.

There are many varieties available through mail-order catalogs and from your local nursery. Some are sold as bare root stock, while others can be purchased as planted stock locally. My preference is always to start with rooted stock, however, if the best variety for my area was only available as a bare root item, I would have no trouble purchasing this type of stock for the garden. Remember to make sure the stock you purchase is best suited to your growing region. Raspberries need a good amount of winter chill hours but also need a growing season that provides them with a slow warming in the spring.

I prepare the area I am going to plant with lots of organic matter turned under. I let the newly turned soil rest for at least 2 – 3 weeks before dividing my plants, or planting new plants. I plant in a raised bed scenario that is usually contained or bordered by concrete block (see attached photo of the newly prepared raised bed), or brick or lumber or free standing loose stone. Good drainage is a must and should be considered for any planting of raspberries.

In the case of re-planting divisions, I transplant divisions with sufficient roots that will give the plants the best chance for superior growth in the spring. I plant/transplant, here in Texas, within the month of November, but no later than the end of the month. This allows me to grow exceptional amounts of roots that will give the plants a better chance to endure the extremely high temperatures in the summers of northeast Texas.

Watering is crucial to the canes good growth and extremely important during the flowering and fruiting stage. If you are in a drought restricted area like I am, you can soak the soil deeply in the early spring, lay down a soaker hose and then lay down a 4 – 6 inch thick layer of horse manure. Wet down the top of the manure mulch. Doing this will help maintain consistent soil moisture because the horse manure crusts on top, and will slow the loss of moisture.

If you have planted just a few plants, support them with individual stakes at least 5 feet tall above the soil line. Strap them loosely with twist ties every 12 inches up the stake. If you have planted a long row of raspberries, you may want to set posts every 5 – 6 feet and run wires for support. Your first wire should be set no lower than 18 inches high, with the second wire set no higher than about 4 feet high. Plants typically grow to taller than 5 feet tall. Cut summer bearing types back in the spring time, prior to the first spring growth, to at least 5 feet tall (below the last fruiting structures). Doing this will force new growth, new fruiting laterals, at the tops of the plant.

Pruning needs for each type of raspberry require different techniques. While it is important to follow a certain pruning pattern for the best yield, it is ok to prune every cane late in the growing season to 6 inches above the ground. You will lose some fruit next season, but it may make it a little more convenient for those of you who grow long rows of berries. Everbearing varieties need to be toped after fruiting. Fruit will grow on the bottom two thirds of the plant next year. After two years of fruiting, remove the entire cane by cutting it off at the ground level. (Look for a detailed pruning article coming soon).

No matter what type or variety of raspberry you plant, with the proper care and maintenance you will be provided with the sweet sensation of fresh homegrown berries at your kitchen table year after year.

Source: Steven Coyne’s garden and the “Gardeners Guide” blog.

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