Helen Simpson, from the Mushroom Shed, tells you all you need to know about growing raspberries. She has also written articles about growing basil, brassicas, chilli, coriander, cucurbits, garlic, ginger & turmeric, mint, rhubarb, strawberries, tomatoes and lesser known herbs.
The downside is the space and structure required to grow the canes and their maintenance. However the home-grown raspberry’s superior flavour compared to those bought in plastic-wrapped punnets from supermarkets makes it well worth the effort. Being able to feast on raspberries, rather than use them sparingly due to cost, is also a treat.
Raspberries grow on canes, which are planted from late Autumn to Winter. The canes usually come bare rooted with little or no leaves and are about 20-30 cm tall when purchased. However they are also sold potted up early in Spring (for a higher price) when they have started to come out of their winter dormancy.
Raspberries are best grown in rows, with bunches of canes (about 3 canes per bunch) planted 30 cm apart, running north south to maximise sunlight. Strong trellis support about 1 metre high is required along the row to support the canes – usually three or so thick wires are run between posts. The canes are tied up the trellis as they grow, then trained across the wires.
When planting the canes, dig a trench along the row and fill with soil improved with plenty of compost and manure. The raspberry cane can be hilled in a mound on top of this to allow plenty of drainage. Mulch heavily with straw and avoid weed growth, as this can deter fruiting.
How many canes?
The answer to this question depends on how many raspberries you want to eat, combined with how much space you have. For a family backyard, try 6 to 12 canes initially, depending on space available. Around 20-30 canes may produce a surplus for jam and bottling.
Types of raspberries
Raspberries are divided into two types – summer bearers (which produce fruit in Summer) and everbearers (which produce fruit in both Summer and Autumn).
Canes are dormant in winter and usually bare. In Spring, canes grow vigorously. Some fruit may be produced on fruiting buds in the first year, depending on variety, but don’t expect a significant harvest until the following year.
With summer bearers, fruit is produced on what is called ‘second year cane’. This is a cane that has sprouted on the previous year’s cane. Once established, you will have a plant that has second year canes as well as first year canes. The first year canes come via new shoots from the ground and are easily recognised by its lush green growth. Each year after fruiting, cut any second year cane back to the ground, leaving the new first year cane ground shoots to produce their own second year canes for fruiting the following season.
With everbearers, fruit is produced on ‘first year cane’. These plants require less maintenance. Cut all of the plant back to the ground after fruiting each year. To produce more fruit, after a few months of rapid Spring growth, you can also prune plant growth slightly to encourage more fruiting laterals.
Some common varieties
Try Williamette for heavy cropping from December onwards or Chilcotin for a longer season of cropping from December. If you are going away over Summer, and don’t want to miss your harvest, Heritage crops from February onwards. Seekna is a very early cropping variety and has the advantage of being almost thornless.
Pests and diseases
Netting is the only good solution to deter birds, who love the ripe, red fruit too. Generally, backyard-grown raspberries are not prone to many diseases; however, to help deter any fungal diseases, keep mulch away from the base of the plant.
Protect from hot afternoon sun and hot, dry winds if possible, as this will dry out fruit.