how to plant, grow & care for raspberries
complete growing guide
Most commercial raspberries are now grown under plastic – the weather risks are less – and picked partially ripe so they travel better and have a longer shelf life. Enjoy growing your own outdoors for a deeper colour, flavour and greater nutrition. You'll see immediately that the fruit is not pink but a deep purple-red and the texture when you eat it is soft and the flavour fantastic. These standard canes will provide bowls of fruit every year (except the first) for the next 8-12 years.
- Common name Raspberry
- Latin name Rubus idaeus
- Type Hardy Perennial Shrub
- Height & spread 1.5m x 0.5m
- TLC rating Easy
- Aspect Full sun or partial shade, sheltered.
- Spacing Plant 40cm apart, leaving 1.75m between rows
- Yield 500g
- Suitable for pots Yes
- Grow in a greenhouse? No
how to grow raspberries
where to grow raspberries
Soil type: Plant your raspberries in moist but well-drained, neutral and fertile soil. They tend to prefer slightly acidic soil and dislike soggy soils and shallow chalky soils.
Aspect & Position: Grow your raspberries in full sun or partial shade, in a sheltered spot in the kitchen garden. Ideally site your rows running north to south, so that they do not shade each other
when to plant raspberries
Bare rooted raspberry canes can be planted any time during the dormant season (November to March).
how to plant raspberries
planting bare root raspberries
Soak the roots well before you plant them, ensuring that the topmost roots are no deeper than 5cm below the soil surface. Make sure their roots remain undisturbed as they become established. Prepare the ground well – they do not like poor soil, so dig in plenty of well-rotted manure.
Plant at 40cm intervals, with rows about 1.75m apart. Plant at a depth of about 6cm, spreading the roots out. Prune the stem back to 25cm. Most importantly, label your rows. As the autumn and spring varieties need to be pruned totally differently you need to remember which is which!
growing raspberries in a pot
You can grow raspberries in containers at least 40cm in diameter, training the canes up bamboo poles, and feeding on a monthly basis. The compost needs to have a good proportion of loam to give the pot stability and longer term fertility.
how to care for raspberries
watering & feeding
Water regularly until they are fully established and keep the area free of weeds. In spring, mulch with well-rotted manure.
Make a solid support with a post and wire structure. Sink 50cm of a 2m post into the ground at each end of the row with wires placed horizontally at 50cm intervals. Loosely tie in the stems as they grow. Net to protect from birds.
Autumn fruiting varieties don’t require staking if they’re being grown in a sheltered garden. They can be left to grow in a bed up to 90cm wide to maximize the number of canes.
pruning summer-fruiting raspberries
(e.g. ‘Glen Ample’)
Summer-fruiting raspberries fruit on canes that have grown the previous season. So, in order not to get muddled and overcrowded they should be pruned as soon as they have finished fruiting.
Cut back all the fruited canes to ground level and tie in the new canes to the structure. When the canes grow taller than the structure bend the tops over and tie to the top wire. Cut back the tip of each cane in February. There should now be no more than 6-8 canes healthy canes on each stool. Remove any that look weak or diseased. If you struggle to see the difference between the two, the old, fruited canes will have a brown woody stem, and will show the remains of the fruiting spurs, the new ones will still be green with no side shoots.
pruning autumn-fruiting raspberries
(e.g. ‘Autumn Bliss’)
Autumn-fruiting raspberries fruit on the current season’s growth and should be pruned by cutting all the canes back to ground-level at the end of winter. Don’t be tempted to tidy them up before that as the pruning can spur them into shooting too early and getting caught in a late frost. Both summer and autumn varieties will spread outside their rows, so you will need to rein them in by removing the suckers each year. These can be used to fill any gaps in the row, or indeed to start a new row elsewhere.
Do not expect much of a harvest in the first year. The summer fruiting varieties need to make their fresh fruiting canes for the following year and the autumn ones will be concentrating on getting their roots established. Allow them to ripen fully on the plant, so that the hull remains on the plant and the fruit comes away easily without being damaged. Raspberries are best eaten immediately. To store in the fridge, place in a single layer on a tray and cover. Or freeze.
- March: Last chance to plant new canes.
- Mulch with well-rotted manure.
- Water regularly if weather is dry.
- Keep patch weed free & net fruit before it begins to ripen.
- Harvest regularly.
- September: Prune summer fruiting varieties.
- Harvest autumn varieties.
- Prepare ground and structures for new plants.
- February: Cut down autumn fruiting canes to the ground.
pests, diseases & common issues
If you spot a brown desiccated top to a ripe fruit, the chances are it has been attacked by the larvae of the raspberry beetle. They can be up to 8mm long, so you might even spot them in the fruit bowl after you have picked them. My mother would have told me to look at it as a bit of extra protein, but now we might be more squeamish. This is one reason to delay netting the fruit until it is almost ripe – that way the birds can help you out by eating the beetles and grubs. There are also floral lure traps that you can put in place in spring to attract the adult beetles as they emerge from the soil. You can also hoe carefully around the plants to disturb the beetles and expose them for the birds to enjoy.
Raspberry rust is a fungal disease that causes raised orange pustules on the tops of the leaves in spring or early summer. Pick off or rake up affected leaves to avoid spreading the fungus. Pruning summer fruiting varieties straight after fruiting should help control this, as you remove all the affected leaves in one go. Ensure your canes do not get too overcrowded by limiting them to 6-8 per stool.
raspberry cane blight
Raspberry cane blight is another fungal disease that attacks the cane itself, causing it to die right back in the middle of the summer. Prune out affected canes as soon as you spot the rot spreading up from the base.
There are various viruses that can attack a raspberry plant. The most common is the mosaic virus that causes yellow patterning on the foliage leading to stunting and a poor crop. Discard affected plants and plant elsewhere with certified virus free stock.
raspberry leaf and bud mite
Raspberry leaf and bud mite can also cause yellow blotches on the surface of the leaves, so can be confused with the mosaic virus. Thankfully, the microscopic mites that cause this do not create lasting damage, and usually the plant continues to thrive and crop well. There are some varieties that are more susceptible than others, so choose carefully if you have suffered from this in the past.
Raspberry aphids are small greenflies that suck the sap of raspberry leaves, but most importantly can also cause the spread of viruses. They will overwinter in leaf joints, so getting the pruning done in good time is key. Encouraging ladybirds and lacewings to predate on them in the spring and summer will definitely help. Also see advice below about birds as your friends.
how do I keep bugs from eating my raspberries?
This is a constant conundrum, as pests are as partial as you are to a sweet treat. However, you can have the upper hand with a combination of vigilance (squashing as soon as you see your adversary) and knowing who your friends are. In an ecologically balanced garden, there will be a natural predator for all of your pests. The top of the chain when it comes to insects are birds, which is why a fruit cage is often not a perfect solution. In the winter months and in early spring they will be hungry for any overwintering bugs and will tidy them up for you. Come summer they will expect a pay back in terms of fruit, so then you may well need to net. If you have opted for a permanent fruit cage, chickens can be a handy solution, certainly for the ground living pests, so your fruit cage can double as a chicken cage and everyone is happy.
why do I not have any raspberries?
If these plants were planted in the current or late the previous year you should not expect much if anything in their first summer. Raspberries are in it for the long haul (8-12 years), so they need to settle in before they start to crop. Also be aware that Autumn raspberries will start to flower and fruit much later in the season.
If they are two years old or more and flowering well, a lack of pollinators could be a problem. If your site is very windy this could deter pollinating insects, so a sheltered spot is preferable. Encourage pollinating insects by growing flowers around the fruit patch, and if you are using a net to protect from birds, ensure the holes are big enough for the bees to get in.
how do you save a dying raspberry plant?
Probably you don’t. If it is collapsing completely, it has probably been attacked by one of the virus or fungi above. So out with it before it affects its neighbours and plant fresh stock in a new spot. However, be aware that raspberries renew every year, so the dying might be part of its annual cycle of old canes dying back and new ones replacing them. Get your pruning regime underway (see above) and you should know what is occurring.
frequently asked questions
why do raspberries rot so fast?
Raspberries have a tender skin and quite a high water-content, so there is not much to stop them rotting, particularly in damp weather. You need to pick and eat them as fast as you can.
how often should I water raspberries?
If they are newly planted in the spring and the weather is dry, water them weekly. If they are about to fruit and there is no rain, do the same, trying to get the water in at the root, not all over the leaves, as this can cause fungal problems. If you are growing them in pots you will need to water them more frequently, especially during the summer months.
do you cut raspberries down every year?
Yes you do, but the timing and method depends on whether they are summer or autumn fruiting varieties. See the ‘How to care for raspberries’ section above for more information on pruning summer and autumn fruiting varieties.
how long do raspberry plants last?
Raspberry plants last between 8 and 10 years if they are happy with their growing conditions. After that it is best to start again in a fresh spot with new stock.
how long do raspberries take to grow?
They have an annual cycle of renewing each cane each year. So essentially they take a year to grow, but the stool or mother plant can survive almost indefinitely (although fruiting starts to deteriorate after 10 years).
will raspberries fruit the first year?
If these plants were planted in the current or late the previous year you should not expect much if anything in their first summer. Raspberries are in it for the long haul (8-12 years), so they need to settle in before they start to crop.
do raspberries fruit twice?
Generally, no, they have a main fruiting season, depending on the variety. After that is finished, they will put their energy into growing new canes for the following year’s crop.
how do you overwinter raspberries?
Raspberries are very hardy, so they do not need any protection from frost. However, if your site is windy it is good to ensure that the new canes get tied into the structure, otherwise they could suffer from wind rock.
how do you keep raspberries from spreading?
Once they are established, raspberries will have expansionist plans all over the garden, sending out runners underground and popping up where you least expect them. You need to be firm and remove them as soon as they appear. They can always be moved in the dormant season to a new space if you have one. You can sink a physical barrier alongside the row to prevent surface spread. But the roots can go down 30cm and pop up the other side, so you will still have to keep them in bounds.
what to grow with raspberries
As raspberries are dormant all winter you can grow some spring flowering bulbs between them, or even early salad crops that will be finished with before the leaves shade them out and you need to walk between the rows to pick the fruit.
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