Reap Your Just Desserts Success with Raspberries
By Christina McDonald
Growing your own fruit is rewarding, but many new gardeners lack the confidence to attempt the task. Raspberries, however, are easy to grow and, contrary to popular belief, are not an invasive nuisance.
Choosing a suitable site is quite simple using the triple-S method: sun, space and soil. Raspberries produce best in an area that receives 6 hours or more of direct sunlight per day. The commercial standard of spacing your canes 45-60 cm apart and allowing 2 m between rows aids in air circulation, ease of fruit picking and cane maintenance. Raspberries adapt well to most soils (with the exception of heavy, poor draining clay), but produce heavier yields in soil rich in organic matter. Save yourself a lot of grief and ensure your potential patch is weed free before you plant!
The kind of raspberry you plant dictates how you grow and maintain your canes. Raspberries are divided into two main groups: primocanes, which produce fruit on canes grown that season, and floricanes, which produce on canes that are two growing seasons old.
Primocanes, such as the varieties ‘Double Delight’ and ‘Red River’, are the easiest to maintain, requiring pruning in the form of mowing them down to about 30 cm each fall, after the foliage has died back. They produce berries at least two weeks later than floricanes, but when you plant both groups together, the harvest period may be extended.
Floricanes, such as ‘Souris’ and ‘Boyne’, are a little trickier. For good, consistent fruit production, all canes two seasons or older must be pruned. This is not as difficult as it may sound—some commercial growers use a very simple trellising technique to simplify the job. It’s called “T trellising” and you can employ the technique at home.
Drive a long, T-shaped stake into the ground at each end of the row, then attach sturdy wires to each end of the T. Tie canes that are producing that year to the wires. This technique supports weak canes, makes picking much easier and helps identify which canes to remove in the fall. After pruning, tie this season’s new canes to the wires and start all over again.
Moisture is key to fruit production, so water to a depth of 3 cm per week (increasing that amount if weather conditions dictate) and mulch between each row, slightly back from the base of the canes to conserve moisture and help keep weeds down. Fertilize annually.
Q: I’ve had some problems successfully growing raspberries. Can you offer any tips?
Raspberries are very sensitive to iron deficiency and have a heavy demand for nitrogen. If new growth is veiny looking, use iron chelate to keep the soil slightly acidic.
Remember that most raspberries are biennials. Suckers come up the first year, with fruit forming on these suckers the following year. At season’s end of the second year, chop up the canes that have produced berries and toss them into the compost pile; they won’t fruit ever again. Do not prune next year’s canes too severely, or at all; 75 per cent of raspberry fruit is produced on the top 25 per cent of the cane.
Make sure that bees are welcome in your berry patch; raspberry plants need good pollination for fruit set. Some bright flowers planted nearby can tip the odds in your favour.
Q: What’s the best way to enjoy my raspberries?
When harvesting, remember that picked raspberries spoil very quickly. They should be eaten or frozen as soon as possible after picking. Freeze them in single layers on cookie trays then transfer the frozen berries to plastic bags for long-term storage in the freezer. Freezing them first on trays first ensures that the berries remain nice and round and don’t get crushed together.