Raspberries are easy to grow, have many health benefits and can bear fruit almost indefinitely. Though they are naturally inclined to thrive in cool climates, there are some varieties that can do well in regions that were initially considered hostile to these plants.
Primarily, there are 2 types of raspberry plants: autumn-fruiting raspberries and summer-fruiting raspberries. Autumn-fruiting berries yield fruit from August to October. They are highly versatile and ideal for beginners as they are easy to cultivate. These raspberries can be grown in containers including on patios since they do not require much support. On the other hand, summer-fruiting raspberries produce fruit between June and August. They require some form of support as they can grow up to 1.5 meters tall.
How to grow raspberries
Raspberries thrive in well-drained, fertile soil. They prefer growing in sunny spots for maximum production. Though they tolerate shading, their ability to produce is adversely affected.
You can plant raspberries anytime between November and March as long the ground is not frozen. Normally raspberries for planting are sold as dormant canes or as potted plants. Ideally, bare-root plants do well when transplanted in early spring when the soil is easier to work while potted plants can be transplanted during spring to avoid frostbite.
When choosing the ideal site to plant the berries, select a well-drained area sheltered from the wind. Raspberry plants do not like windy spots since it dries out the plants. In addition, they do not grow well in very wet areas.
Once you have identified the ideal place to plant the berries, prepare the soil by tilling and mixing it with a generous amount of aged or compost manure about 2 weeks before planting (3 cubic feet of manure per 100 square feet).
Before planting, soak the roots of the berry plants in water for about an hour.
Dig holes with enough room to accommodate the roots and allow them to spread. Space the plants between 3-4 feet apart in rows of 8 feet apart. When planting, keep the crown of the plant 1-2 inches above the ground.
If you have planted a variety that requires support, build a fence or trellis. Establish the support framework before planting or during planting to avoid disturbing the berries when they are already established.
Mulching is critical for raspberry plants because it helps in suffocating weeds and moisture. For effective moisture conservation, keep a generous layer of mulch surrounding the plants throughout the season.
Since raspberries thrive in well-drained environment, avoid deep soaking when watering the plants. Instead, water 1 inch per week from spring until it is time to harvest the berries.
Raspberry roots keep sending generous amounts of shoots around the parent bushes. The shoots commonly known as canes can overcrowd the main plants which can hinder their ability to produce. To maintain order and guarantee optimum production, prune the canes regularly.
Normally, plants that produce berries during summer or summer-bearers produce fruits on 2-year old canes. On the other hand, 1 year-old canes grow beside the older canes. To avoid confusion, always prune older canes which are no longer capable of producing fruits (old canes have brown stems while younger canes have green stems).
Pests and diseases
Raspberry plants are quite hardy which means that they can withstand most pests and diseases. However, some varieties such as purple, red and black raspberries are vulnerable to pests and diseases. Common enemies of these plants include:
Rabbits-these love to feast on canes during winter. To avoid the menace, surround the raspberry patch with a chicken wire fence.
Japanese beetles and spider mites-these attack raspberries from June to August.
In addition, you should keep an eye out for cane borers and powdery mildew.
Harvest and storage
Raspberry plants start producing fruit during the second season. In some instances, ever-bearers may produce small berries during the first season.
During the early days of the summer, berries ripen quickly and you may have to pick them every 1- 2 days. To avoid messing up the berries when picking, consider harvesting them on a sunny day when they are dry.
Raspberries do not get ripe after they are picked so wait until they are fully ripe. When picking berries do not tug at them, ripe berries slip off the stem voluntarily leaving a hollow inside the fruit.
For maximum health benefits, eat the berries soon after picking. They also keep well in a refrigerator for 5 days. Alternatively, raspberries can be frozen in airtight bags or dried.