If you’ve mastered the art of growing your own herbs and vegetables in your country garden and are ready to try your hand at a perennial that keeps on giving for many years a good consideration is to grow raspberries. These plants are relatively cheap to buy and easy to care for – although regular maintenance is required.
When you’ve decided to grow raspberries, visit the nursery. You can also order raspberry canes online. Always buy the oldest ones that you can afford. Some great online nurseries sell 5 year old canes which means that you’ll be eating handfuls of fresh raspberries grown in your country garden that much sooner. And, wow, they are delicious.
When I first decided to grow my own raspberries the biggest problem was with the local wild birds. Humans, you see, are not the only ones who love these sweet and juicy berries. After the first year of stressing myself out hoping to get to the next sweet raspberry before one of my feathered friends did, I bit the bullet and purchased some bird netting to cover the canes even though I was sure the look of the netting in my garden was going to bother me.
There are other complications to keep an eye out for when growing raspberries. Since some of these aren’t a problem in all areas across Canada and the United States I’ll only discuss the most common ones; then leave you to your gardening center specialist or local nursery to fill you in on the details that matter most for your growing region.
The first consideration is the location you would like your raspberry plants to grow in. Choose a spot where the roots will have lots of room to stretch out in (usually 2′ on either side of the plant) and leave an extra foot on either side for your foot path. The more room the better as raspberry cane roots can grow to stretch four feet wide.
Don’t plant your raspberries in soil where any member of the nightshade family has grown in the last 3 years. Nightshade plants include tomato and potato (which attract potato beetles and cucumber bugs). Well drained soil is best – you never want standing water after a rain at the root of your raspberries.
To grow raspberries best, the soil should be well fertilized before the plants go into the ground and at least once a year thereafter. A good 10-10-10 fertilizer will do the trick but I prefer organic well rotted compost from our farm animals. If the pH of the soil is a concern for you test it before planting and balance the soil to a range of 5.9 – 6.5. Your raspberries will reward you for the effort.
While your canes are growing keep the area weed free. You could use mulches to keep the weed count to a minimum but I prefer to steer clear of mulches in my raspberry patch as I have lost quite a few canes over the years to mold and rot when I mulched. Before winter rolls around I generally help the plants out with a blanket of leaves or sawdust. Lay just enough of either to allow the air to move through the area without rot while providing a bit of protection from the harsh winter temperatures ahead.
Choosing A Variety to Grow Raspberries
You’ll find when you get to the nursery that there is a wide selection of raspberries to grow. I chose red ever-bearing plants and the instructions to prune and harvest this variety follows. However should you choose a summer bearing red, a fall bearing, a black raspberry or a purple raspberry you will need to get instructions from the nursery for the best results.
Ever bearing red raspberries are also called fall bearing as they produce two regular crops – one in June and another in early fall. It is important to know that the fall crop grows on the top third of a cane. The June crop grows in on the bottom two-thirds of the cane the following year! You’ll want to be careful then about how you prune your ever bearing plants or you’ll miss out completely on the June crop.
Following the fall harvest you’ll find that the the top third of the cane will die. If you prune this off directly after frost and before new growth begins the lower part of the cane will provide berries in June. While that is going on, new canes grow up from the roots which will provide your fall berries.
If you don’t want to go to a lot of trouble you’ll get the best results from these plants by skipping the June harvest altogether. Cut back the canes to the ground in late fall and, yes, you will be eliminating the June crop, but the fall crop will arrive earlier and provide more berries for your table or freezer.