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Raspberries! Is there any berry that is synonymous with summer more than raspberries? Serve with ice cream, eat them out of hand — however you do it – you know it’s summer if you are snacking on fresh, locally-grown raspberries. And you can do that in your own backyard.
Right now (July 2021) we have several varieties of raspberry available. All are selections of Rubus ideaus, recognized by pollination experts as providing nutrition for bees, as well as nesting material. https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ruid). Birds and butterflies will also visit your plants.
- ‘Heritage’ – Large, sweet red raspberries ripen twice per year: a small harvest in mid-summer, and a larger harvest in late summer to early autumn. Heritage grows about 5’–6′ tall with a spread of 3–4′.
- ‘Black Hawk’ – Large, juicy black raspberries ripen in mid-summer. It is considered one of the best raspberries for home gardening.
- ‘Cumberland’ – Large, juicy black raspberries ripen in mid to late summer
- ‘Prelude’ – Juicy, sweet red raspberries ripen twice per year: a modest harvest in early summer, and a second harvest in late summer to frost. Plants have very few thorns and fruit spaced openly for ease of picking. Plants grow 4-6 ft. tall with a 5 ft. spread.
Raspberries are easy to grow. There is no need to fuss about pests, diseases, or general maintenance. All you need is a space in full sun, well-draining soil, some rain throughout the season, and the space for them to grow.
Because black raspberries can carry viruses that red, purple, and yellow raspberries are susceptible too, they should be planted separately. Keep black raspberries at least 75 feet away from other varieties to prevent the spread of viruses.
Work the soil in your selected planting location with a fork or shovel to loosen it. If your soil is not particularly fertile, you can amend the soil with compost, aged manure, or mushroom soil. Peat moss is also a valuable amendment because it is acidic and helps soften compacted or heavy soils.
If you only want to grow 1 raspberry plant, you can choose any spot that is easily accessible so you can harvest fruit and tend your plant. If you plan on planting multiple plants in rows, they should be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart in rows that are at least 2 feet wide and spaced 6 to 8 feet apart. Sod can be maintained and mowed easily in strips between rows if they are spaced properly; this also allows for plenty of room to maneuver in the rows to harvest, prune, etc. Consider mulch to suppress weeds.
How to Grow
The raspberries we carry are self-fertile, so you only need one plant. If you do have room for more than one, they will help each other bear a heavier crop. You will enjoy the plant in spring as its delightful pink blossoms are visited by pollinators. These ‘busy bees’ are preparing your plants to set fruit. (The plants here at the nursery have berries on them already.)
Apply a clean mulch about 4” deep on initial planting. Some experts recommend that you establish a permanent sod cover between rows of bramble berries, rather than mulch after the first year. This sod can be maintained and mowed easily in strips between rows if they are spaced properly and also allows for plenty of room to maneuver in the rows to harvest, prune, etc.
Many folks establish trellises to help manage these brambly plants. Here is some information on pruning and trellising of bramble berries: https://extension.psu.edu/pruning-brambles-in-home-fruit-plantings .
If you wish the yields on your plants were higher or the berries plumper, make sure the plant is getting about an inch of water a week. Once the berries are set, up to 4″ of water a week will help them become plump and juicy.
Nitrogen fertilizer will help your plants remain vigorous and fruiting. Consider adding a second plant to aid in increased pollination.
If your plants are very thick, full, and lush, it may be competing against itself for nutrients and water. The dense foliage may be creating shady moist conditions that favor fungal diseases. If this is the case, do some thinning pruning. Remove selective canes to allow plenty of sunlight and air to penetrate the bramble. You’ll have bigger, healthier crops and a much easier time picking those sweet red berries.
Here is a downloadable hand-out on Growing Raspberries.
Remember — raspberry plants have grown for eons on the planet without human help. Plant one today to get started. You can learn the rest as you go along. Any raspberry is better than no raspberry — right? ENJOY!