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Planting Raspberries

I rarely make it from the One Acre Vegetable Garden to my kitchen with freshly picked raspberries. It's a bit of a walk and I've usually eaten all the berries before I even make it half way.

The summers are brutally hot here, which is not ideal for raspberries because high temperatures hamper their ability to photosynthesize. This can result is stunted plants and no berry production. But I refused to be defeated. I did my research on variety selection and care with good results.

Here's what I found out.

Selection

It may surprise you to learn that raspberries can be red, black, yellow or even white. The red and black varieties are best suited for my region, but you may be able to grow one of the others. Check with your local garden center or extension service to find out which color varieties are recommended in your growing area.

Raspberries are further divided into summer bearing and everbearing (fall bearing) types. Summer bearing produce for about a month and everbearing produce once in summer and then again in fall.

I chose two varieties to trial at the Garden Home Retreat: 'Heritage' and 'Dorman Red'. Both are known to be heat tolerant. 'Heritage' is everbearing and 'Dorman Red' is summer bearing.

Planting

Early spring is the best time to plant raspberries and when you will find the best selection in garden centers.

Choose a location with at least 6 hours of sun each day and plenty of room. Raspberries spread prolifically by underground runners and you'll need space to work in your patch and pick all those delicious berries.

Raspberries are susceptible to some of the same diseases as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes so don't plant them in an area where members of the Solanaceae family have recently grown.

The soil needs to be rich in organic matter, neutral to slightly acidic and well draining. Soggy soil is the kiss of death.

Space plants about 3 feet apart with at least 4 - 6 feet between for ease of picking.

Lightly mulch to help the soil retain moisture during drought.

Most raspberries varieties produce upright canes that don't need support, but some like 'Dorman Red' have a trailing habit. A simple trellis makes both types more manageable and the berries easy to pick. Position two posts at either end of your bed and stretch wire between them, about three feet above the ground. Tie the canes to the wire for extra support.

Care

Although raspberries don't like wet feet they do require consistent moisture. Give them 1 to 2 inches of water every 2 to 3 weeks, every week during fruit production.

You can fertilize each spring with well-rotted manure, compost or berry fertilizer. Raspberries need quite a bit of fertilizer to attain their height but as fruiting time approaches, hold back on the nitrogen. Fertilize in early spring and again in late May.

Some pests that can affect raspberries are nematodes, root weevils, aphids, fruit worms, and crown borers. A few diseases you may encounter are fruit rot, root rot, and spur blight. Keep plants pruned so that air circulation is at a maximum, don't water from overhead and don't overwater.

Pruning

Raspberry roots are perennial but the canes only live for two years. First year stems have green canes (primocanes) and second year stems have a thin brown bark, (floricanes). You need to know the difference to prune correctly.

Prune summer bearing raspberries in fall. Remove second year, weak and diseased canes. Thin the current season's growth to 6 inches apart.

Everbearing raspberries produce berries on the tips of first year canes in fall. The following summer these same canes will produce a crop lower down the stem. So pruning is a little more involved. In early spring thin the now second year canes and cut back top growth by one-quarter. In fall remove the second year canes, which will no longer bear fruit.

Everbearing raspberries can be managed so that they produce only one crop per year. Simply mow the canes down early each spring. Just be sure your variety will produce before the first fall frost.