Raspberries: so simple to grow

So simple to grow

There are raspberries, and there are raspberries. Let me explain.

Traditionally, raspberry gardeners had to pay attention to their plants because they grew and fruited on a two-year cycle:

Year 1: Raspberry plants put up primocanes or suckers, which grow and put out lateral branches and then overwinter. Year 2: Canes that grew the previous year are now called floricanes, which produce flowers and fruit in June and July. The floricanes die after fruiting and then are cut out, usually in the fall or winter. These traditional raspberries, with their biennial growing cycle, are generally called summer-bearing.

Before February cutting-back

But there’s a newer type of raspberry in the garden. It’s described as primocane-bearing or everbearing. Here’s how the chapter on “Small Fruits” in the “University of Maryland Master Gardener Handbook” describes them:

“Primocane-bearing types have the ability to fruit in the early fall of their first year on their primocanes. They then fruit a second time, in June, on buds below those which fruited the previous fall. The fall crop, however, is more abundant. Therefore gardeners treat the canes as annuals, rather than biennials, by mowing the canes to the ground in the winter after the fall harvest.”

I appreciate the difference between the two types. My blackberries, also brambles, grow on the traditional two-year schedule, so each fall I have to remember to cut out the canes that fruited that year and not to cut out the new primocanes, which will fruit the next summer. My red raspberries, a variety called Heritage, are the primocane-bearing type. The put up their primocanes and fruit in the early fall, often until frost. During the winter, I cut all canes to the ground, and in the spring the cycle begins again.

Cutting back my Heritage raspberries

During that warmish spell in late February I grabbed my loppers and cut my Heritage raspberry canes back to the ground. I’ll top the bed with some compost in a few weeks and remove any winter weeds and will be waiting to pick red raspberries in the fall. It’s that easy.

My raspberry patch is small, about 7 feet by 7 feet. I bought a half dozen dormant Heritage plants through a mail-order seed catalog about five years ago. The plants now put up so many canes each spring that I have to thin them with my pruners. We pick bowl after bowl of raspberries for our morning cereal and fruit salads, and we freeze five or ten bags for wintertime treats.

Raspberries demand little care, just some water in dry summers and a little time to pick bowls of fruit.

If you have a sunny spot in your garden and are thinking about growing raspberries, do some research so your expectations will be based on fact, not fantasy. Begin with the “Small Fruits” chapter of the “University of Maryland Master Gardener Handbook”—which is available in most Maryland public libraries and contains more than three pages of information about raspberries, plus several helpful Figures and Tables.

If you want additional information or to be the neighborhood raspberry expert, visit the website of the Western Maryland Research and Education Center. In the left column of the Center’s home page, click on “Brambles,” and you’ll have access to several resources, including “The Mid-Atlantic Berry Guide for Commercial Growers.” Chapter 8, “Brambles,” includes raspberries. The Guide is a cooperative effort of Penn State and Rutgers Universities and the Universities of Delaware, West Virginia, and Maryland.

To go to the Western Maryland Research & Education Center’s website, CLICK HERE.

7 Comments on “Raspberries: so simple to grow

  1. I'm growing raspberries in containers this year. I ordered canes from Nourse Farms, and they'll get here in the middle of April. What size container do you recommend?

  2. Kindlekat: I've never thought about growing raspberry plants in containers, but I've done a bit of research this evening and have found several Internet sites making suggestions about how to do it. As for container size, here are my suggestions:

    1. Call Nourse Farms and ask for their recommendation for the specific variety of raspberry plants you're going to order, or have ordered.

    2. Compare Nourse Farms advice with that given on two or three of the Internet sites. Enter “growing raspberries in containers” in your Search box, and take your choices of sites to visit.

    3. I read several sites and came away with the impression that a 15″ container for each plant would be minimum and that you might be ahead of the game if you ordered a raspberry variety that are on the lower part of the height chart in order to minimize trellising issues. One site mentioned using 5-gallon buckets, so you may want to check out that possibility. The larger the container, of course, the easier to control the moisture level.

    Another thought, perhaps off the wall: You may want to check Nourse Farms and the Internet sites to see if they have any advice about overwintering your raspberry plants in containers. I could imagine that roots of plants in a container might be exposed to much colder temperatures than plants in a garden.

    Since you are going to grow raspberries in a way most of us have never thought of, will you please report back to tell me how things go? I strongly suspect others would love to read about your new berry patch. Keep a raspberry diary. Take digital photos of important times. If you like writing, I think we could figure out a way for you to post an occasional blog. Key points, of course, would be getting started, the first year, overwintering, and the second year. And, of course, we'd insist on a photo of your first picking!

    Thank you, Kindlekat, on widening my perspective about possibilities for growing raspberries.

  3. In my own book, I grow black raspberries plants in container. A 18″ container is a minimum.

    Because they spread by theirs root, a red raspberry plants will need 24″. Black doesn't have this problems.

    The big problems when growing in container is to keep the roots moist. That's why, I not recommend a 5 gallons bucket. Fortunately, a raspberry plant is very hardy and will survive a severe drought but don't hope for berries the next year.

  4. I saw these posts during last summer and started talking to my gardener friend about when I should plant raspberries. He suggested the fall so they have a good amount of time to grow roots before spring. I got 4 plants from burpee and they came yesterday. I was expecting them to be bare root plants, but they have leaves and are in a little ball of soil. Looking on the internet it seems most people suggest planting them in Spring. What's my best way to proceed? Harden them off for a day and plant them in two days and let them start growing, then when there leaves fall off cut the stem/cane just above the ground? Should I expect raspberries next year, I have two summer-bearing and two ever-bearing.

  5. I would love to do this sort of thing, but don't think I have the gardening skills to pull it off. I read an above comment that seems to say that blackberries might be easier to grow in containers? If so, I'll go with those! 🙂 So we can leave the plants out for winter in a zone 6? NO bringing in? That would be nice!

  6. I hope to get some advice from the raspberries expert. About 10 years ago I planted half a dozen Heritage plants. I never got any good berries from them. They were always too small in size and sickly looking. I was lucky to get a handful in the middle of the season. I tried fertilizing, pruning, watering etc,and finally asked my husband to dig them out and get rid of them. Now I am in the market for some new plants. Can you please advise on the variety and tell me what mistakes I made with my first attempt? Thank you!!

  7. Thanks for posting about the heritage raspberries. I planted 10 bare roots this spring, and I just harvested some berries on August 8 of the first year. I will say that the plants require some support

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