Is there anything yummier than fresh raspberries on a dish of vanilla ice cream? Raspberries grow easily in the Valley but when it comes to pruning, the raspberry plant causes some head scratching.
Understanding how raspberries grow will help. The raspberry plant is a perennial, meaning the roots will live for years, but the canes are biennial, meaning they live for only two years. The first year the cane grows, the second year it fruits. Once it has borne fruit, that cane is dead and should be removed. This applies to all cane berries including blackberries. But, as usual, there is a slight hitch. Some plants are ever bearing and some bear only one crop. They are pruned differently.
Summer bearing varieties have canes that fruit only once. The canes grow the first summer and produce fruit early the second summer. The crop is usually heavy and once the canes have finished fruiting they die and should be cut down to the ground, never to be seen again. New canes will be growing.
Everbearing raspberries, sometimes called fall raspberries, will bear two crops. The canes grow the first year and produce a crop of berries on the lower (or more mature) part of the cane in late summer or fall (thus, fall bearing) of that first year. Let those canes stand through the winter because they will bear another crop of berries on the top half of the cane early the next summer. When the top half of those canes have finished fruiting, the cane has completed it’s life cycle and will die. Cut the finished cane to the ground. New canes will be growing.
New canes will emerge each spring and continue until mid summer as long as there is good light. These canes will be the ones that produce your next crop. Prune out canes that have finished fruiting as soon as possible to allow light to get to the new canes. Thin the newly emerging canes to about 4-5 inches apart, keeping the larger, healthier looking canes. Cut the ones you don’t want off at ground level. These new starts can also be dug to expand your raspberry bed or to share with a friend. Make a clean cut when separating it from the root system. Be sure to thin the starts so your bed doesn’t get out of control.
Mulch your raspberry patch to control weeds and to help prevent moisture loss. Raspberries need well-drained soil and won’t tolerate wet feet.
Fertilize when growth begins in the spring or split the application and apply half when growth starts and the other half at the beginning of fruit set.
Raspberries have an extensive, shallow root system so cultivation near the plant should be minimal.
Try one raspberry plant. Pick up a bare root plant at D&B and put it where it gets at least 6 hours of sun a day. You’ll be really glad when you have that bowl of ice cream.