Are you considering creating a raspberry patch in your back yard?
If so, you’re probably having visions of stepping out into the summer morning sunshine and grabbing a handful of fresh berries to stir into your breakfast cereal, picking buckets full of ripe berries to bake into scrumptious desserts or simply enjoying them straight off the vine with a cold beverage.
All of these scenarios are highly possible with a home raspberry patch provided you meet the basic needs of the berry plants and pay attention to their specific cultural requirements.
People may tell you that raspberries are the among the most difficult home crops to successfully grow, but it’s quite possible for even the beginning gardener to have a thriving raspberry patch. Here’s how to plant raspberries:
The success or failure of your home raspberry patch will highly depend on decision that you make before you even purchase your first plant.
Don’t expect to site your plants in any old neglected area of the yard and expect a bountiful berry patch to miraculously spring forth. Selecting the right spot is essential for success in this case.
Prepare your spot in the fall so that you’ll be able to plant in the early spring, and refresh the soil with organic matter several weeks prior to planting.
Let the Sun Shine In
Like all other members of the rose family, raspberries adore basking in the sun. Picking a sunny spot instead of one that gets a good deal of shade from buildings or big trees will result in happy plants.
Preparing the soil well several weeks in advance by working in organic amendments will ensure that your berry patch gets a good start in life.
It’s also advisable to site your patch as far as possible from any wild berry bushes growing in your neighborhood.
As charming as wild berries look and taste, they sometime harbor pests and pathogens that you’d prefer not set up shop within the perimeters of your yard.
Keep in mind, however, that most raspberry varieties are not bothered much by diseases and pests; if the only place you have for them is within proximity of a blackberry patch rambling over a vacant lot, go ahead and plant your raspberries in that spot but keep a vigilant eye out for marauding pests.
Powdery mildew and cane boring insects are the pests most likely to cause damage to raspberries.
Choosing the Right Variety of Raspberry
You will find two different types of raspberry bushes available at your local plant nursery, ever-bearing and summer-bearing.
Most home gardeners find the ever-bearing varieties easier to maintain, and they also appreciate the implication of this variety’s name: Ever-bearing varieties produce two separate crops throughout the course of the season, in summer and in fall, while summer-bearing plants set fruit one time during the middle of the summer.
Choosing an ever-bearing variety makes sense if you want tasty morsels from the garden as frequently as possible.
After they have finished supplying you with sweet fruit for the season, all you have to do to prepare them for the winter is mow them to the ground and mulch them well.
Patience Makes Perfect
No matter which type of raspberry you choose for your patch, don’t expect fruit until the second year.
Many people who have recently learned how to plant raspberries erroneously believe that they have failed in their endeavor when don’t see delicious results the first year.
Be patient; the berries are worth the wait. The fruit of ever-bearing varieties may be slightly smaller in the fall than they were in the first summer fruiting period.
When to Plant
For best results, plant your raspberries in the early spring as soon as the ground can be successfully worked. You can generally find a variety of bare root raspberries at your local nursery.
Raspberries love a nice long drink, so soaking the roots before planting for one or two hours can provide them with a good head start.
If you live in a warm weather zone, you can plant your raspberry bushes in late winter.
How to Plant Raspberries
It is important that you provide each raspberry plant with a proper home. Make sure that the hole you dig is large enough to allow the roots room to spread out.
Placing the individual plants about 3 feet apart will give them plenty of room to grow. If you are going to plant them in rows, make certain that the rows are 8 or 9 feet apart.
After planting, cut the canes back to about 8 inches long. Depending on what type of raspberry you have purchased, you may need to provide a support for the plants.
After planting and establishing whatever support is needed, water the plants in and mulch them well. Continue adding mulch as needed throughout the growing season.
Mulch is an excellent tool for keeping weeds down and keeping plant roots cool in hot weather and warm when it gets cold. Organic mulches also add nutrients to the soil.
Proper cultivation of the plants is important if you want to have a thriving raspberry patch. You should provide your plants with one inch of water per week although hot weather may require slightly more watering.
As the roots send up new canes, cutting the majority of them back will cause the surviving shoots to eventually create more tasty berries. Cutting off all canes that are growing sideways will help keep the rows clear.
The correct fall pruning techniques will ensure an abundant crop of berries the next summer.
Cut everything back on each plant but 6 or 7 of the strongest, healthiest canes. As mentioned earlier, if you are growing an ever-bearing variety, simply mow them to ground level when the growing season is over.
Mulch well so that the roots of the plants will be protected over the winter, and be certain to remove any plant debris from the area that might harbor pests and pathogens.
Now for the Best Part
The best part of having a thriving raspberry patch on your property is picking them fresh off the vine and popping them into your mouth.
When it comes time to harvest, you’ll need to pick the berries once every couple of days; if possible, harvest the berries on dry days to minimize the moisture amounts contained in the berries.
Ripe berries will be easy to pull of the vine; if you have to tug on them, leave them for the next picking.
Raspberries can be successfully stored for between 4-6 days under refrigeration. They can be placed in the freezer on single layers on a cookie sheet for later use.
However, if you are going to create scrumptious jams, jellies and cordials with your harvest, you should do so as soon as possible after the berries are picked.
Be sure to have fun and experiment with your crop — you’ll be surprised at how many ways raspberries can be used in the creation of delectable delights in the home kitchen, and everything tastes better when you’ve grown it yourself.