Raspberries

Short version:

Planting bare root canes in the winter is the most cost-effective way to grow raspberries that can be tastier than shop bought. These perennials need full sun, ericaceous soil and preferably rainwater. It is worth researching varieties for taste and hardiness for your area. Summer and autumn fruiting raspberries differ in when they fruit and also whether they fruit on 1 or 2 year old wood. By growing both you can have a supply of raspberries from June to October.

October is a great time to talk about raspberries. If you are growing an autumn variety, you could be harvesting the last few morsels towards the end of this month. Then, at the opposite end of the cycle, late October is a great time to buy bare rooted raspberries.

Growing conditions

Late autumn through to winter is when it’s easy to get hold of bare root plants. These are basically when the plants are dormant and it’s easy to send the bare roots wrapped in plastic through the post. This means cheap delivery costs and cheap plants. The bare roots then have time to establish and get settled in before growth begins in spring.

When choosing a site bear in mind that they are perennial, and you want them to be somewhere they can be happy for years to come. Mine are only 3 years old and year on year they have provided increasing yields as they have settled into their spots. They need full sun and they prefer ericaceous soil – which means acidic. My soil is all alkaline clay. I could amend the soil but honestly, I don’t have the time or patience. So, mine started in pots with shop bought ericaceous compost. If you pick a container suitable variety then growing in pots of ericaceous soil is a nice easy permanent solution. For me, I don’t like the extra watering that comes with pots. I then always feel sorry for the pot plants and end up on the hunt for increasingly large pots for a yearly rehome.

My permanent solution was a raised bed just for the ericaceous plants. I put loads of kitchen green scraps at the bottom, covered it with cardboard and let that decompose for a few months before I put the plants in and added a load of shop bought ericaceous compost. The roots have access to the soil underneath, which is of course my rubbish alkaline clay but at least it means the plant is much less likely to dry out. Also, I put them here because this roof drains water all the way along this side so all the water from this whole roof runs down into here. This is important especially in summer because you don’t want to water these with the hose if you can avoid it. Tap water tends to be alkaline, whereas rainwater is generally neutral or slightly acidic because of its contact in the sky with carbon dioxide. A rain barrel is a good way to get rainwater.

Pollination

Raspberries are generally self-fertile.

Propagation

Raspberries propagate by underground runners. This means that plants are likely to pop up in unlikely places. Because I have packed the raspberries in far too tightly, I have no idea which is the parent plant, so I have no idea what variety these are. These baby plants can just be removed to ensure that existing plants have enough space, or you could let them grow and cut them away from the parent plant when they have their own roots and plant them somewhere else for a new raspberry patch.  

Maintenance

Yes, I know that you should prune and thin in order to ensure better yields and a heathy flow of air and to stop the plant from shading itself. I would just like to be allowed to do it reluctantly. I don’t like killing a potential source of food. It’s also work and I’m lazy.

Raspberries are what I would consider complicated in their pruning. I grow both summer and autumn raspberries so that I have them available for a longer season. The problem is summer and autumn raspberries have different pruning requirements.

Summer fruiting raspberries fruit on what are called floricanes (something that is simple with blackberries). These are canes that grew the previous year – so these raspberries grow on 2 year old wood. This means that when you prune in autumn you should only remove the canes that have already fruited. If you prune the wrong canes then you might not have any, or very few, raspberries the next year.

Autumn fruiting raspberries will fruit on primocanes, or canes that have grown that year – 1 year old wood. This means that after all the raspberries have been harvested you can chop all the canes away. Therefore, for simplicity in pruning autumn fruiting varieties are a good bet.

Just to complicate autumn fruiting a little bit – you can do something called double cropping with autumn raspberries. If you leave some green growth for the next year you can get a small crop of early raspberries on these canes and then a bigger crop in the autumn when the new canes have grown.

As the canes grow you might find you need to provide a support. I just use bamboo canes to stop them falling over and/or getting in the way.

When the berries start to ripen, if you find the birds getting there first then you can cover all your bushes with netting. We have far too many neighbourhood cats for that to be a problem. I’m not convinced that that is a good thing.  

The thing we do get often is little holes in the leaves from caterpillars in the summer. As we tend to have a steady trickle (not quite enough to be called a stream…yet) of raspberries from about early June to end of October it’s easy to have a quick check of leaves as we pick. It’s then easy to remove any pests you might see like caterpillars or the occasional shield bug. We don’t spray as it’s bad for the food chain and the little one can eat straight off the bushes.

Taste and harvest

Firstly home-grown berries taste so much better than they do in the shops. For shipping and storing purposes store bought fruit is picked when it’s less than ripe. When things ripen off the bush they just aren’t as sweet or flavourful. When you grow it, you can literally pick it off the bush when it’s perfectly ripe and just eat it. Because we don’t use pesticides or fertilisers that’s exactly what we do. When my mum comes to visit I can see her cringing as we do it.

Of course, whilst it is true that home grown can taste much better than shop bought, if you buy a rubbish tasting variety then it’s always going to be rubbish tasting. As it is going to be a plant that is with you for a while you might want to research ones that will suit your taste. I’ve discovered that tart or acidic are basically euphemisms for sour. No matter how long we left our Glen Ample raspberries to ripen, they were still too sour to be eaten straight off the bush.

That’s not what I look for in a raspberry. I want something little missy monkey can just help herself to. She’s been good at learning what is ripe. Raspberries are a good one for that. They are sour when unripe but not harmful. They also pull away very easily when ripe so there is a very easy physical indication of when to pick. Glen Ample just confused her completely. After trying those she stopped eating raspberries for a week. Once I figured out the issue, I just ripped out the bush. At least it helped with my overcrowding issue.

When researching varieties for taste, it is worth checking for summer or autumn fruiting and how hardy it is for your area. Summer fruiting ones can fruit from June. Autumn fruiting doesn’t start till late summer and can continue till the end of October.

I can only tell you what I know about my own varieties. All are happy to live outside, in full sun, sheltered from winds in an ericaceous bed:

Unfortunately now we are becoming raspberry snobs. Little one won’t eat the shop bought ones and whilst I try not to let a four year old dictate shopping decisions, I’m afraid I have to agree. They just aren’t as tasty or sweet. Also where’s the fun in picking up a punnet in the supermarket? Garden foraging is much more satisfying.

If anyone has a variety that they would like to recommend or have any growing tips, please feel free to comment… Or if you’re just bored…

4 thoughts on “Raspberries

  1. I’ve never had a sweet homegrown raspberry before. Can I come over to your place to try? 😉 just kidding of course. I love that you dothis with your little one.

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    1. Hi Sandy, you would be welcome but it’s probably a bit far to travel for you. 😁 if you can get a bush, they can do well in a pot too. I can swear that a well chosen variety of homegrown raspberry, picked just ripe is nothing like the typical shop ones. My little monkey also loves that story about the caps on your blog (like what I did there 😉?)

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