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.


Raspberries are generally self-fertile.


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.  


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…


Short version:

The husband proved me wrong, but I couldn’t be more pleased. Thornless blackberries are a good shade tolerant, easy to grow, easily propagated, prolific berry that can be trained to grow vertically to reach the sun better or provide an evergreen screen, taking up a small footprint.

In 2007 we moved into a one bed house. Yes, actual house with kitchen/living room on the ground floor and a spiral staircase in the corner. The garden was about 3x3m and very shaded. Despite being in the shadow of the house most of the day, we were glad to have a garden at all in London. One day the husband returned home (having gone out for paint and sandpaper) and presented me with a thornless blackberry cane. I was rather disparaging and completely ungrateful. We were fairly broke having just moved in. We were 15 mins walk from the edge of Wandsworth common. Why on earth would we pay £10 to buy a blackberry and then give it real estate in our tiny inhospitable garden?

He’d paid for it already, so I planted it next to the fence in a corner. It was of course in the shade. In the first year it did very little and we maybe had 5 or 6 blackberries. In the second year it did a bit more and we had a bowlful of blackberries. In the third year it had a large number of canes that went up over the fence into the sun and we suddenly had an explosion of fruit. We had so many we didn’t actually know what to do with them. We mostly just ate them off the bush. They were the most delicious and chubby blackberries we’d had. This completely followed the adage first year sleep, second year creep, third year leap! The second year there was lots of green but not much in the way of berries.

So here’s some helpful terminology:

PRIMOCANE – a cane that is a year old, when it has lots of leafy growth.

FLORICANE – a cane that is 2 years old and will now fruit.

So that explains why the first year there was so little fruit because of the single cane that was already in existence. The young root system would only support growth of a small primocane or two. The second year there would have been fruit on those small 2 year old canes (now called floricanes) and there would be plenty of growth of new primocanes. In the third year there would have been plenty of floricanes to provide lots of blackberries. Also, the long canes were now reaching over the fence and making it into the sun.

When we moved I couldn’t bear to leave this amazing plant behind so I took cuttings, stuck them in soil and hoped they’d root. Only 1 did due to my lack of knowledge, lack of time and the stress of moving. It then lived in a pot on a shaded balcony for 4 years as the new place had no bare soil. I think we had about 10 blackberries in those 4 years. It moved with us to our current house and this is what we have just 2 years later:

Blackberry Hedge

I knew that it was evergreen, was fine with shade and was still lovely and thornless. We have a short fence which I’m grateful to my neighbour for as it allows our garden more sun. We get on really well with the neighbours and in order to keep it that way I’ve made our blackberries into a living screen that gives them some protection from the bare bottom of our child (why do toddlers like being naked so much?), her tantrums and the general cacophony of our household.

I started this hedge by putting this green wire frame up all round 2 sides of the garden to support vertical growing.

I only started with the one blackberry plant (unfortunately I don’t know the variety) so I bought another variety of thornless blackberry (Oregon thornless). The first year, being the incredibly impatient person that I am, I propagated with some serpentine layering. The next year I had 5 blackberry plants. I wove the newly grown 10 ft long green canes in and out of the wire frame. Over winter they lost a few leaves but mostly remained intact and a couple went a lovely red. This year we have a what looks to be a bumper crop.

Reasons to Grow Thornless Blackberries

So… despite my initial reaction at being bought a thornless blackberry I would whole heartedly recommend them because:

  • They use a small footprint if you train it up, which only requires tying it up a couple of times in the summer when it’s turning into a triffid.
  • They make a great living screen all year round if your winter isn’t too harsh.
  • They do fine in the shade. The berries are bigger and sweeter if they can reach some sun though.
  • Despite the ease of blackberry foraging, often when picking blackberries you have to pick at height to ensure no animals have weed on them (including the drunken animals who couldn’t wait till they got home!) Also, I’ve found that sometimes even the yummiest looking wild blackberries can taste very tart or bland. You must find a good patch and hope that some other forager who knows about it hasn’t beaten you to it.
  • The thornless-ness makes them a pleasure to pick and train. This is not something you can often grow from seed. Even if you take a berry from a thornless bush it may have be pollinated by a prickly variety as there are brambles hiding in the corners of most gardens I’ve seen.
  • They do fine with a large amount of neglect and don’t need special conditions like the ericaceous soil (acidic conditions) required for blueberries and raspberries.
  • Out of the fruits I’ve grown, blackberries provide the largest crop in the shortest time from propagation.


They are easily propagated.

I would however not recommend going crazy with the propagation. I think I’m going to have to dig a plant or two up as they are really prolific. If you can find someone who blackberries already, I’m almost certain they wouldn’t mind you having a cutting. After the second year they won’t be short of canes. You can then also check that they’re tasty before growing it.

Mid to late summer is usually best for propagating. 

Tip layering

This is the easiest way. In fact, if you don’t keep the canes off the ground they can naturally root where tips touch the soil. 

  1. Find a healthy primocane.
  2. Where the tip easily touches the ground, dig a hole (either straight into the ground or in a large pot) and bury the tip about 10cm deep.
  3. Keep it watered (a larger pot is easier to keep moist).
  4. In about 2-3 months (depending on conditions) roots should have grown (just dig up where the cane goes into the ground to see) and you can sever the new plant from the old cane which will still go on to grow blackberries on it.

Serpentine layering

This isn’t quite as easy as tip layering, but it is useful for propagating lots of plants in one go. 

5. In about 2-3 months (depending on conditions) roots should have grown and you can sever the connections between the new plants. It would be advisable to move them further away from the parent plant. 


The reason my first attempt at cuttinsg weren’t hugely successful is because I literally cut off stems and stuck them in soil.

  1. Choose a healthy primocane. Summer is best but cuttings taken the rest of the time may just be less successful. Cut the top few inches using a clean knife or secateurs. I haven’t a magic number of inches but somewhere between 4-8 would probably do it. Cut it about 2cm below a leaf bud. This will be where the roots will grow from.
  2. You can also take a cane and cut it into sections. Each section could grow you a new plant.
  3. Remove most of the leaves of each cutting. Leave the leaf buds.
  4. Stick into any type of damp compost. There are arguments for using soil less growth medium thingys as there will be less chance of it going mouldy – but honestly I don’t have the all the fancy bits and bobs professionals do and I certainly don’t have the space to store all of it. You can dip it into rooting hormone if you like but I’ve found that blackberries do fine without.
  5. Leave in a shady spot for a few months. 
  6. It’s ready to plant out once roots have grown.

Cuttings tend to be less successful than layering as the cutting does not have any nutritional support from the parent plant.


After the canes have fruited and been harvested the floricanes should be cut down at the base of the plant and removed to make space for the primocanes to fruit the following year.

You may spot the very large design flaw to this blackberry hedge. All the growth was woven into the frame when they were the primocanes last year. They’re now fruiting and will need pruning in the autumn. When I do that the whole wire support will be bare. In addition, because I’ve woven the canes through this wire support to make this blackberry hedge, they’re going to a huge pain in the seating area to remove. The wire support is currently too full to take this year’s primocanes. This year’s primocanes are therefore just kinda blowing in the breeze above the lawn, trying their hardest to make it to the ground.

In fact, the whole thing collapsed in this very windy and rainy summer.

The plants are far too close and there is no way our family needs 5 blackberry bushes.

My new plan is to wait till after all the berries have been harvested and prune all the floricanes. Once that’s done there should be nothing to attach the plants to this fence. I’ll then dig up 2 plants and plant them across the lawn and provide a strong vertical support. Hopefully then I can tie the canes from the opposite plants together to make an arch that goes across the narrowest bit of the lawn. Each new year the new primocanes can be tied together. Then every year the tied together canes should be the same age and can bear fruit together and be pruned together. With the plants that haven’t moved, half of the primocanes will go back into the hedge, then there should always be space to add primocanes where floricanes have been removed. The hedge shouldn’t get too heavy and it shouldn’t fall again.

Well, there are all my mistakes (so far). I’m afraid I didn’t know enough about primocanes or floricanes but, hopefully, dear reader you know all about then now. Of course, learning is all part of the fun and I don’t mind rejigging the garden. The damage to the roots might put me back a year, but then after that, hopefully there’s going to be some good structure that we can enjoy for years to come.

One last odd thing – apparently you can eat the shoots and young leaves as a spring veg. I tried this and I didn’t like it. They didn’t taste amazing and were very astringent. I may have been doing it wrong and may not have eaten them early enough. If I do discover the secret to making them tasty I shall let you know!

I hope you give these a go and if anyone can identify my blackberry then I’d be interested to know. I’m afraid 2007 ignorant me didn’t even consider varieties back then. I can imagine in 2030 I’ll be sitting there thinking how naïve I was back in 2019!

Or… feel free to suggest any varieties in the comments.