Often known as the 'Queen of the soft fruits' the ripe, rosy full-on taste of home grown raspberries seems to epitomise warm summer days. They are versatile too; aside from serving them with cream for tea, they make the most flavoursome jam of all. Add them to apple pies or crumbles, stir into plain yogurt, freeze them, jam them, juice them, sprinkle them onto cereals and muesli..... you can never have too many!
If you didn't know, Raspberries fruit from what is known as a cane. An established Raspberry bed will consist of clumps of these tall canes which can rise up to 7' or more. They will need a support system to tie the canes onto. A few varieties are more compact & can be grown as self-supporting - notably Auutmn Bliss and Malling Jewel.These are the most space-gobbling of the soft fruits. Plant them about 15" apart, you need 6' or so between rows. Try to plant a succession of varieties but don't bother planting anything less than 5 or 6 canes of any one variety because otherwise the ripening fruit will be too sporadic to amount to much at any one time. If you can only grow one variety then Glen Clova is to be recommended as it ripens over a long period.
Growing in Containers
Unfortunately Raspberries do not really thrive in pots for any length of time so the open ground is the only place for them to be grown successfully. Wherever you plant them they must have good drainage.
General cultivation notes
Raspberries will succeed in most types of soil, the main requirements are a well drained area with good moisture holding qualities in the Summer. A sunny position is preferred but shade has little if any adverse effect, exposure to excessive winds should be avoided. It will be beneficial if a dressing of farmyard manure, leaf mould etc., is forked into the soil before planting, remove all perennial weeds at this time. Plant singly 15 to 18 inches apart in the row. If planting more than one row, the rows should be 5 to 6ft apart. Make a hole large enough for the roots to avoid “cramping” them and cover the roots with about 3 inches of soil. Avoid planting them too deep. Plant firmly and firm the soil around the roots after planting. Water the canes well for the first year until they are established. If the plants have arrived in a dry condition, soak the roots in water before planting. After planting cut the canes down to leave about three buds above the soil level (9 inches).
Mulches of straw, farmyard manure, sedge peat etc., are of great value in aiding moisture retention. It is best to delay putting down such a mulch until the canes have grown for 1 year as application on newly planted canes may check early growth. Overall mulches should not be used on wet or poorly drained soils.
Raspberries are best grown without cultivation once the plants are in position. Hand weeding near the plants and shallow hoeing between the rows should be all that is necessary.
SUPPORT AND PRUNING. Raspberries are usually supported with posts and wires, two wires2 feet and 4 feet 6inches from the ground are strained between posts at the end of each row, the canes are then tied singly to these wires. Canes that have fruited should be cut out at ground level either immediately after the crop has been picked or during the Autumn or Winter. From 5 to 8 of the healthiest and strongest new canes are selected for retention at each root/stool and the surplus removed. The number of canes retained should not exceed the number which can be tied in 3 to 4 inches apart along the wire. If the canes have grown well and are on average 7 feet in height it is beneficial to prune the tips back to about 5ft 6 inches in early February or early March.
AUTUMN FRUITING VARIETIES ONLY. In February after planting cut down to 2 inches above ground level. In following years all the canes should be cut down to ground level in Winter (February) for the new growth to appear in Spring and produce fruit in September. Autumn fruiting varieties do not usually require support.
FEEDING. In February we strongly recommend the use of fertilizer Sulphate of Potash 2 oz per square yard. Do not use Nitrogen fertilizers for our cane fruits unless absolutely essential. As our plants are virus free and from exceptionally healthy clones, excess nitrogen can result in excessive vigour and a reduction in cropping. If soil is poor then Sulphate of Ammonia may be used in small quantities.
Pests & Diseases
It cannot be stressed how important it is to plant known Certified stock. This will ensure you are planting only disease free clean, healthy and vigorous true to name stock. Unfortunately some of the older or less mainstream varieties are not eligible to be entered into the certification scheme which seems to favour the newer/commercial varieties.
Aphids are the main threat to your canes. Although they may not do significant damage directly, they transmit diseases so be watchful. Soapy water will keep numbers down, or use a proprietary insecticide.
Virus is the other serious condition. The leaves may become mottled and streaked with yellow and the new growth stunted or deformed. Virus is untreatable and the only option is to dig up & burn the canes and disinfect the soil [if you want to grow new raspberries that is] but don't act too hastily. Virus is actually quite uncommon and deficiciencies and leaf mite can cause similar symptoms. Get them checked out by an expert before committing to a course of action.
Spur Blight causes dark purple blothces around the buds & shoots. Cut out & burn affected canes. New shoots can be treated with a fungicide.
Rust has become a more recent problem with Raspberries and favours wetter summers. It manifests itself with orange spores on the nt eh leaves which erupt into a fine orange powder. It can be controlled with a copper based fungicide. If you experience this problem remember that prevention is better than cure so start to apply early.
Re-planting raspberry canes into existing beds
It is a definite no-no to plant new canes where old have been. I know that's easier said than done, but try to find a fresh patch of soil to plant the new canes in. If that is not possible then you have two options. Remove a trench of soil approximately 18" deep by 18" across and replace it with new soil. Or disinfect the soil with Jeyes Fluid [as per the manufacturers instructions] This latter option is initially easier but a better choice with foresight as the soil must be left fallow for some months afterward before you can safely re-plant.
Good Thornfree Raspberry varieties
Thorny varieties [some say have more flavour]
Raspberries can also be grown with sweet yellow fruits [sometimes known as Golden or apricot coloured Raspberries] Look out for varieties such as Fallgold, Allgold, Kiwi Gold and Valentine. And also there is a variety with much darker purple fruits 'Glencoe' has a powerful robust flavour which is better used in pies, preserves and yogurts than it is eaten fresh.