All About Raspberries and Blackberries
Growing raspberries and blackberries is easy, but to care for them correctly, it’s important to understand the differences in how these plants grow. Correct planting and pruning will help you enjoy many years of delicious homegrown fruit.
How to Plant
Choose a planting location with well-drained soil (never soggy) where the plants will get full sun. Be sure there will be enough room to access the plants from all sides (for easy picking). Take time to prepare the planting area by loosening the soil at least 12” deep and removing any grass or weeds. Compost or leaf mold may be incorporated to improve the soil.
For correct plant spacing and pruning instructions, read the relevant sections below.
Before bareroot raspberries and blackberries are planted, the roots should be soaked in cool water for 1-2 hours (no more). If soil in packaging is still moist, this step can be skipped. Afterwards, keep the roots covered to make sure the roots do not dry out during the planting process. Once the plants are in the ground, water weekly for the first few months (if rainfall is inadequate) to help the roots get established. It may take up to 6 weeks to see new growth, which will emerge from the base of the plant. Keep the planting bed weeded to avoid competition. If you are mulching the planting area, the mulch should be no more than 1” thick.
Consistent moisture is required to ensure good fruit production. Fertilize annually in early spring, following fertilizer package directions.
For best flavor, the fruit should be allowed to fully ripen before it is picked. Harvested fruit should be refrigerated immediately.
RED AND YELLOW RASPBERRIES
Grow these plants in 18-24” wide rows, with 3-4 feet between the rows. When planting, position the roots horizontally and no more than 1½” below the soil surface. Firm the soil and then prune the plants back to a height of 2”. This will encourage your raspberries to send up new canes (stems).
Summer-bearing raspberries produce one generous crop of berries during midsummer. A newly planted bed of summer-bearing raspberries will not produce fruit the first year. Next year’s berries will form on the canes that grow this year. A bed of summer-bearing raspberries should always include a mix of one-year-old and two-year-old canes. In late summer, after the 2-year-old canes have finished fruiting, they should be cut to the ground as they will not produce again. At the same time, the one-year-old canes can be cut back to a height of 4 feet. In early spring, remove any weak/skinny canes from last year. Ideally you should be left with 6-8 young canes per running foot of row.
Everbearing/Fall-bearing raspberries produce fruit on first year canes. The easiest way to manage this type of raspberry is to cut all the canes to the ground in late fall, after the harvest is over. New canes will emerge the next spring and begin bearing fruit in late summer or early fall.
BLACK AND PURPLE RASPBERRIES
These raspberries do not produce root suckers. New growth emerges from the base of the original plant. For this reason, black and purple raspberries are often managed as individual plants, rather than as a row of plants. To maintain order and increase berry production, you can give each plant a stake and tie the canes with twine. If you are planting black or purple raspberries in rows, space the rows 6 to 10 feet apart and position the plants 4-6 feet apart within the row. Plants within the rows should be contained and supported by a wire trellis.
Black and purple raspberries bear fruit in midsummer on two-year-old canes. New, first-year canes should be pruned in early summer to encourage branching (and more fruit production the next year). Wait until these first-year canes reach 4 feet tall and then cut off the top 4”. Stop pruning new canes in August. At the end of the growing season, remove all the canes that bore fruit, leaving only the current year canes that will produce next season. Support the canes by surrounding the bed with a wire trellis system.
Blackberries are vigorous plants that require plenty of space. They should be planted in 2-foot-wide rows, with 4 feet between the plants and 8-12 feet between the rows. Bareroot blackberry plants should be positioned in the hole, so the uppermost roots are covered with about ½” of soil. Plants may be supported individually with sturdy stakes, or you can surround each row with a wire support trellis.
Most blackberries produce fruit during late summer. New canes grow from the base of the plant each spring. These first-year canes will produce fruit the second year. New canes should be “tipped” when they reach 5’ tall. In late fall, lateral branches (on the first year canes) can be cut back to 12” long. Canes that have produced should be cut to the ground after harvest. Weak or damaged canes should be cut out in early spring. Ideally you should be left with 6-8 strong canes for every 3 feet of row.
Red Latham is a summer-bearing raspberry with bright red berries that are delicious for fresh-eating and great for freezing. Hardy in zones 3-8.
Heritage is an everbearing red raspberry, loved for its high yields, firm berries, and great flavor. Expect a small crop in summer and a heavy crop during August and September. Hardy in zones 4-8
Jewel is America’s most popular black raspberry variety. The glossy black fruit is delicious fresh or in preserves. Hardy in zones 5-8.
Arapaho is an early ripening, upright, thornless blackberry. The large, 1-2” berries typically ripen in June. No need for a trellis or support. Hardy in zones 5-9. (5-9)