English: Raspberries (Rubus Idaeus). Français ...

English: Raspberries (Rubus Idaeus). Français : Framboises (Rubus Idaeus). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The raspberry is my favorite berry, and perhaps my favorite fruit. I really thought we’re too far south (Richmond, Virginia) to grow raspberries but on a lark I bought a couple of small canes and was determined to try my luck about 4 or 5 years ago. That fall I was rewarded with a few berries, and the plants survived to the following spring, and burst forward with lots of new canes. I even got new canes growing several feet away from the original plant, out in the lawn where I didn’t want them; I dug up these new shoots and transplanted them. I got a small spring crop of berries and another small crop in the fall from the original plants. The next spring I bought a couple more bushes.  I was trying to figure out what I needed to do to produce baskets full of raspberries to have enough to actually make something out of the berries, rather than just being able to pluck half a handful of berries every day.

Since it looked like these bushes were going to survive, I decided to read up on raspberries, then figured out that my bushes were still young and I can, indeed, expect full baskets of berries within a couple more years.

First off, plan for your berry patch to eventually take up a fair amount of space. It’s easiest to grow them in rows 3 to 4 feet wide, and allow at least a 4′ path between rows. Allow 3′ between bushes. After realizing how the raspberry bushes grow, I transplanted mine to grow against an ugly fence where I can easily tie them to keep them growing vertically, making the berries easier to pick and keeping the berry bushes looking tidy. We have a fence all the way around our 5 acres and 80% of the fence receives full sunlight, so I can keep expanding the crop for quite a few years!

New canes appear in the spring and summer, and will not bear fruit that year, but you’ll get berries on that cane the following year. After the cane produces berries it dies off, so prune away dead canes back down to the ground that fall or early in the following spring. Additionally, prune away any new growth that’s within 6″ of last year’s canes to allow full sun and to keep the new growth from competing with the canes that will produce fruit this year.

I mulch everything I grow, so I had accidentally created the perfect conditions for my raspberries. A 4″ deep layer of mulch helps to retain water and keeps the weeds at bay. I used what was readily available to me; I put layers of newspapers around the bushes, covered that with pine needles then added a top layer of bark mulch.

By digging up and transplanting wayward canes I have about 30 bushes now, all descendents of the original 4 bushes I planted. So there’s no reason to buy lots of bushes to start your new raspberry patch as within 2 years or so you’ll just be digging up and throwing away baby plants.

Do some research to find out what varieties will grow well in your area. Simply by luck I happened to purchase ever-bearing canes that provide fruit daily from late spring to frost. I’m afraid I don’t know the exact variety I have, but I get a heavy crop in spring, a few berries every day through summer, then another heavy crop in the fall.

Throughout the summer I can pick a handful of berries in the morning and another in the evening while I’m doing my gardening chores. But I have to be the first one out of the house because my daily reward will be gone if somebody else beats me to them! Once your patch is well established and blessing you with baskets of berries, there are any number of ways to enjoy fresh berries.

Make sure and freeze any berries you can’t use within a few days. Wash firm ripe berries well and allow them to dry, then spread them out on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the berries to freezer bags.

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