Raspberries are a great addition to any edible garden. They are easy to grow and can be highly productive. Raspberries are best trained up a trellis so they can make great use of vertical spaces. For those of you worried about prickles… you can even get thorn-less varieties! Best of all, homegrown raspberries are usually packed full of flavour!
Where to plant Raspberries
Raspberries evolved in the understory of European forests. This heritage enables them to grow in semi-shade, and can make great additions to Edible Forest Gardens. However, I’ve found that often when plants are grown in these conditions they produce less fruit which generally isn’t very sweet.
You need to be careful to contain raspberry plants, as just like mint, they can quickly take over a whole garden bed. You may want to consider growing them in a pot, a raised garden bed or wicking bed, to stop them escaping. We’ve seen root barriers used semi-successfully to stop their spread. Some of you may like the idea of them spreading – after all you can never have enough raspberries… right?! If they spread into lawn, they are easy enough to control by mowing the tops off.
Rats, blackbirds, possums and all sorts of other thieves love raspberries. So you’ll need to consider how you might protect your crops. Netting is a great way to keep the pests at bay, but also makes harvesting difficult (you’ll need to harvest every few days as the season peaks). If you’ve got the space and budget then consider adding a larger cage or enclosure to protect your crops.
Some varieties of raspberry canes can get quite long, so consider implementing a trellis to train them along. This can be as simple as a few wires or more elaborate mesh systems.
Preparation and Planting
Like most of the berry crops, Raspberries prefer an acidic soil. Work through plenty of organic matter, compost and animal manure.
Raspberries are best planted as dormant canes in winter. You can get canes from friends or family who are already growing them, from local nurseries or online. At other times of the year you can purchase plants growing in pots to plant out. For standard suburban backyards, one cane of two or three varieties should be enough to get you started. In two to three years this will quickly grow into quite a large volume of canes. Larger plantings may need larger quantities of each variety to help establish your berry patch.
Consider under-planting the raspberries with a living mulch. We have found strawberries and raspberries grow well together. The strawberries act as a living mulch to suppress weed growth and to help retain moisture in the soil. Alternatively you can mulch your raspberries with a thick layer of pine bark mulch or similar wood chip.
Raspberries are pretty easy to manage in Melbourne’s temperate climate. They are relatively heavy feeders, so applications of compost, animal manures or fertilizers are recommended in spring and summer.
Primocane vs Floricane Varieties
Raspberries can be classified as either floricane (summer fruiting) or primocane (autumn fruiting). The great thing about primocane raspberries is that pruning them is simple. Once the canes have stopped producing (in winter) you just cut the whole lot back to ground level. This easy maintenance is offset by the fact that summer raspberries tend to be sweeter and have more flavour (because of the summer heat).
Floricane (summer fruiting) varieties are slightly more complicated to prune. To do so, in winter remove the canes that have already fruited (two year old wood). All of the newer canes (that have grown this year) need to be retained, as these will produce fruit in summer, when the plant wakes up from its dormancy. It’s usually easy to tell the difference between the first and second year canes.
How to Prune Raspberries
Pruning should be done in winter (see Primocane vs Floricane Varieties for more information on how they are pruned). Raspberries don’t actually need to be pruned to produce fruit. In fact, spent canes (ones that have already fruited) will often throw out short lateral growth the following spring, and often these will produce some fruit. However, pruning in winter will reduce the congestion around the plants, making netting and harvesting easier. It will also enable better airflow, which can help reduce pests and fungal issues.
Do you grow raspberries at home? Please share your experiences with our growing community on Facebook.