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ask-ruth-pictureFrom Corinne, a FL gardener loving the new backyard gardening in NC.
Hello, I bought a large raspberry bush 2 years ago. Last Spring (09) it grew canes and I had small amount of delicious fruit. This Spring it grew canes again and had about the same amount of berries (3/4 of a quart.).

Also noticed many new plants all around the original bush. In a couple of months, each was as tall as the “mother”. Can I expect these new plants to produce fruit in 2011?

I have never grown berries before and would appreciate tips on when and how to trim and to fertilize. Thanks for your help.

Since raspberries are a perennial crop that will produce for many years, it is well worth taking the time to prepare the plant beds. Raspberries are fairly adaptable to soil type, but prefer a deeply-worked, well-drained, fertile soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. If indicated by your soil test (free through NC Cooperative Extension), apply any needed lime or other amendments in the fall prior to spring planting. It is best to avoid planting in plots that recently grew nightshades or sod.

In subsequent years, raspberries usually need extra inputs of fertilizer, especially nitrogen, for good fruiting to occur. Apply manures and fertilizers in late winter/early spring. If you are applying uncomposted manure as the fertilizer, apply at least 4 months before harvest so the manure will be sufficiently decomposed prior to harvest time. Apply 10-15 lbs. (7 1/2 lbs. if poultry manure) of well-rotted manure per 10 ft. of row, or about 2 1/3 lbs. of cottonseed meal, or 1 1/3 lbs. of blood meal per 10 feet of row. With manures (especially poultry), you should be careful about accumulating too much phosphorus or salts in the soil over time, as raspberries are sensitive to this. Properly composted manure can be used in greater quantities and into the growing season. You can fertilize a second time in late June/early July.

Fertilizing any later in the season may cause frost damage to the new canes.

Plant red raspberries about 3 ft. apart in rows 8-12 ft. apart. Raspberries will produce runners with new plants sprouting up along the runners. Confine the raspberry sprouts to about a 15-18 inch wide strip within the row, and eliminate sprouts that exceed that width. Thin the new canes to about 6” apart, saving the strongest looking canes. Raspberries are often supported by a trellis. The trellis can be as simple as metal fence posts with a strong rustproof wire running between them. Growers of ‘Heritage’ red raspberries often install a temporary support system that can be easily removed prior to mowing.

There are two types of red raspberries, and the type determines pruning methods:

Summer-bearing raspberries produce primocanes (first year canes), which are then called floricanes the following year. In other words, this year’s primocane will be next year’s floricane. Fruit is generally produced only on the floricanes (the second year canes) in early summer. In late winter, cut the floricanes back to about 5’ tall. After fruiting, the floricane should be cut to the ground as soon as possible, as this helps prevent diseases.

Ever-bearing raspberries produce fruit on the tips of the primocanes in late summer/fall of the first year, and on the lower portion of the floricanes (last years primocanes) in early summer of the following year. Two common ever-bearing cultivars are ‘Southland’ and ‘Heritage’, and ‘Heritage’ is best suited to the mountain areas of WNC. The recommendation is to let Southland bear two crops annually, but to maximize Heritage’s late crop by eliminating its June crop. This simplifies pruning Heritage raspberries, because in late fall you just mow down (or cut off at ground level) all the Heritage canes. With this regimen, raspberries will be produced on the primocanes of Heritage-type raspberries in late summer/fall of every year.

More info:

Enjoy these last days of summer, and remember it is time to start thinking about planting your fall garden and your cover crops.

All my best,

Ask Ruth © 2013 Ruth Gonzalez & Organic Growers School

Ruth Gonzalez

Author: Ruth Gonzalez

Ruth Gonzalez is a former market farmer, gardener, and local food advocate who wants to see organic farms proliferate and organic gardens in every yard. She also served on the Organic Growers School Board of Directors. In her job at Reems Creek Nursery, Ruth offers advice on all sorts of gardening questions, and benefits daily from the wisdom of local gardeners.

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