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Raspberries – Pruning

Pruning out the old canes.

After fruiting, untie the canes that have fruited and cut them out at ground level. Remove the weakest of the new canes. Aim to have three or four good canes per 30 centimetres of row. Autumn fruiting types should be pruned in February. Tie in the new canes to the wires.

Pests and diseases

Grey mould disease on Raspberries

Greenflies attack the leaves and shoots, reducing yield and spreading virus disease. Control may be necessary.

Raspberry beetle grubs hatch from eggs laid on the young fruit and bore into the berries from the stem end. Control may be necessary.

Grey-mould (Botrytis) is the most serious, causing the ripening fruit to rot. Control is usually necessary, especially in wet seasons and high rainfall areas.

Virus diseases cause mottling of foliage, stunting, and poor cropping – small fruit and blind fruit. Remove affected plants and burn them.

Cane blight, spur blight and cane spot cause canes or parts of canes to wither and die.

Die-back of canes without signs of disease can be due to unfavourable growing conditions. Raspberry rust causes orange spots on the undersides of the leaves. It does not do much harm. Although there is quite a list of possible diseases, raspberries are generally health

You may think the sheer gustatory pleasure of wolfing down ripe, juicy raspberries, whose flavor explodes in your mouth, is reason enough to grow them. Well, think again. Raspberries are not just another tasty berry; they are loaded with healthful attributes. They’re high in fibre and contain vitamin A, folate, antioxidants, and numerous minerals; the juice contains vitamin C; and those sometimes-annoying little seeds contain vitamin E. And, of course, if you have a raspberry patch, you have endless dessert possibilities.

The key elements to raspberry success are careful selection of plant type, a good solid trellising system, and husbandry techniques that match the needs of the plant. Once everything is in place, your raspberry patch will provide you with many years of satisfaction.

How many plants, and how big a patch?

Our two-row raspberry patch is 9 or 10 feet wide to allow more elbowroom for picking between the rows. We have 3 feet between rows, which is just barely enough. Four to 6 feet would be better.

Raised beds eliminate root rot

Raspberry plants hate wet feet, and they are gross feeders. You can address these two critical points by building a 20-inch-high raised bed and filling it with a mixture of four-fifths good garden topsoil blended with about one-fifth sand, peat, and well-rotted manure. If, you have acidic soil, you will also need to add some lime, because raspberries prefer a soil pH of around 6.0. We left one end of the box open to allow easy access with our wheelbarrows, and then closed it in when the box was full. This job can be done in autumn, so you are ready to plant, come spring.

If you have rich, deep soil that drains well year-round, you can simply plant your raspberries in a permanent garden site.

Many gardeners lose raspberries to root rot because they make the mistake of planting their raspberries’ fussy little toes directly in the ground, which is often soggy clay covered with a skim of topsoil. Raised beds allow us to have deep soil that holds moisture evenly yet drains well.

Spring is the best time to plant

The best time to buy plants is early spring; it’s also the best time to plant them, although you can put raspberries in anytime in the summer. Spring plants will establish better, though, and may well give you a few berries their first summer.

Should you receive dormant bare-root plants by mail before you are ready to plant, put them in the fridge to keep them dormant.

Have on hand some well-rotted manure, mushroom manure, or compost; organic fertilizer; a water source; and some mulch. You can use straw for mulch, but other materials will do just fine. even ripped-up newspaper.

Dig a hole 1 foot deep and wide per plant, setting the plants 3 feet apart in the row. Put a handful each of rotted manure and fertilizer in the hole. Add some water, pop the plant in, and then carefully tuck the soil around and over its spread roots to make a small depression or basin at the surface, creating a place for rainfall to accumulate. Sprinkle some more well-rotted manure in this depression to provide a jump start for growth, then cover the ground around the plants with your mulch — no more than 3 inches deep. You can use landscape cloth (mypex) over the path between the rows and cover it with wood chips. Drip irrigation is the ideal way to water raspberries, and this is the easiest time to install it.

A T-bar trellis lends needed support

A trellis of wooden crossbars and wires supports the canes in rows and keeps the path clear. Cross wires wrapped around the long wires form neat partitions of canes.Photo/Illustration: John Bray

A raspberry plant laden with fruit is top-heavy and needs support to keep it from falling over. You will want your raspberry patch to last a long time, so begin with a formal support system. At the end of each row of raspberries, bury a 6-foot post 1 foot in the ground. Across the top and middle of each post, fasten 30-inch crossbars with sturdy screws. Then stretch lengths of 16-gauge wire from the ends of each crossbar. In the beginning, use only the top wire, you may find that some of the plants bearing fruit would fall over before they ever got to the top wire, so you may want to add a second tier of wires about 2 feet off the ground. Sometimes the wires stretch from the weight of the plants and fruit, so tighten them in early spring when pruning.

Pruning for a long harvest season

The main purpose of pruning is to get rid of older canes in favour of newer canes that will produce fruit. In late summer, some of your newly planted canes will begin to fruit at the top of the cane and continue into autumn. In the early spring of the following year, while the plants are still dormant, it’s time to prune these now 1-year-old canes, and here is where you can do something special.

The common method of pruning everbearing raspberries is simply to cut all of the canes down to about 1 inch from the ground. Though it’s an easy way to go, this method eliminates the July crop. Fruiting doesn’t begin until early autumn, the reason some raspberry growers call everbearing raspberries “autumn bearing.” (This method is useful, however, if a disease has developed in your patch.)

Instead, the first spring, cut the 1-year-old canes back to below the fruiting area, level with the top support wire. These shortened canes begin fruiting in July. In the meantime, leafy new canes, called primocanes, grow rapidly up from between the old canes. These new canes will flower and fruit later in the summer. Thin them out and clear away those suckers that popped up around the patch. The following spring, remove the 2-year-old canes completely to make room for new growth, cutting them off at the ground, and trim back the 1-year-old canes. Top-dress the raspberry patch with well-rotted manure and berry fertilizer in early spring. You can also prune summer-fruiting varieties using this method.

Damp in summer, dry in winter

To keep your plants healthy and productive, make sure they don’t dry out in the summer. Remember: damp in summer, dry in winter. Spread straw or other mulch around the roots to help keep in an adequate supply of moisture. If you don’t have a drip system, a soaker hose used for an hour or two each week should do the trick. In subsequent years, remember to top-dress the freshly pruned plants with several inches of well-rotted manure or compost, fertilizer, and, if necessary, a sprinkling of lime.

Raspberry plants need a significant amount of nitrogen to grow to their full 6 or 7 feet, but you should stop pushing high-nitrogen fertilizer on them as fruiting time approaches. At this time, the plants must concentrate on producing fruit instead of leaves.

Some of the critters that can attack raspberries are nematodes, root or bud weevils, aphids, fruit worms, and crown borers. This latter problem involves maggots girdling the emerging canes, which may then break off at soil level or produce a poor crop. If you cut the canes to the ground, you can confound the borers and avoid drenching the root zone with an insecticide.

To ensure pollination of your raspberries, build a simple orchard mason bee house by drilling holes in a 4×4 and giving it a shingle-roof overhang. Secure the house to a sunny trellis pole, and the bees will come.

A few diseases you may encounter are fruit rot, root rot, and spur blight. Fruit rot is a fungus that sets up housekeeping when canes are too crowded. The remedy is to prune for openness and to pick frequently in wet weather. Avoid overhead watering and prune out fruiting canes after harvest. Root rot results in the sudden death of the plant right after flowering, when the weather turns warm. The only remedy is to plant resistant varieties in friable, well-drained, rich soil. Spur blight shows up as dark chocolate-colored blotches on primocanes in mid-summer to fall when humidity is high. Infected areas on overwintered canes are silver gray and produce millions of spores.

On the flip side of pest control, encouraging healthy pollination in the raspberry patch by building a simple home for bees, which we attached to one of the trellis poles. It’s just a length of 4×4 with 5/16-inch holes drilled in it and an overhanging shingle for a roof; the orchard bees take up residence in the holes and proceed to do their thing.

Why Prune Raspberries at All?

Large, unpruned raspberry bushes won’t yield more berries and can lead to problems and even early die out of the raspberry bushes. Pruning raspberry plants does more than just keep your plants under control. Raspberries can be prone to disease and pruning inhibits the spread of disease throughout your patch.

To insure that light and air can get inside the plants and to facilitate pruning, keep your raspberry plants controlled in a row. Keep the base of the bushes within a 12 – 18 inch footprint by pruning out any suckers that poke up outside the 12 -18 inch footprint. Don’t worry, the bushes will be much larger on top

How and When to Prune Raspberries

A Word of Caution: Wear thick gloves; raspberries have serious thorns. And use clean, sharp tools.


• Prune all canes that bore fruit last year; they won’t fruit again. These will have grayish, peeling bark.

• Remove any canes that have grown outside the 12 – 18 inch designated row footprint.

• Remove any spindly or short canes.

• Thin so that there is about 4-5 of the healthiest, tallest and fattest canes left per foot along the length of the row.

• Tie remaining canes to your fencing.

• To force your everbearing raspberries to produce only one crop in the fall, prune back the entire raspberry bush in early spring. As the canes grow back in the summer, remove outside suckers and thin the canes to about 6 inches apart. Keep the sturdiest canes. This technique will give you a larger fall harvest and is good if you also have summer bearing raspberry bushes and you want to stagger the harvests.


• Prune dead, broken or diseased canes.

• Prune any canes that poke up outside your designated row area.

Of course, you can prune broken, dead, diseased or infested canes at any time of the year, the sooner the better.

Pruning between October and February

Autumn raspberries can be cut back hard after a harvest without endangering the following harvest. They can be cut down to the ground without any problem. However, you should be more careful with summer raspberries, only cutting off the (two-year-old) canes that have borne fruit.

If you plant raspberries in spring, it is advisable to cut back all the branches to approximately 30 cm in March. However, if you plant your raspberries in autumn, you do not have to prune straight away. Wait until after winter, cutting all branches back to approximately 30 cm in March.

Autumn raspberries may bear fruit for the first time in autumn, after which they can be pruned again.

Summer raspberries will not bear fruit straight away as this type of raspberry fruits on two-year-old canes. They consequently do not need pruning for the time being.


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