There is not much that compares to picking your own berries fresh from your garden; the sweet delicate flavours are a taste bud sensation – plus they are filled with antioxidants. I am a relatively new berry grower, apart from strawberries which I have grown for many, many years.
I have been growing raspberries and blueberries now for four years and I have had some successes and some failures – as we all know, we learn the most from our failures! In another couple of months, it will be a good time to plant berries, so I thought I would talk about them ahead of time so you can plan a permanent place for your berries to go. Berries can also be grown in pots, however they will require a lot more water than if they were planted directly in the soil.
There are berry varieties that are available for the warmer north and the colder southern climate. It is very important to get the right varieties, otherwise you could find fruiting is minimal. Soil preparation is also very important, as the wrong balance or soil that is too rich can produce more leaf growth than berry production. If you are getting suckers or plants from neighbours, be sure they are disease free, as you could be bringing a new problem into your garden.
Which varieties do I choose??
Delicious raspberries come in a variety of colours, from traditional red to yellow, white and black. So far I have only had some success with an heirloom red and a lot of success with the yellow raspberries. Raspberry varieties have different ripening seasons, from as early as December to as late as March/ April. Check carefully before you make your selection to give yourself the best chance of success.
The first two years I grew only yellow raspberries and I chose not to net them. Much to my delight, the birds didn’t seem to bother with them as they didn’t think they were ripe. I love watching Mother Nature up to her clever tricks to help something along, it warms my heart! These raspberries produced an abundant amount for the size of the plant.
Where do I plant my raspberries?
Raspberries will tolerate very poor soil as long as it has good drainage. They seem to dislike wet feet and can die within a few days. Raspberries like a soil full of good organic material and matured compost. The ideal pH is between 5.5 and 6 – you can get a pH tester in your local garden centre, so you can know if you’re on track. If the soil is too acidic, you can add some basic lime to sweeten it up. I like to plant mine in a raised bed that I have used bokashi in. The berries seem to thrive in this situation.
Raspberries can live for up to 10 – 12 years, so this is why I advise to think carefully about where you want to plant them and to give time to make the soil of a good quality to start with.
Raspberries prefer to grow in a sunny spot and will tolerate an afternoon of shade or vice versa. I have mine planted in a place they get sun from 11am-3pm and this seems to be enough.
I usually plant my raspberries about half-to-a-metre apart and the same between the rows.
How do I grow a healthy crop of raspberries?
The two things I have found to produce good quality, healthy raspberries is water and food. Raspberries don’t like to completely dry out and, when they are producing berries, they prefer dampish soil. I put a simple drip irrigation on mine and mulch heavily to keep the moisture in, which works a treat. If you don’t have irrigation, you can water with a watering can, making sure you water only the soil and not the leaves, as this will spread disease. A good fertilise in spring will go a long way to ensuring a good crop. I tend to liquid feed over the summer – more about this when the time comes.
The red and yellow raspberries grow on upright canes and are self-supporting, but the black and purple ones will need support, as they grow more like blackberries.
Most raspberries produce fruit on second year wood, however as your plants mature, you will notice that you will get a small amount of fruit on the new suckers. After fruiting, I cut all my canes that produced fruit to the ground, mulch and wait for the following season. Raspberries will sucker, so growing in a raised bed is ideal to keep them contained in one area.
How do I protect raspberries from pests and disease?
Berries can carry the same diseases as tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes, so avoid planting these near your raspberries or planting your raspberries in the soil where these have grown over the past five seasons. A good crop of garlic planted near the raspberries will be of great benefit in deterring pests. Also a bush of tansy nearby will help with all round pest and disease control.
I would consider myself a novice in the raspberry growing experience, but I love it and I love eating them, so for me, the time and effort is well worth the results.
Let me know how you get on and, as ever, please do reach out if you have any questions.