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23 February 2021

How to grow raspberries

Raspberries are a delicious soft fruit that can successfully crop in all parts of the UK
Raspberries
CT
Ceri Thomas

Summer-fruiting raspberries (floricane) produce canes every year. These new canes grow throughout the summer, go dormant in the winter and produce raspberries the following summer, before dying back. Autumn-fruiting raspberries (primocanes) produce new canes in the spring and fruit on them in the autumn of the same year. These canes can also produce fruit the following summer, so you can leave them standing for an earlier, albeit smaller, second crop.

How to grow raspberries: month by month

January February March April May June
PLANT PLANT PLANT



HARVEST
July August September October November December
HARVEST HARVEST HARVEST HARVEST PLANT PLANT

Best raspberry varieties

Best Buy summer-fruiting raspberries (floricanes)
What it looks like Variety name Yield per plant
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923g
The fruit of this variety was easy to pick from the tall, thornless stems, and had good sugar levels. Flavour isn’t all about sweetness, but happily this variety scored highly all-round for its taste and texture. It impressed us with a consistently high yield of fruit per week for five weeks. It grew so strongly it might not be ideal if space is tight, but it was excellent in every other way.
What it looks like Variety name Yield per plant
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578g
We thought the flavour of this variety had an ideal balance between sweetness and acidity, along with plenty of that unique raspberry taste. The yield, although good, wasn’t as large as our other Best Buys, but that can be an advantage if you want to eat your fruit fresh rather than perhaps making a lot of jam. The plants were a bit smaller than others, too. However, they were thornless, so it was an easy variety to pick and manage.
What it looks like Variety name Yield per plant
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792g
In our last trial, this variety was the heaviest cropper and rated the tastiest. This time it wasn't the heaviest cropper, but we found again that the fruit was delicious and the berries were juicy but firm. The canes were tall but not too prolific, so it was easy to keep the size of the plant in check. It also produced a large crop over a few weeks, so would provide plenty of fruit for freezing or for jam-making.
Best Buy autumn-fruiting raspberries (primocanes)
What it looks like Variety name Yield from eight plants
Member content
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10.5kg
When we first tested this variety, we found that it gave us a large yield of exceptionally tasty fruit and so we awarded it a Best Buy. We were equally impressed this time, as once again, it gave us the largest yield of fruit and a sweet raspberry flavour that was very popular with our tasters. We got slightly more raspberries from canes that we didn’t cut back after the first summer’s crop, and they came into fruit a little earlier than canes we’d cut back after their first summer’s crop. It’s therefore well worth leaving a few canes unpruned after their first summer’s crop for this variety. It also holds a RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
What it looks like Variety name Yield from eight plants
Member content
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8.9kg
This variety impressed us in a previous trial, and it did even better in this trial, becoming a Best Buy. It produced a wealth of fruit from both the new canes and the canes left from the previous year, so you could double crop if you wanted an extended raspberry season. It also produced plump, appetising fruit with a slightly tart flavour that was a favourite with our tasters. As well as a Best Buy, it holds a RHS AGM.

How we test raspberries

We planted bare-root plants in winter , and then assessed their health and vigour for two years. Plants were fed in spring each year and watered when dry. We picked ripe fruit weekly in the second year and weighed it, tested it for sugar content (Brix test) and tasted it so we could rate the flavour and texture.

Caring for your plants

Planting

Although you can buy potted plants in spring, bare-root plants, which can be bought between November and March, are more widely available, cost less and establish in the garden better than potted ones.

Raspberries need sun and fertile, well-drained and slightly acidic soil. Dig a shallow trench, add well-rotted manure or garden compost and place the canes at 50cm intervals, with the roots lying flat in the bottom. Support plants either singly on posts or by tying-in to different heights of wires in rows. Cover the roots with soil and then water the plants.

Growing a pot

You can grow raspberries in pots on a patio or balcony. Put one cane in a deep pot that's around 45cm in diameter. Use a Best Buy compost for containers and mix in a Best Buy controlled-release feed. Each spring, remove the top few centimetres of compost and replace with fresh compost and controlled-release feed. Keep the plant well-watered, especially during hot, dry weather.

There was a huge difference in the size of crop we got from our pot-grown plants compared with those growing in the ground. Our pot-grown ‘Glen Ample’ plants produced just a third of the fruit that plants in the ground did (260g per plant compared with 639g per plant in the ground). Pot-grown ‘Tadmor’ gave around a quarter of the crop of the plants grown in the ground, and ‘Valentina’ around half. However, the flavour was rated better for the pot-grown plants for both ‘Tadmor’ and ‘Glen Ample’, possibly because they got less water so the flavour was richer. 

Growing in a pot is worth doing if you don’t have much space or don’t want raspberry canes to spread in your garden, but don’t expect bumper crops.

Feeding

Feed plants in the ground with a high-potash feed, such as sulphate of potash, in spring. Mulch around the plants with garden compost to help keep the soil moist.

Pruning

Summer-fruiting varieties: When cropping ends, cut back all fruited canes to ground level and tie in six to eight strong new canes from each plant. Cut out all other canes.

Autumn-fruiting varieties: If you want a double crop from your autumn raspberries, leave all the canes unpruned after their first summer’s crop. These should produce an earlier crop of fruit in the summer the following year. Once this fruit crop has finished, cut the fruited canes down to the ground. Fruited canes are the older-looking woodier ones, not the new, greener and more flexible canes. Leave all the other canes that have grown that year to produce an autumn crop at the usual time. 

How and when to harvest

Summer-fruiting varieties: June to July

Autumn-fruiting varieties: June to October

Net plants to keep the birds off once blossom opens. Pick ripe fruit regularly as it doesn’t last long. Old fruit left on the canes will rot quickly if the weather is damp. Raspberries freeze well if you don’t want to eat them at once. They also make great jam.

Common growing problems

Raspberry beetle

Raspberry beetle is a common problem and can ruin a crop. The first sign of infestation is often small, brown, dried-up areas on the ripe fruit, near the stalk, where the grub of the beetle has been at work. The pale brown, hairy beetles are active between April and July, so put up traps, which attract, and then drown, the adults. This will reduce the numbers but won’t control them completely, so you can also spray the plants with a pyrethrum-based insecticide. Spray in the evening when fewer pollinators are around.

Read more about raspberry beetle.

Spur blight

Spur blight is a fungal disease that causes purple patches to appear on new canes. Cut out any infected canes.

Read more about spur blight.

Cane blight

Cane blight is another fungal disease. It causes leaves to wither and canes to die.  Cut out any infected canes.

Read more cane blight.

Botrytis (grey mould)

Botrytis causes the fruit to develop grey mould and rots. Consider covering plants when in blossom if heavy rain is predicted to keep them dry.

Read more about botrytis (grey mould).

Raspberry virus

Raspberry virus symptoms vary. If leaves develop yellow blotches or streaks, or canes and crop are clearly weakening, remove them and replant new canes elsewhere. 

Read more about virus.

Cane spot

Symptoms start as small purple spots on the canes in May or June. They gradually increase in size to form cankers which look like shallow white pits with a purple edge. The canes may die back, or produce distorted fruit.

Read more about cane spot.

Mineral deficiency

Leaves suffering from iron or magnesium deficiency can look like those with a virus infection. It is more likely to be a deficiency if all the plants are affected, regardless of variety, or if the problem occurs within the first year or two of planting. 

It is more likely to be a virus if the plants are also stunted or are distorted, and if the crop is very poor. Another factor that suggests a virus infection is when some varieties are affected more than others.

Read more about mineral deficiency.

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