One of the most sought-after summer fruits, the home-grown raspberry can be of a size, colour, texture, juiciness and flavour unknown in the supermarkets, so well worth growing, especially as you can count on about 1½lb of fruit every 30cm (12in) of a row!
Rasberry bushes are called canes. They prefer moisture-retentive but well-drained (never waterlogged) fertile, slightly acidic soils, and will fail on shallow, chalky soils. They tolerate part shade, but for crop-size and flavour plant in a sheltered, sunny position. Plant them any time during the dormant season between November and March, as long as the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.
Raspberries thrive best when close together in dense rows, the canes only 35cm-45cm (14in-18in) apart, and the rows (ideally running north to south, so they don’t shade each other), 1.8m (6ft) apart. Although you may be tempted to try several of the gorgeous varieties we stock, stick to either summer or autumn fruiting in any one row so they can all be pruned at the same time.
Dig a wide trench, no less than a spade deep, and break up the bottom with a fork. Spread a 10cm (4in) layer of garden compost or well-rotted manure, adding one heaped trowelful of bone meal for every metre (3ft) of length. Sink a couple of tall, stout posts at each end of the row and at 5m (15ft) intervals, and string with sturdy galvanized wire at 60cm (2ft) parallels to support the canes in summer. Backfill the trench and leave it to settle for a couple of weeks before planting your canes.
Newly planted raspberry canes should be cut back to a bud about 30cm (12in) above the ground in March. March is also the month each year when you should apply a slow-release general fertiliser, at 34g per sq m (1oz per sq yd), followed by a mulch of well-rotted organic matter. Keep raspberries well watered during dry periods and tie the canes 8 –10cm (3–4in) apart to the wire supports. A good tip is to keep fruiting canes on one side of the fence and young new canes on the other, so that in autumn, the fruited canes can easily be pruned out.
After harvesting, ruthlessly cut back the fruited canes of summer-fruiting raspberries, to ground level. Select 6 or 8 of the strongest young canes per plant, and tie them to the wire, then cut back the remaining young stems to ground level.
For autumn-fruiting raspberries, cut back all the canes to ground level in February, and only reduce the number of canes slightly in summer if they are very overcrowded.
If you have a small garden you can still grow raspberries! Either plant two or three plants in the soil and train them up a single post. Or grow them in 38cm (15in) diameter containers using an 80% multipurpose and a 20% loam-based potting compost mix. Then train the canes up bamboo poles. Use rainwater to keep the compost and feed with a liquid general-purpose fertiliser every month of the growing season.
Newly introduced, the dwarf variety of raspberry is worth trying in pots. We have this variety of raspberry called Ruby Beauty in stock from time to time and it shows great promise! It is thornless, grows just 1 metre high and can yield up to 1.5 kg of raspberry fruit per plant!
Other varieties to try are the yellow or red version of Sugana. These have the distinct advantage of cropping twice per year!
Black raspberries are supposed to be a super-fruit and have a much higher content of anti-oxidants than normal raspberries. They certainly look different on your plate and do taste good too! The variety that we have from time to time is Black Jewel Raspberry.
There’s more information on growing more unusal and new varieties of rasprberry plants here.