One of the best decisions I ever made in our home garden was adding raspberries! I love eating raspberries (low sugar!), but they are expensive and chances are, the container at the store has at least one bad berry, which was always a bummer. So a few years ago I decided to start growing my own raspberries at home, and they have done so well. Find out how to grow raspberries in your backyard, too!
Why grow raspberries at home
Raspberries are one of those special crops that don’t travel well and are best grown in your own backyard, or sourced locally. They are fantastic for your health as they are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and are naturally low in sugar.
They come in a variety of colors such as the more well known red and black varieties to even purple, yellow, or golden, each with their unique benefits. Adding a backyard raspberry patch (or side yard or front yard!) will help you save money at the grocery store, and ensure that the raspberries you and your family are consuming are the freshest possible! And did I mention, they not difficult to grow? It’s true!
Popular raspberry varieties to grow at home
- Kilarney– Super hardy and disease resistant, this delicious red raspberry is great for northern climates and produces fruit for 4-5 weeks.
- Boyne– Another northern favorite, this heavy yielding variety should give you plenty of berries for all of your raspberry jams and pies!
- Joan J– This fall bearing raspberry is delicious and produces a better harvest is pruned down in spring.
- Fall Gold– A lovely pale yellow color gives these berries a distinctive look! Fall bearing and extra large, these are sure to be a favorite!
How and when to plant raspberries
Let’s start at the beginning, because you always want to start out like you can hold out! The success of all plants and trees all starts with planting. This includes when, where, and how to plant raspberries, so here are the basics:
Best time of year to plant raspberries
Early spring is the best time to purchase raspberry plants as well as to get them in the ground. Source your plants from a reputable nursery if possible, to avoid purchasing diseased plants. (Confession: I did buy my red raspberry plants from the local grocery store, but they’ve turned out to be fantastic plants!) My black raspberries were ordered from Gurneys, and they’ve grown remarkably well.
Raspberries can be purchased either as dormant bare-root plants or potted plants. You can plant bare-root plants as soon as your soil can be worked, but you might want to wait on planting the potted plants till the danger of frost has passed. If you’re nervous about having success with bare root plants, then opt for the potted variety. All of our plants were bare root, and while they look like half-dead sticks, they really will grow into plants. Promise!
Choosing a location
Make sure to choose a sunny location to plant your raspberries. While raspberry plants will survive in partial shade, they will produce more fruit in full sun. Also, find a location that has well drained soil. If you can only find areas that are prone to standing water, consider planting in a raised bed or on a mound.
Try to avoid planting in a very windy location as the canes are sensitive to drying out, not to mention you would need a very strong support structure in order to keep them upright. Also avoid planting in an area where you are growing, or have recently grown, nightshades (such as potato, tomato, eggplant) as they are susceptible to verticillium wilt. To prevent soil-borne fungal disease, remove any nearby wild berries.
Preparing the soil for raspberries
As with any other plant that you are going to put into the ground, it is a good idea to have the soil tested for pH levels and fertility prior to planting. See my guide on building up garden soil and how to have it tested at your local cooperative extension office. Most berries prefer a pH of around 6.0. Raspberries like rich soil, so mix in some high quality compost with the soil in your chosen planting site.
Space your plants about 2-3 feet apart in rows that are 8-10 feet apart. Or, if you’re just using a single row, like I have, then stick to the 2-3 feet apart. Our raspberry plants are along the side of the house, so one row is plenty large enough for this area.
Plants should be set to the same depth or slightly deeper than they were in the nursery. When you plant, it is important to keep the crown of the plant 1 or 2 inches above the ground.
You will want some sort of irrigation for your raspberries during dry periods, and will need to water more regularly if planted in sandy soil. From the time the plant flowers until harvest the plants should receive from 1 to 1.5 inches of water a week. A rain gauge is a useful tool to help you know how much you need to water your plants in a given week. If you live in an area that’s prone to periods of drought, consider an irrigation system or a soaker hose set up for easy watering.
It is a good idea to add a nitrogen based fertilizer to enhance the growth of the plants. Adding 1-2 pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet of row is a general recommendation. Look for a good quality organic fertilizer such as Espoma or Jobe’s for your general fertilizing needs. (While these may not come in 10-10-10, they do have 4-4-4, which just means equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.)
It is a good idea to mulch around the base of your raspberry plants with some sort of organic material such as straw, chopped hay, or pine bark. This provides insulation to the roots, helps with water retention, cuts down on the weeds, and adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes.
Supports for Raspberry Plants
Raspberry plants require a support structure to protect from wind damage, bending and cracking, as well as to keep them under control. Raspberries left unchecked will become a huge bramble and spread wherever they please across your yard. That’s a no go.
A trellis system will keep your plants healthier and more productive as well as looking nice and easier to pick the fruit come harvest time. A simple trellis system of vertical posts with two horizontal slats that have wire taut between them is the classic raspberry trellis system. Be sure your wire is tight to support the weight of the canes, and you may need to rest your raspberry plants on the wires to help “train” them on where to lay. I’ll have a full post coming soon on how to build a simple raspberry trellis. So stay tuned!
When to harvest raspberries
Raspberries can be harvested from mid summer all the way through the first frost, depending on your variety and how they are pruned. You will know the raspberries are ready for picking when their color is developed and the fruit is plump and tender. The best time to harvest is when it is dry and cool.
Gently pull on a berry and if it doesn’t come off the plant easily, give it some more time to fully ripen. They usually ripen over a couple of weeks so simply pick them as they ripen. Use a shallow container to harvest this delicate fruit, and store in the fridge for a couple of days. Don’t wash until you are ready to eat them.
Other benefits of raspberry plants
Red raspberry leaf tea is another way to nutritionally benefit from this amazing plant. This herbal medicine has been used for centuries, mainly by women, to help with menstrual cramps as well as toning the uterus before and after childbirth. This tea is not exclusively used by women as it is high in antioxidants and many other nutrients, it also aids digestion. To make the tea you need to harvest and dry the leaves (use leaves from plants that have not yet bloomed), then break up and brew as you would any loose leaf tea. No, unfortunately it does not taste like raspberries, but you can always add some berries or juice to flavor your tea.
Note: I am not a medical professional, and I’ve never played on one tv. I personally drink raspberry leaf tea for the benefits listed above, but please consult your physician about drinking raspberry leaf tea, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or have any underlying health conditions.