If you have a garden or even just a small terrace, growing raspberries can be an interesting and easy idea to realize.
The raspberry is a plant that belongs to the group of small fruits, which are highly appreciated for the beauty of their colors and for their nutritional value and vitamin.
Delicious to taste, they can be used to prepare cakes, jams, fruit salads, syrups and excellent ice cream. They can also be frozen, without losing any characteristic of taste and nutrients.
Raspberry is an easy plant to grow and requires very little care and space.
It is also a shrub that can enhance areas of the garden unsuitable for other crops, because it produces in shady areas. It can, therefore, embellish the edges of the garden or a corner of the terrace.
Botanical and General Characteristics
The raspberry belongs to the botanical family of berries, that of Rosaceae, genus Rubus.
The most cultivated species in our country is Rubus idaeus, red in colour, but there are also yellow or purple varieties.
The raspberry, which grows spontaneously in the undergrowth of the Alpine and pre-Alpine areas, has the shape of a bushy shrub and reaches, in general, 1-2 meters in height.
The plant is composed of a very superficial root system and an aerial part formed by shoots and suckers.
The suckers are the new shoots, have a light green colour and are covered with small thorns. They start growing in spring and remain herbaceous for months, then they lignify and become shoots. The latter have small mixed buds, which are then those that will give the fruit.
Raspberries in Bloom and Unified Raspberries
Depending on the period of fructification, the raspberry plant is distinguished into unified or re-flowering.
The raspberry of the unified type bears fruit on shoots sprouted the previous year and produces only once a year.
The unified raspberry has a production cycle of two years. In the first year the suckers grow and become completely lignified at the end of autumn. In the second year, in spring, the suckers become fruiting shoots that originate lateral ramifications, which bear fruit during the summer. During the autumn, the fruiting shoots dry up and new shoots are born.
The re-flowering raspberry also has a production cycle of two years, but produces twice a year.
The first time in early autumn, at the end of the growing season, it bears fruit on the apical part of the shoots sprouted in the same year. Then the apical part of the shoots dries up and the following year, in June-July, the part underneath the vegetative apex will give its second fructification.
There are many varieties of raspberries, both unifying and re-flowering.
The most widely grown species in Italy is the red raspberry, but there are also yellow, purple or black.
The red and yellow ones have a sweeter taste, the purple one is very aromatic and suitable for deep-freezing, the black one is more full-bodied, but also more difficult to grow, because it is delicate and more prone to disease. There is also a spiny variety, Glen Moy.
Among the unified varieties we find:
- The Latham raspberries, with dark and round fruits.
- Meeker raspberries, dark red in colour and very sweet, with the highest sugar content.
- I Willamette, firm and with a slightly sour taste.
- Brandywine raspberries with large fruits, dark purple in colour.
- Black Hawk raspberries, black and very juicy.
Instead, among the re-blooming varieties:
- The medium-sized, dark red Amity raspberries are firm and fragrant.
- The Fall Gold raspberries, sweet raspberries with a golden yellow hue.
- The Sumo 2 raspberries, with the largest fruits.
- Marastar raspberries, with very large dark red fruits with excellent taste quality.
A good idea could be to cultivate together several varieties, which bear fruit at different times of the year, so you can have a diversification in the harvest and fresh raspberries throughout the growing season.
The Cultivation of Raspberries
Growing raspberries is not very demanding. All you need to do is know the characteristics of the plant and consider its needs in the best possible way.
The raspberry is a rustic shrub that grows spontaneously in the undergrowth of mid-mountain areas.
It therefore needs a mild, cool climate and fears high temperatures and excessive sun exposure.
It is a species resistant to winter cold and adapts to frequent rains.
Its ideal location is in an area of mid-shade, sheltered from strong winds, which, rushing on the branches, can ruin them. Excellent near a hedge or the sides of a structure.
The raspberry adapts well to any soil, with a preference for fairly acidic soils, capable to retain the humidity for long time and rich of organic substance, even partially undecomposed, which, in the wood, its natural habitat, is naturally furnished by the fallen leaves.
Surely it does not grow well with a clayey and compact soil, too calcareous, not very draining, which could create radical asphyxia.
It is better not to cultivate raspberries in a soil that has already hosted crops of other berries or roses, such as strawberries and roses.
These, in fact, might have impoverished the soil and, therefore, might cause the onset of pathogenic fungi or parasites.
To ensure good productivity of your raspberry plant, you need to fertilize the soil before planting it.
The most effective fertilization is certainly organic fertilization.
4-8 kg of mature manure per square metre, or even earthworm humus or domestic compost, should be buried at the foot of the plant.
This choice, surely more ecological, is, however, more expensive. You can then opt for chemical fertilization, using ammonium sulfate, calcium nitrate or urea. If you have a soil with a high acidity, add granular sulfur as well.
Raspberries also need a maintenance fertiliser, to be carried out once a year, using natural or mineral fertilisers.
If you choose chemical nitrogen fertilisation, you should do so in the spring so as not to compromise autumn sucker growth.
It is advisable to intervene with a mulching operation in spring, at the time of the vegetative recovery, to protect the roots of the raspberry plant, which are very extensive and superficial.
Mulching consists of covering the soil at the base of the plant with straw or other organic materials.
This practice prevents moisture accumulation, frost attacks and the proliferation of weeds.
If you want to start growing raspberries, you can get either bare-root suckers or small potted plants already formed.
Raspberry sold bare-root should be planted during the dormancy period, i.e. at the end of the autumn months.
The transplanting of potted plants into the ground can also be done in spring.
- Dig holes that are not too deep and about 40-50 cm wide. You should know that raspberries grow in fairly dense bushes and that their roots produce numerous buds, which expand and give rise to new branches, far from the original plant. Therefore, keep the holes 70-80 cm apart and the rows 2-2.5 m apart.
- Place mature manure or compost at the bottom of the hole, together with other organic fertilizers such as the horn, for example.
- Plant the raspberry in the hole at the base of the first branches, without burying it too much, so that the new buds can reach the surface more easily.
- Fill the hole with previously removed soil. Cover the roots well, but be careful not to bury the leaves.
- Water so that the roots and soil are compact and air pockets do not form. If the roots are not completely wrapped in earth, they risk not receiving enough nutrients and therefore drying up.
In addition, in order to promote optimal cultivation, it is advisable to provide supports on which the plant can envelop itself.
- Place 2.50 m high wooden or iron poles in the same row, 2 m apart.
- Pass wire between the poles parallel to the ground at different heights.
- Tie the suckers to this scaffold so that it helps the plant to develop and prevents the heavy vegetation or wind from bending and breaking the shoots.
For a good cultivation of raspberries you must provide regular and constant watering.
Raspberry plants do not require much water and are afraid of waterlogging.
Watering every two weeks is fine, but if the summer is very dry and dry, additional watering can be provided.
In general, more attention should be paid to irrigation immediately after planting the plants, in spring, at the time of vegetative recovery, during the flowering period and especially in the middle of summer, during the growth of the fruits.
In autumn, after the harvest, the irrigations can be thinned, in order to favour the ripening of the branch and the development of new suckers.
It is important not to wet the flowers and the fruits, in order to avoid the appearance of mould. For this reason, a good system is to provide a drip irrigation system to be placed on the ground or under the mulch.
Raspberry pruning is an essential operation, very easy to carry out, which must be done every year.
It consists of removing dry, damaged or diseased parts, removing the shoots that have borne fruit and eliminating weak shoots and unproductive branches.
For this reason, pruning changes according to the variety of plant.
- For uniform raspberry varieties, the shoots that have borne fruit in the summer must be removed in the autumn, when they are completely dry. Then, the new shoots are thinned, selvedging the extremities and leaving the most robust ones.
- For the varieties of re-flowering raspberries, which bear fruit twice, in autumn, the apical part of the productive branches is eliminated. These then, after having reproduced in the median part in the following summer, are eliminated at the base.
Cultivation of the Raspberry in Pot
The raspberry can also be grown in pots.
The pot must contain at least 15 litres of peat or very permeable soil.
Potted plants can be planted all year round.
Fruits only grow on young branches, so they need to be cut off at the base in autumn. In summer, however, only the strongest suckers will be left on the plant.
Check the ripening of the raspberry fruits every day and pick them up when they become dark and firm. Avoid that they fall to the ground, where they could ferment and cause the appearance of the dangerous grey mold, the worst enemy of the raspberry.
Even insects and birds are fond of this juicy fruit. Maybe think about setting up a protective net or a scarecrow.