Mmmm. Raspberries. I almost slip into a Homer Simpson-esque daze, with drool dripping out of my mouth thinking about them. Unfortunately it’s not time to eat them yet, but it IS time to get the plants ready for a productive season. Ever-bearing raspberries give two harvests a year which allow for months of being able to enjoy fresh raspberries.
There are two main different types of raspberries, “summer-bearing” and “ever-bearing”. I’ll be using the Heritage raspberries (an ever-bearing variety) I have in the BMF to discuss how to take care of them in the spring. Note these steps should work for any ever-bearing variety, but not the summer-bearer.
The raspberries have biennial canes which means they have a two-year life cycle. So the canes will grow from the ground in Year One and will fruit at the top portion of the cane. Then in Year Two the top portion dies off, and it fruits on the bottom portion of the cane instead. After this, there is no Year Three, only a raspberry cane that’s a shell of its former self.
So in Year One don’t worry about a thing, just watch the lil’ guy grow up and wait for the harvest in the fall.
Year Two is where it gets a bit more interesting. Any of the canes from the prior year need to have a haircut, in other words, a little taken off the top. You can see on the top where it fruited in Year One is now dried up in Year Two. If you follow the cane down to the next arrow you can tell where the transition is from live raspberry cane to dead raspberry cane. You also should be able to see budding leaves starting to come out of the live cane, like circled. Generally I will lop it off right above the strongest bud I see coming. Anywhere between the circle and arrow would be acceptable.
Year Three canes are pretty easy to identify as shown below, it should be obvious which is the dead one, and which the growing one. Dried and devoid of any life or green budding leaves, these canes will get cut down to a couple inches above ground level. Technically after the fruiting of the Year Two canes, you could remove these, but typically I have so much new growth around it, it is just easier to wait until the following spring to remove them.
So now that the dead canes are gone, and the top of the canes of Year Two growth has been removed, we are set to sit back and bask in the sun until we reap the hard-earned fresh raspberry rewards of our pruning prowess, right?
You might be able to get away with it the first couple years, but soon your lone raspberry plants you started with will grow too thick and can lead to various problems. The solution? Thin the herd! Note the below before and after picture of a section of the row I have. Try to find the healthiest, standing tall, canes to keep. Any that are sick looking, hunched over, or skinnier than a pencil are removed. If you end up with a couple canes every foot or so, that should be perfect. I know, I know, it doesn’t seem right to cut down perfectly good canes that will fruit. But we don’t want too many competing against each other for the summer harvest, or restricting growth of new canes for the fall harvest. Trust me, the sweet, sweet rewards of the raspberries will be worth it.
So there you go, simple steps to make sure your raspberries are ready for the season! If you have any questions or comments feel free to make them below. Oh, and if you’re wondering on what sort of pruning shears to use, I’ve tried a few, and so far these Fiskars Pruning Shears are my favorite to use.