Raspberries are a wonderfully plump and juicy summer fruit that is a valuable addition to any garden. For me, raspberries have been an unexpected joy. Growing up I did not fancy raspberries, yet as I have got older I have found that I love drinks like raspberry tea or raspberry ice tea. It wasn’t until I went to a local event several years back, that a local berry farm was selling raspberry plants (in patio pots), that made me decide to give it a try. They are very easy to grow and I have discovered that I just love the taste of a just picked raspberry. There is nothing else like it!
Like blueberries and strawberries, when I have bought them from a store or farm market, they can be quite expensive for the small quantity and do not seem to have the same taste. And that is if you are lucky enough to enjoy them before they turn moldy.
I have three raspberry patio plants, all growing in container pots. This allowed me to continue on my quest to not only learn about growing three superfoods (strawberries, blueberries and raspberries), but to be self-reliant, to grow my own food naturally, all the while saving money. As I noted above, raspberries are easy to grow no matter what your garden consists of, whether it be a large or small, raised beds, containers, balcony or a rooftop garden. My experience and preference is to grow my berries in container pots.
So let’s talk about growing raspberries!
Types of raspberries. There are various types and varieties of raspberries. The most popular are the Summer red raspberries and Everbearing red raspberries. The Summer reds produce plump clusters in early to mid-summer on canes that grew the prior year. The Everbearing reds, which is what I grow, produce berries from mid-summer to fall on that season’s cane’s. In some cases, canes that survive winter can also bear a small crop in late spring. Some other varieties include Black raspberries, Golden raspberries, and Purple raspberries. Raspberry plants are considered a perennial plant.
When should you plant? Planting raspberries should be done in the Spring. Plants grown in containers should be planted after danger of frost has passed through to early summer.
How to Plant. Since we are focusing on container plants, you will want to put your pots in a location where they will have full sun or where the plant will receive morning sun and some afternoon shade. Raspberries do best and can produce for many years in fertile, in well drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Add lime and some compost if your soil is too acidic. For container pots, dig a hole larger and one inch deeper than the size of the pot. Place the root ball in the hole and fill, firming the soil to avoid air pocket around the root. Mulch with 1 to 2 inches of wood chips. If planting in the ground, space the plants about two feet apart in rows.
Growing Tips. Raspberries need 1 to 1.5 inches of water or rain water per week during the growing season. Drip irrigation or a soaker hose works well. If you water by hand, make sure the water penetrates the soil to a depth of six inches or more.
Mulching will help to keep weeds under control but some hand weeding will be necessary.
Fertilizing your raspberry plant(s) the first year with a time release fertilizer will provide fertility throughout the first season. For subsequent seasons, fertilize your raspberry plant in the March timeframe and again in May (for zones 3 to 7) with a application of compost. A critical time for extra nutrients is at blossoming and fruiting. Your raspberry plant will benefit from a water soluble fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro can be applied at blossoming and when the fruits are forming.
Pruning will need to take place. When the plant is between 18 to 24 inches, pinch out the very tip of the cane to encourage branching of the cane to provide a higher fruit yield.
Raspberries grow on what is referred to as canes. The canes are biennial, meaning they live for two years. My experience when using container pots, is to limit the amount of canes to three or four. Choose the largest diameter canes to be your fruiting canes. All others must be cut back to the soil level.
When the cane(s) emerge from the soil green in color, they will produce a crop in late summer to early fall and a second crop in late spring and early summer. As the cane ages the green cane turns to brown. To help remember when to prune: After fruiting if the cane is green, let it be. After fruiting if the can is brown, cut it down.
Supports will be needed for your new raspberry canes as they grow. Bamboo seems to work well and comes in several lengths. You can also obtain various style stakes from your local nursery. You can also build a trellis.
Pest Prevention. Raspberries are relatively pest and disease free. Most wildlife do not bother raspberries. The primary pest that may bother your raspberries will be birds. They just love to steal them once the berries ripen. To prevent birds from stealing the berries, cover your patch with some tulle or bird netting. Thornless varieties, which is what my patio pots consists of, may present more of a problem for homeowners with deer and rabbits. My experience keeping the patio containers closer to the house or shed tends to keep them away.
Harvesting and storing your raspberries. When berries are red and easily removed from the plant, they should be harvested. Daily harvest is best. If you have a presence of small black beetles in the fruit it is an indication that the fruit is not being harvested frequently enough.
Once picked, do not wash berries until you are ready to eat them. Raspberries freeze well. To freeze, wash, pat dry and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet, plate or shallow pan for about an hour, then transfer to freezer-safe containers and place in the freezer.
Why not give it a try? And don’t stop with raspberries, grow various fruits and vegetables in containers no matter how much space you have. For information on growing other fruits, check out our Growing Strawberries and Growing Blueberries Articles.
Feel free to send us pictures of your raspberries plants and any tips that you have used that may be helpful to others.