Growing Raspberries Organically for Raspberry Jam, Wine, Jelly, Tart ...

Autumn is the time to think about growing raspberries, especially if you live in zones 3-9 in the USA. I have to confess I am a raspberry addict! Raspberry yogurt, shakes, smoothies, raspberries for breakfast, jam recipes, jelly recipes, and even raspberry vinegar is delicious and can all be made with your homegrown raspberries.

If you have ever tasted the flaccid, tasteless raspberries you get in the supermarkets, and eating raspberries freshly picked from your gardens and homesteads, there is a very big difference! This is because raspberries lose their taste, color and texture hours after being picked.

Raspberries need far more packaging than usual because they don’t travel well, and are really not suited for supermarket sales. Raspberry plants are hardy, easy to grow, quick to produce a harvest and grow well with little care and fuss.

Therefore well worth the effort of the initial set up of stakes and trellis wire when growing raspberries organically on your farms, homesteads and backyards. In this growing guide we will show you how to grow raspberries successfully no matter where you live. In fact, raspberries can be grown anywhere, from the Arctic to the equator! With over 200 different types of raspberries you are spoiled for choice.

Growing Raspberries Successfully

growing organic raspberries

Freshly picked organic raspberries

Raspberries are cane-growing plants that grow 1.5 – 2.25 m high and grow well in neutral to slightly acidic soil that is rich in humus but also well-drained. They do not do well in land that retains a lot of moisture, nor do they do well in alkaline soils. If the soil is too wet, the plant will develop root rot.

To increase the acidity in the soil make sure that well-rotted compost has been planted before starting. Raspberries also do not like lime, so do not add this to your compost or use mushroom compost.

By planting the canes in late fall, early winter and by planting early, mid and late season cropping cultivars you can have raspberries throughout the summer and fall months. If you look after your plants they can carry on producing until they are about many years old.

There are both yellow and red varieties, but the yellow fruit is milder in taste, and I have to say that I prefer the red raspberries. There are also orange,  black and purple varieties.

Yields of Raspberries per Acre

When looking at yields per acre you can expect 4000 pounds per acre of red raspberries as opposed to 2000 pounds per acre of the black varieties. On average you can expect 60 - 70 pints of fruit per 100 foot row.

Growing Raspberries: How many Raspberry Plants should you Plant?

Do not plant your raspberry plants in an area where either raspberries or strawberries have been planted before, for at least 6 years. This is to prevent picking up soil-borne diseases.

If you want to make jams and jellies, and pies with the excess fruit, then you should plant between 15-20 plants per person in your family.

Growing Raspberries: How to Plant and Care for your Raspberry Plants?

If you are planting bare-rooted stock you will need to pre-soak these in water that as some seaweed fertilizer added to the water. Soak for 30 minutes before planting out. The seaweed acts as a tonic and will give your canes a good boost. When you plant them make sure that you plant them at the same height as they had been planted before, by using the soil line as a guide.

If you buy canes that are in bags of soil from your local garden shop or supplier, make sure that these are not in leaf already. Buying them when they are already in leaf will result in damaging your plants as you try to separate them at planting.

Dig a trench and fill with well-rotted farmyard manure and compost. I also add a handful of blood and bone at intervals down the trench and sprinkle it on the soil and dig in well.

Plant the canes in rows from north to south so that they can get enough sunlight 2 meters apart. When planting the raspberry canes in the rows themselves space them at 40-45 cm apart. The plants themselves should not have their roots more than 5 cm below the soil line.

The raspberry canes will need support. The best way of supporting them is by placing supporting posts 2-3 meters apart use stranded wire either in 2 or 3 strands for the canes to grow up against. The strands can be spaced at 1m, 1.5m and 2m for support. You really don’t want them to get beyond 2 meters, so once they get to this height, cut the tops of to contain them at this height.

Once planted, mulch the new plants to keep the roots cool, but not up against the canes themselves as this will cause disease. Raspberries enjoy a protected site that will receive afternoon shade.

When the flowers appear in the spring take 4.5L of water and add 2 teaspoons of Epsom salts and 2 teaspoons Sulfate of Potash. This will give a boost to the plants by supplying magnesium and potassium. Magnesium is important for producing energy, and potassium is important for protecting the plants against disease, and to improve the flavor of the berries.

As the canes grow, support with string, plastic training clips or even jiffy ties work just as well.

If you look after your raspberry plants well enough, you will be able to harvest the berries for about 10 -15 years. After that production starts to slow and you would be better to remove the canes and replace them with new plants. However, having said that, I know of one family who successfully harvested raspberries from plants that were 30 years old.

Growing Raspberries: Pruning Raspberry Plants

Leave the canes of summer-fruiting raspberries unpruned in their first year; they will bear next season’s crop. In the second year and following years, once all the fruit has been picked, cut all the fruited canes only down to ground level.

Raspberries produce fruit on canes from the previous year. Once they have borne their fruit, the canes will look a little worse for wear, and well-spent. These need to be pruned at ground level, and the green canes need to be tied onto the stakes to ensure good growth.

Ensure that all canes are tied into the wire or posts so that there are none on the ground. Any dead canes should be pruned at ground level as well as any shoots that are weak. You want to leave about 10-12 strong canes per meter, and remove any canes that are growing far away from the parent plant. Mulch the plants with well-rotted compost every fall and with cut Lucerne in the spring. Water the plants well, particularly when the weather is hot and dry and the fruit are forming. Once the fruit appears, feed with a seaweed fertilizer to give your plants a tonic.

Autumn-fruiting raspberries are simpler to prune: every year, including the first year, cut all the canes to the ground once fruiting is over. After pruning remove any old mulch.

Growing Raspberries is for the Birds!

Growing raspberries for your family is one thing, but growing raspberries for the local bird population is another. In order to protect your crop from marauding birds you will need to drape netting over the bushes. This needn’t be expensive. One can use cheap net curtaining but make sure that what you have chosen will still allow enough light into your raspberry plants.

Growing Raspberries - Fungus Attacks, Beetles and Viruses

raspberry beetleRaspberry Beetle (seen left). For some, birds are not the only problem. Raspberries can be attacked by the raspberry beetle, also called the raspberry fruit worm, which lays eggs which then later turn into small worms, or maggots which burrow into the fruit and eat the berries.

The raspberry beetle isn’t very big, but you will notice it immediately when you see it. It is reddish-brown in color and has short hairs covering its body.

By looking at the leaves at mid-spring it will be obvious 

Raspberry Beetle  

that the beetle is present as the leaves will be eaten away in multiple strips inside the leaf boundary. The amount of damage to the leaves will indicate to you how bad the infestation is. Once your berries are infested those that have brown-grey patches at the top edges are the ones that have been affected.

The worst of it is that after the worms pupate they fall to the soil and remain there until the following spring. For those of you are not too fussed by the worms, you can soak the berries in some salty water for about 5 - 10 minutes. This flushes the worms out and the berries can then be used. For those of you who don’t like the idea, and I am one of them, I have to confess, then you will need to apply a natural insecticide like Neem to your raspberry plants to prevent damage by this beetle.

You can also use pheromone traps to allure the beetles. These can be placed at regular intervals along the rows and emptied periodically.

Growing Raspberries and Fungal Attack

Another problem with growing raspberries is a fungal attack that grows on the canes in patches. You can see patches around the buds that start off as purple and then later turn silver and finally spreading so that the upper canes die of. This is a problem that develops during a particularly wet summer. The only option is to cut out the affected areas and to burn the cuttings.

Growing Raspberries and Grey Mold

Grey mold can also affect raspberries when the weather is wet. It starts off as a grey fuzz that appears on the fruit and spreads where fruit is clustered close together. The best way to deal with this is to remove the bunches of fruit, and open up the rest of the fruiting areas by removing a large number of the leaves that are forming canopies that cause conditions that are too humid for the plants’ success. By removing the leaves, you allow more air to circulate and you allow more sun to get to the fruit.

Growing Raspberries and Mosaic Virus

Finally, watch out of plants that appear to be struggling to grow, are not producing as many berries as they should and which has tell-tale irregular yellow patches on the leaves. If you are not sure what it is, and you think that it is a mineral deficiency give them a good dowsing of the Epsom salts tonic mentioned below.

However, watch closely, and if your plants do not improve after this application then it is almost certain that you your raspberry plants have the Mosaic virus. There is no alternative, once this has been established, then to remove the plants completely by digging them out and burning them.

Growing Raspberries: Harvesting your Raspberry Crop

You will not get your berries all in one go, they will ripen over many weeks and therefore you will need to visit your plants often to check when they need to be harvested.

If you have planted the summer variety, rather than the fall variety you will be harvesting your berries in July and August, if you live in the northern hemisphere. Make sure that your hands are well protected from the thorns as picking the berries can be a painful experience if you are careless. Take the fruit and gently squeeze it, without damaging the structure of the berry, and pull.

Growing Raspberries and How to Store Them

Raspberries are very fragile and don’t keep very well. Therefore, it is better to eat the fruit within 2 days after it has been picked and refrigerated straight away. Pick, rinse gently and pat dry. Place on a paper towel-lined container with more paper toweling on the top to absorb any moisture. Eat as soon as possible. Raspberries can be frozen. Make your jams, jellies, smoothies, shakes, tarts etc. as soon as you can after picking your berries to maintain the flavor. 

See more information on preserving food and your raspberries.

Growing Raspberries for Health Benefits

This fruit is rich in Vitamin C, A, B1, B2, B6, C, E and K, manganese, fiber and high in antioxidants. They are also rich in folic and nicotinic acid and omega-3. Raspberries are considered on of the top superfoods due to their high levels of antioxidants.

Growing Raspberries and Using your Excess Raspberries

Use in pies, jam recipes, jelly recipes, shakes, vinegars, wines, canning recipes, ice cream recipes, baking and sauces. Also use them in making yogurt.

Of course you can also find wild raspberries as edible wild plants!

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