The American red raspberry is an upright, deciduous, prickly shrub native to North America and Eurasia. It has been long cultivated for its juicy tasty red or yellow berries. Its many cultivars vary by fruit color, flavor, and harvest time. Plants produce canes that bear in their second year but also yield a first-year fall crop in the case of everbearing cultivars.
The pinnately compound leaves of this deciduous shrub are composed of five to seven leaflets, on average. Each leaflet is rich green, has prominent leaf veins and toothed edges. The upright canes are lined with thorns. New canes are produced via suckers that spread from the base of the plants. New canes typically do not produce flowers in the first year but fruit and flower in the second. The white, five-petaled flowers are produced in spring and fruits appear in summer or fall. Bees and other insects are the chief pollinators. The red, thimble-like, aggregate fruits are juicy, sweet and much loved be people and wildlife alike.
Red raspberries grow best in full sun and well-drained, moderately fertile soil. They cold winters and gradual springs to flower and fruit well. Partial shade and cool mulch may be required for plants grown where summers are hot. Prune second-year canes to the ground in fall and pull and cut back any suckers that have outgrown their designated growing space.
No culinary garden is complete without a well-maintained row of sweet, red raspberry bushes. The shrubs can be trellised to keep them more manageable and easier to maintain.
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Perennial – Fruit
Select a site in full sun; avoid low-lying areas where frosty air will accumulate. Eliminate perennial weeds, preferably with a cover crop planted 1 year in advance. Destroy neighboring wild raspberries or blackberries to prevent disease from spreading to your plants.
Plant in late winter or early spring. Set plants in the garden an inch or two deeper than previously grown. Space plants 3 feet apart in rows 6 to 7 feet apart. Allow red and yellow raspberries to fill in a hedgerow not more than 2 feet wide (some purples will also create a hedgerow); blackcaps and most purples will remain as separate plants. Cut black raspberry canes back to ground level; leave an 8-inch handle on others. Water well.
Keep the aisles between rows tilled bare or plant grass and keep it mowed. Cultivate to control weeds early the first summer, then mulch thickly. Once the plants are established, maintain a layer of mulch 4 to 8 inches deep year-round. Dig or till up suckers that spread beyond row boundaries. Erect a T-trellis if your canes don’t stand up on their own. Different types of raspberries require different types of pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension office for information on pruning, as well as on managing pests in your area, which may include cane borers, crown borer, and anthracnose disease.
Pick in the morning when fruits and plants are dry and cool. Carry the berries in shallow trays because they are easily crushed. They are also highly perishable and need to be stored in a cool, dry place.