Berries and Brambles Series: Getting Started with Raspberry

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Raspberry plants tend to grow quite well in Northern Illinois. You'll find raspberry plants at many fruit and vegetable farms in our area. Unlike blueberry and strawberry plants which tend to stay intact based on their growth habits, raspberry plants are a prickly shrub with long canes that the fruit will be produced on. Known as brambles, they produce primocanes in the first year which become known as floricanes the second year. The floricanes will produce the crop. Raspberry plants are going to continually add primocanes each year so it's important when it comes to pruning to be mindful of which are primocanes or floricanes.

Raspberries come as red, black, purple, and yellow fruit which can further be distinguished by everbearing or summer bearing. Summer bearing will produce one crop of berries on 2 year old canes in early to mid-summer. Everbearing has 2 crops of fruit on each cane. The first crop will be at the tip of the cane in the fall of 1st year while a 2nd crop on rest of cane the following summer. Purple and black raspberries are summer bearing while red and yellow are either summer or everbearing.

For red, summer bearing types, recommended varieties include Boyne, Killarney, Lathan, and Liberty. Red, everbearing varieties recommended for the area include Heritage, Redwing, and Ruby. If wanting to growing yellow raspberries, Goldie and Amber are good choices while Brandywine and Royalty are good choice for purple raspberries. Each of these recommended varieties will need further research as there may be some additional growth characteristics that you need to consider.

For planting the raspberry plants, they need full sun, good drainage, and good air flow. The soil pH should be between 6 to 6.8. Spacing for the raspberry plants will vary due to the variety you've chosen but it typically 2-4 ft between plants. Raspberry plants benefit from mulching by managing weeds, reducing disease pressure, and keeping soil moisture in. Woodchips, hay, straw, and some leaves can be appropriate choices although you'll need to add material each year.