How to grow raspberries

Val Bourne

Acclaimed gardening writer, Val Bourne, advises on how to grow raspberries.

I find the simplest of all soft fruit to grow are autumn-fruiting raspberries.

Autumn-fruiting raspberries crop heavily from August until mid-October, when soft fruit is often scarce, and the good-sized berries are full of flavour as well as being highly nutritious. Raspberries contain lots of Vitamin C plus other antioxidants, flavonoids and potassium. They can be eaten raw, they make jam in less than five minutes (if the fruit is very fresh) and they freeze tolerably well too.

When buying all fruit it is much better to go to a specialist fruit nursery, such as Ken Muir, as their stock is certified as virus-free every year.

They will also have a greater range of modern varieties and they will be able to give you excellent advice. Don’t just settle for a plastic-wrapped bundle of canes at the local garden centre - they will often disappoint.

When to plant

Late March is an ideal time to plant raspberry canes.

Where to plant

Raspberries come from northern Europe and prefer cooler summers – which is why they often do well in Scotland.

Raspberries do tend to wander away from the row, so they need firm control. Chop out any unwanted canes in early spring just as they appear.

All raspberries prefer well-drained soil, a sheltered site and rainfall when they crop. Choose a warm, sheltered position to encourage more flower. This also ensures that lots of pollinators visit the crop.

If you live in the drier south-east corner then Autumn varieties will probably do better than summer ones, so long as they are watered enough in dry August weather.

How to plant

To plant raspberries, first prepare the soil well by digging it deeply and then allow it to settle. If you are on damp, heavy ground make a raised bed by mounding the earth up along the row before planting.

Plant canes in rows that are 1.8 m or 6ft apart, spacing each individual cane 38cm or 15in apart.

Double rows are often best. Spread the roots of the new canes out and plant them 3-4 inches deep.

Then cut them back to 30cm or 12in to prevent wind rock - thus allowing the cane to root well. If space is limited, just plant a group of canes in a circle.

Supporting raspberry canes

Once the canes develop fruit they can become top heavy and flop so you will need to support the canes.

The traditional method is to use sturdy upright supports at the ends of the rows and spread wire between them. This is a tricky process and over the months the wire always becomes slack.

Make it easy

There are two good products that will help make the job easier. One is Gripple and this system uses thick plastic-coated wires threaded through a tightening device that allows you to tension the wires properly ( Haxnicks ( also sell bendy soft tie in various thicknesses. This allows you to bend flexible ties round each cane without fear of stem damage. It comes in green and brown. Both make the job infinitely easier and quicker.

Caring for raspberries

Mulching with partially-rotted grass clippings keeps the soil cool and moist. Water well in dry August weather.

When and how to prune

Pruning is also easy. Just cut the canes right down to the ground every spring because the fruit is produced on new wood. Once the canes are cut, dig lightly through the soil to disturb any raspberry beetle larvae.

Raspberries wander away from the row and they need firm control. Chop out any unwanted canes in early spring just as they appear.

When to feed

Feed raspberries an annual feed in spring with a compound fertiliser like Nitrate of Potash or Growmore. Or mulch with well-rotted manure.

Raspberry varieties

Top varieties include ‘Autumn Bliss’ and a French one called ‘Galante’.

‘Glen Moy’

A heavy cropper which resists aphid attack and is therefore less likely to suffer from viruses. Not for wet soil though.

‘Malling Jewel’

Tolerant to virus - but a moderate cropper

‘Glen Ample’

Vigorous and disease resistant with bright-red fruits

‘Malling Admiral’

Strong, disease-resistant and heavy cropping raspberry with excellent flavour.

For a more detailed explanation of the difference between autumn-fruiting and summer-fruiting varieties of raspberries, read Val Bourne's guide to raspberry varieties.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.