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The best varieties of raspberries to grow and how to care for them

Val Bourne / 22 October 2014 ( 14 March 2017 )

Gardening expert Val Bourne advises on the best summer and autumn-fruiting varieties of raspberry to grow and explains how to grow and care for them.

Growing raspberries
The main thing to consider when choosing raspberries is whether you want summer or autumn-fruiting varieties

Raspberries crop in summer or autumn, depending on the variety. If you have the space it is sensible to grow a selection of varieties that crop at different times.

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.

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Choosing your raspberry varieties

Growing a mix of autumn and summer-fruiting raspberries will ensure a longer cropping season, but the different varieties have different needs.

Summer-fruiting raspberries

Summer raspberries need strong supports. They are pruned after fruiting, by thinning out the canes to leave the strongest five or six on each plant. Tip the canes back in late winter, by removing the tops by 15cm (6").

Collect up all the prunings carefully and either shred them or cut them up finely for the compost heap. Check all the ties and supports in winter, making repairs as necessary. After pruning, dig lightly through the soil to disturb any overwintering raspberry beetles. If you have chickens, get them to help.

Summer-fruiting raspberry varieties

Conveniently follows on from the strawberries, producing large, tasty fruit. Crops well.

‘Glen Ample’ AGM
This mid-season variety produces heavy crops of very large fruit on strong, spine-free, upright canes. Vigorous and disease resistant with bright-red fruits.

‘Glen Rosa’
A new mid-season, spine-free variety, producing an abundance of bright, high-quality, medium-sized fruit. Very disease-resistant, so ideal for organic production.

‘Malling Admiral’
The popular favourite, due to its excellent flavour and dark-red fruit. Quite a tall cane, although completely spine-free. Probably the best choice if you are restricted to one summer variety. Strong, disease-resistant and heavy cropping raspberry with excellent flavour.

‘Malling Jewel’
Tolerant to virus - but a moderate cropper.

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

'Ruby Beauty'
A dwarf thornless raspberry bush that grows to just 1m in height but can produce up to 1.5kg of fruit. Ideal for growing in containers.

Autumn-fruiting raspberries

These are the easier of the two to grow because their sturdy canes do not need staking like summer-fruiting varieties do. Autumn varieties are also less affected by raspberry beetle, which is more active when the summer varieties are fruiting. They crop well in drier gardens because they are fruiting in cooler autumnal conditions – something raspberries enjoy.

There are two ways to prune autumn-flowering raspberries. You can either cut all the canes back in early February to ground level, to produce a heavy autumn crop. Or you can leave half the canes intact so that the unpruned canes provide a June–July crop.

However, cutting them down completely in February promotes stronger growth in spring - producing more vigorous canes and a heavier crop.

Autumn-fruiting raspberry varieties

‘Autumn Bliss’ AGM
Firm, well-flavoured fruit that starts to ripen in August and carries on until late.

The earliest of the autumn-fruiting raspberries. Very aromatic and high-yielding with a clean fruity flavour.

‘Joan J’
Almost spine-free variety producing large red berries.

A yellow raspberry with a sweet flavour.

When to plant raspberry canes

Late March is an ideal time to plant raspberry canes.

Where to plant raspberry canes

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

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.

Try one of these delicious raspberry recipes

How to plant raspberry canes

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 1.8m or 6ft apart, spacing each individual cane 38cm or 15" apart.

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

Then cut them back to 30cm or 12" 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.

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.

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 raspberries

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

Visit our fruit and vegetable section for more growing guides

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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.