Raspberries are part of the large Rosaceae family and belong to the few fruit species that we can call native. The raspberries cultivated in our gardens mostly originate from the European forest raspberry (Rubus idaeus). The cultivars ripening in summer thrive like the closely related forest raspberry up to an altitude of 1,400 metres. The raspberry was first mentioned as a garden plant around 1500, when it was increasingly cultivated as a medicinal plant in monastery gardens.
There are two types of raspberry bushes: On the one hand, there are remoning varieties called “twotimer” raspberries (autumn raspberries) and on the other hand, there are nonremoning raspberries called “summer raspberries”. The summer raspberries have a two-year development cycle. This means that they bloom on the rods formed in the previous year and produce fruit in early and midsummer. Autumn raspberries develop in a shorter period of time. Already from July of the first year their young rods form flowers in the upper third of the shoots. From August to October the fruits ripen gradually. The shoots on which the fruit was previously hung then die. The lower part of the rods, on the other hand, remains vital.
Depending on the variety, raspberry bushes grow to between one and two and a half metres in height. From a strong rootstock, the raspberry bush annually develops new, tightly upright to slightly overhanging shoots, which usually branch from the second year onwards and then also bear flowers and fruit. Rubus idaeus multiplies by flat, creeping runners, which separate from the mother plant after some time and then continue to grow. The shoots of the raspberry bush are covered with long, thin spines and carry feathered alternate leaves, the five subleaves of which usually have a toothed edge and a conspicuously white felt underside. Some new raspberry varieties also have prickly shoots. From May to June/July white, nodding, hermaphroditic flowers appear in panicle-like inflorescences.
Depending on the variety, round, conical or elongated fruits are formed. They are slightly bristly, hairy and often have tyres. Depending on the variety, the colour ranges from apricot and pink to dark red tones. Although the name suggests that raspberries are berries, botanically they are actually aggregate fruits composed of many small spherical and intergrown stone fruits.
Location and soil
The raspberry bush thrives best in a sunny and wind-protected location in the garden. The prerequisite for healthy, vigorous growth is a humus-rich, loamy, deep soil. On the other hand, extremely heavy, compacted soils in which waterlogging can easily occur are unsuitable.
Be sure to plant genuine and virus-free raspberry bushes with strong buds. Choose a place in the garden where there have been no raspberries, blackberries or bayberries before. Before planting potted raspberry bushes in October/November, loosen the soil and work rotten compost or humus-rich plant soil into the soil. Calculate with about 20 to 40 liters per running meter. If the soil in your garden is very dense, it is better to plant your raspberries on dams about 50 centimetres high. A planting distance of 40 centimetres is ideal for the shrubs to develop well. The basic buds of the raspberry bush should be about five centimetres high and covered with soil. Since the roots of the shrub dry out quickly, they should be planted quickly after purchase and then watered thoroughly.
Raspberry bushes need some care to thrive and develop their delicious fruits. Since raspberries belong to the flat root family and are equally sensitive to dryness and waterlogging, you should always mulch the planting bed, preferably with ripe compost, which at the same time regulates the supply of nutrients and heat. Also make sure you have a sufficient and regular water supply, especially during dry periods, without waterlogging. As far as fertilization is concerned, raspberries are sufficient. Provide the raspberry bushes with sufficient compost, especially from March onwards. Organic berry fertilizer, horn shavings or a chloride-free mineral long-term fertilizer are also suitable. Apply the fertilizer carefully and work the soil rather superficially so that the flat root system of the raspberry bushes is not damaged. Tip: Immediately after planting you should cut the existing rods back to about 20 to 30 centimetres in length, this promotes rod formation in the following year.
Education and editing
Planting in rows is recommended – however, the shrubs need sufficient support. A wire frame is particularly suitable for summer raspberries, where the bushes are well exposed to the sun and ventilated. Before planting, it is easiest to ram a pole firmly into the ground next to the place for the first and last plant and cover it with two wires. You should attach the lower wire at a height of one meter, the second at about 1.60 meters. The raspberry rods are tied to it. The fruits ripen on last year’s rods: That’s why you have to cut the raspberry rods after the harvest. Place the scissors just above the ground. Two-bearing varieties remain lower and can sometimes manage without support.
In this video we show you how to build a raspberry trellis by yourself.Credit: our store/Alexander Buggisch / Producer Karina Nennstiel & Dieke van Dieken
In addition, a V-shape has proven itself, on whose diagonally outward facing sides the fruiting shoots are attached with their ends. This has the advantage that the young, vertically developing shoots, which in the case of the single-bearing varieties will not produce fruit until next year, are between this year’s and this year’s and thus do not interfere with the harvest. In spring, the rods are shortened about a hand’s width above the top tensioning wire. For strongly growing summer varieties such as ‘Meeker’ or ‘Willamette’, the green young rods should be thinned out in May. Eight to twelve medium-thick shoots are left standing per running metre, and thin or very thick rods are removed. After harvesting, all the dark and already woody raspberries are cut off just above the ground in summer raspberries. The shoots newly formed this summer are then tied to the scaffold. If the rods are too long, you can shorten them by about a hand’s width above the upper tension wire. With autumn raspberries you can cut all the rods in early spring just above the ground.
Harvesting and recycling
Depending on the variety, the raspberries are harvested from the end of June to the beginning of September. Then the fruits of the double-bearing varieties also begin to colour for the first time. Since the start of ripening also depends on the location and weather, the start of harvesting can vary from year to year. Harvest the raspberries only fully ripe. This is the case when they are easily detached from the soil (“cones”) and can be easily removed. Raspberries contain many minerals, vitamins and little fruit acid, which is why they taste so sweet. The fruits can be eaten fresh or processed into jam, jelly, syrup or compote. They are also suitable as a cake topping, for desserts and as an addition to fresh summer salads. Berries cannot be stored for long and should be consumed or processed as quickly as possible. In our video we show you how to make delicious raspberry jam with little effort – in case you have harvested more than you can eat directly.
Homemade jam an absolute pleasure. In this video we show you how to do it.Credit: our store/Alexandra Tistounet / Alexander Buggisch
In addition to colour, taste and appearance, raspberry varieties are particularly influenced by the time of ripening. One of the unique raspberry varieties is ‘Rutrago’, a variety that grows strongly and ripens in July. The fruits are large and relatively firm. Or ‘Schönemann’, a traditional and strongly growing variety with dark red and long to conical fruits. The proven variety delivers sweet and aromatic raspberries. Malahat’ has hardly any spiny rods and is robust against diseases. The berries ripen in June and July and are firm, large, aromatic and dark red. Himbostar’ is a summer variety with a medium early ripening period. The berries are conical to rounded, medium red and have a distinct sweet-sour aroma. The variety delivers a good yield.
Willamette’, which is recommended for organic cultivation, is not susceptible to rod disease, is virus-tolerant and frost-resistant. The fruits are ripe in mid-June and are particularly suitable for fresh consumption. Glen Clova’ is a single bearing variety which grows medium to strong, is self fertile and ripens early. It forms medium to cone-shaped fruits in light red to orange. The raspberries taste juicy and aromatic and are suitable for fresh consumption. Meeker’ is characterized by strong growth and spiny rods. The variety is resistant to viroses. The dark red sweet berries are ripe from the end of June to July and are characterised by very good quality. Golden Queen’ is one of the few summer raspberries with golden yellow to orange yellow coloured berries. The harvest begins at the beginning of June.
The double-bearing autumn raspberries include, for example, ‘basket filler’, a variety with barely spiny shoots that ripens relatively late in the first year. It forms very large strong red fruits with a sweet-sour taste. Zefa Autumn Harvest’ grows medium strong and ripens late in the first year, the fruits are large, roundish and have a sweet-sour aroma. Himbo-Top’ is characterized by strong growth, spiny and long shoots. A scaffold is recommended here! The raspberries ripen from August to mid-October. They are relatively small, but very aromatic. Aroma Queen’ ripens from August and bears light red, tasty, firm fruits with forest raspberry flavour. The rods are only 1.30 to 1.80 metres high, grow tightly upright and do not necessarily need a climbing aid. Autumn Amber’ with apricot fruits is one of the yellow lovers among the “Twotimer” raspberry bushes.
Almost all raspberries are self-fertile. Raspberry bushes are not grafted, but simply propagated by cutting off the runners.
Diseases and pests
In particular with wrong care and mistakes in the culture it comes with raspberry bushes frequently to plant diseases. These include viral diseases such as the raspberry mosaic virus. Observe the care measures exactly and pay attention to healthy plants when buying new plants. Fungal diseases such as raspberry rod disease can also affect the raspberry bush. As a preventive measure, it is recommended to mulch the berries. In addition, pests such as the raspberry beetle, mites or aphids can occur on the shrubs.
In an interview with our store editor Dieke van Dieken, plant doctor René Wadas reveals his tips against aphids.Credits: Production: Folkert Siemens; Camera and Editing: Fabian Primsch
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I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.