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25 October 2013

Raspberries - a Taste of Summer

Raspberries are a lovely fruit to grow and enjoy, with the most popular varieties being summer-fruiting, though there are also autumn-fruiting varieties which have some advantages. They can be grown in any size of garden and even in containers. Fresh raspberries also freeze well so there needn't be any waste if you end up with too many at once.

They are best sourced as bare-rooted plants for planting in the autumn, but prepare your ground a few weeks before by digging-in well-rotted manure. When planting dig a shallow hole about 1ft wide and 3in deep, then spread out the roots and backfill with soil, making sure you firm it around the plant. The old soil mark on the stem should be level with the surrounding ground. Canes should be about 16in apart and pruned down to about 1ft above the soil, cutting above a bud. Complete the job by watering-in your plants.

Raspberries appreciate a feed of general purpose granular fertiliser in spring followed by mulching with well-rotted farmyard manure. They also need to be kept well watered in dry spells.

Your plants will need support of some sort, but the type you adopt will depend on the space you have and the number of plants you are growing.

If you don't have room to plant them in your garden, raspberry plants can be grown in 15in diameter containers, one plant to each container. The addition of 20% loam-based potting compost to 80% multipurpose compost will add weight to your container and increase stability. Use bamboo canes to support your plants. Ensure that the compost is kept moist and feed with a liquid general-purpose fertiliser on a monthly basis during the growing season.

Summer raspberries are simple enough to grow, but require the following pruning to get the best from your plants. After harvesting cut back fruited canes to ground level, then select six or eight of the strongest canes from each plant and tie them in to the wire supports. Cut the remaining stems off at ground level.

Raspberry canes are usually biennial, growing one year and bearing fruit the following summer. However autumn raspberries grow and fruit in a single season. You just need to cut all the canes down to ground level, with February being the recommended time for this job. New canes will be produced to give the new season's fruit in the autumn.

Summer-fruiting varieties need to be tied-in to wire supports to survive winter gales, though autumn varieties need less support, and if in a sheltered spot may be alright without any support.

You are advised to replace raspberry canes every 10 years or so to prevent a build-up of viruses and other diseases, though autumn varieties tend to be disease-free. Also they are not usually troubled by the raspberry beetle.

Summer raspberries tend to be less attractive to birds than strawberries for example, which are bearing fruit at the same time, and bird damage to autumn raspberries is even less.

To give the maximum supply of fruit you can grow both summer and autumn fruiting varieties. However both types spread via underground runners, so unless you plant the two varieties in separate areas you may find them getting mixed up, so you won't know when to prune each plant.

Fruit should be picked regularly while it is firm, with the following varieties recommended:-

Glen Moy - gives heavy crops in early summer
Malling Jewel compact, early season summer fruiting variety with reasonable yields
Glen Prosen - produces firm fruit in mid-summer
Malling Admiral - gives heavy yields of conical, dark red fruit in late mid-summer
Autumn Bliss - good for large red fruit in autumn
Fallgold yellow fruiting autumn variety

I hope you enjoy a bumper crop of beautiful, juicy raspberries next year.
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