Our allotment plot hosts two large raspberry beds that form a border between us and our neighbours. They were planted by a previous tenant and over the years we’ve enjoyed plundering the juicy bounty for various alcoholic experiments.
Raspberry bushes are relatively low maintenance (bonus!), but their canes do need replacing every ten years or so. Sadly, the raspberry canes in one of the beds have now grown old and weak and their fruity output has declined considerably (we know the feeling well…). Weeds have also become more prevalent between the canes, so we’ve taken the decision to rip the lot out and start again. Out with the old, in with the new!
When Is The Best Time To Plant Raspberry Bushes?
Bare root raspberry canes should be planted out between November and March, into the earth that is neither frosty nor waterlogged. One of the raspberry plant beds contains a summer fruiting variety (identity unknown) but as we will be replacing a bed of autumn fruiting canes, we’re going to replace like for like. The variety we’ve chosen is Polka, a high-yield, sweet-tasting variety that carries the RHS Award of Merit (presumably awarded for service to pavlovas, pies and jam).
Prepare The Ground
Our first task is to dig out the old raspberry canes. Raspberry roots are quite shallow, but they do tend to spread. Shove the blade of your spade under each cane clump to loosen the roots, grip the base of the stems with a gloved hand and yank them up – they should pop out relatively easily.
Once we’ve removed the canes, we’ll dig over the area with a fork and attempt to pick out any weeds. Our raspberry bed has been particularly prone to bindweed in the past, so we’ll be extra vigilant and pounce on any tell-tale, fat white rhizomes that are unearthed and deal with them with extreme prejudice. We’ll then dig in a few bags of rotted horse manure – raspberries love rich, nutritious soil.
Unlike summer fruiting varieties that will need support from fencing, our autumn fruiting raspberry canes can grow unaided. Our canes will be planted 50-60 cm apart, in holes around 8-10cm deep. Each cane will be firmed in gently and given a good watering.
Raspberries prefer to dwell in a weed-free environment so we’ll be attempting to keep on top of weeding duties throughout the growing season. We’ll also be applying a deep layer of mulch in late autumn to keep the weeds at bay. Newly-planted summer fruiting raspberries might bear a few berries in the summer following planting but will be more productive the following year, but our autumn fruiting canes should provide us with a decent crop from mid-August onwards.
We’ll cut back our canes to ground level sometime around November. Summer fruiting varieties require a bit more attention – cut the canes that carried the fruit to ground level, but leave 5-6 stems per plant to bear fruit the following year.
Are you planting any fruit in your garden or allotment this year? Have you grown raspberries before? Share your successes in the comments below.