In recent years a number of new varieties have been introduced onto the market with varying ripening times and bush habits.
The Raspberry is a small deciduous plant, with slightly prickly, erect or arched stems (or canes)up to 1.2-1.6 metres long. Their leaves consist of 3-5 small leaflets which are attached along the main leaf stem. Each leaf is green, oval, in shape, with saw-like edges and a white downy underside.
This a perennial plant with roots that can live for up to 10 years and in the first year of growth a cane does not produce fruit. In the second year the plant will flower, produce berries, then die off before producing new canes. The raspberry bush needs a cool climate with little rain to produce quality berries. Raspberries can grow in most soil types providing the ground is not too wet but they do need to be sheltered from the wind.
They are available through local nurseries as canes from June until early August.
Raspberries prefer to grow in deep friable soil which has a good supply of compost mixed into it. The plants are best planted in clumps of three. The vines must be protected from the hot afternoon sun. Their fruit bearing laterals can easily break during strong winds, so it is important that you choose the right position . Do not plant them in an area where the soil becomes waterlogged during the winter months.
The garden bed where you intend to plant your raspberry plants must be well drained. Quite often Raspberry plants are killed by over-watering or bad drainage. Where the soil is heavy, dig in Gypsum Clay Breaker ( 500g per square metre ) to help break up the clay. Where there is excess water moving across the surface area of the soil this can be controlled by planting above ground level and retaining with timber, stone or brick walling. When planting raspberry plants into the ground, the soil should have large quantities of compost and well-rotted Cow Manure mixed well into the soil.
REMEMBER Cow manure that is too fresh will burn the roots.
Raspberries should never be stressed for moisture because irrigation is particularly critical during bloom and when the berries are sizing. Although sprinklers or furrow irrigation techniques can be used, drip irrigation tends to be more efficient. Since water is generally confined to the root area, weeds should not be as prolific. The use of organic mulch also helps conserve moisture. Organic mulch will help keep the root zone cool, as well as reduce soil crusting and weeds competing for nutrient and moisture.
PRUNING AND TRAINING
All Raspberry varieties will need to be trained along a trellis of some description. The trellis can be built at either the time of planting or at the end of the first season(May or June). For the average garden with just a few bushes, a couple of steel posts with a wire strung between them around 1 metre from the ground will be sufficient. The bushes need to be tied loosely to this wire to prevent them from falling over or being damaged by the wind. June to July is the time to prune the old canes down to ground level and tie the new canes onto the wire support. As the bush matures, 10 canes to one bush will be sufficient, if you have more than this, remove the weaker and damaged ones.
By the 3rd season you should have well established canes, some of which have reached a height of 2 metre or more. In order to get the maximum amount of fruit from the bushes, bend the canes over to keep them at picking height tying them to the wire, leaving about 25cm extending past the wire. In August prune off about 15cm from the tips of the canes.
Flowers will start to appear mid October. You should be able to begin picking the berries early to mid-December. Harvesting should continue until the end of January, depending on what variety you have planted. Everbearer and Heritage varieties will be later. Take care not to damage or break new canes that grow quickly during this time of year. The fruit is very delicate and must be handled as little as possible. Be sure to wash the fruit just before eating, taking care not to damage the fruit.
Raspberries can be harvested over a period of 3-6 weeks and the berries keep very well frozen.
RASPBERRIES ARE HEALTHY TO EAT
The number of seeds in the flesh is responsible for the high dietary fibre content(about 7g/100g, which includes lignin, a form of insoluble fibre that is helpful in treating constipation.
Raspberry are an excellent source of vitamin C - half a punnet(100g) will give you a whole days supply of vitamin C and also contribute some folate. Raspberries have a lower sugar content than many other fruits. Most people sprinkle the fruit with a little sugar to bring out the flavour, but when the fruit is very ripe they usually do not need sugar. They can be eaten fresh or placed on top of breakfast cereals, ice cream, and fruit salad. Raspberries can be added to drinks, puddings, jelly, sherbets or pureed to make a delicious raspberry sauce.
PESTS AND DISEASES
A fungal disease Phytophthera fragraria var. rubi has been identified in some raspberries in recent years. It is now recommended that raspberries be planted on raised beds to prevent root systems from becoming water logged. Great efforts have been taken to eliminate this disease, but unfortunately it continues to breakout from time to time.
One of the main problems that effect raspberries are fungal diseases. Spraying with copper oxychloride in July before the buds burst will help stem some of the problems.
Raspberries are also prone to attacks from Thrips, Aphids and Two Spotted Mites all of which can be treated by either Malathion or Rogor(only spray if pest is present)
At the time of flowering it is important to spray the canes with Rovral or Euparen for Botrytis (grey mould). You will need to continue this treatment every 7-10 days until harvesting time
Raspberries are also susceptible to numerous viral diseases. Once infected, plants can't be cured. Viruses are commonly spread by aphids, nematodes or infected pollen. To prevent the spread of viruses, destroy all infected plants.
Raspberry plants produce an abundance of canes so they are heavy feeders and will need lots of food such as organic fertilizers with applications of sulphate potash.
For the majority of raspberry varieties a light application of a fertiliser with N.P.K 12-5-15 around each bush in early September, approximately 200gm, is required. In the 2nd year double the amount of fertiliser given. Make sure that no fertiliser is placed on any new canes. Further applications of organic manures can be applied July to August.
For Everbearer raspberries apply the fertiliser 15cm from the base of each bush again taking care not to put it over new canes, particularly those close to the ground.
For Heritage Raspberries apply the N.P.K fertiliser in spring. In December give the canes an additional boost of a nitrogen rich fertiliser like Urea, ammonium sulphate or ammonium nitrate.
CHILCOTIN: A high yielding variety of raspberry that ripens mid-season over a four week period. Simultaneous cropping to Williamette. The berries are borne on long laterals that can grow very tall. Some canes may need to be thinned out at ground level.
CHILLIWACK: Is almost thornless and is a mid season variety fruiting over a four week period
EVERBEARER: A late variety of raspberry with the main crop from mid-February to April. A large berry with good colour and flavour. Everbearer canes can be planted closer than other varieties, around 40cm apart, with 2 or 3 canes together. Prune them down to around 10cm when first planted. Allow canes to grow to around 65cm in height, cut the canes off at that height to encourage branching so as to produce more fruiting laterals. Everbearers require a weekly deep watering from late January until the end of March. Six to ten bushes should ensure a plentiful supply of berries.
HERITAGE: A variety that has been specifically developed to bear an Autumn crop. It produces an attractive berry with good flavour. Plant one or more canes together and about 25cm apart. When canes are first planted they should be cut down to within 5cm of the ground. These varieties of raspberry send out many strong suckers some of which should be cut off once they reach 20cm in width. As a rule do not cut the tips of the canes (primocanes) at a height, as with Everbearers.
NOOTKA: A high yielding, mid-season variety of raspberry producing a medium sized berry. The fruit comes away from the bush readily, making harvesting easy. This variety has a high resistance to fruit rot.
SKEENA: A good rot resistant variety that is nearly thornless and has a low tendency to sucker. Strong canes produce a medium yield and a good coloured berry. Ripens about a week earlier than the Williamette.
WILLIAMETTE: A very popular mid-season variety that can be harvested over a 3 to 4 week period. An average yield producer of large berries that can tend to darken once picked. This variety will begin to ripen around November/December.