Raspberries! You can keep your strawberries! Raspberries are my favourite soft fruit. And as there are both summer-fruiting and autumn-fruiting varieties, the season for rasp-lovers is long, running from July to October or even November.

Raspberries are very easy to grow and now, from November to March, is the best time to plant them, as long as the soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged. (You can also grow them in containers.)

This is the so-called dormant season, when leaves have fallen and photosynthesis has stopped. Even so, plants are still active, developing new roots – and that’s just what we want for our new raspberry canes so they are well anchored into the ground as they come into leaf, flower and set fruit.

Raspberries on grass. summer-fruiting

Raspberries on grass. © Natubico and re-used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.

Summer-fruiting or autumn-fruiting? And which varieties?

Summer-fruiting rasps fruit in July and August. Varieties include Tulameen, Glen Magna, Glen Ample and Glen Moy.

Autumn-fruiting raspberries fruit mainly from August to November. BUT if you don’t prune them in winter (see below) you can get an early summer crop as well – although at the cost of rather a tangle of stems. Varieties include Joan J, Autumn Treasure, Polka and Autumn Bliss.

The varieties Glen Fyne and Ruby Beauty (both summer-fruiting) are suited to container cultivation.

What do raspberries like?

  • Slightly acidic soils (not shallow chalky soils)
  • Fertile soils
  • Moisture-retentive but well-drained soils (not soggy ground)
  • Sufficient but not too much rainfall
  • Weed free
  • Not too much frost
  • A sheltered, sunny position but will tolerate partial shade
  • Relatively moderate temperatures from about 15C to the low 20s, so the fruit doesn’t ripen too quickly.

These qualities, together with long summer daylight hours, are what make the raspberries of Fife, Angus and Perthshire in the east of Scotland, and the raspberries of Scandinavia so delicious.

Getting ready - build your framework

Raspberries can get a bit out of hand and turn into a prickly, tangled plantation. To avoid this, they are usually planted in rows. Summer-fruiting ones are trained and tied in along parallel wires. In a very small garden, they can be trained up a single post. Autumn-fruiting ones are corralled inside parallel wires and do not have to be tied in.

What's next?

Buy raspberry plants as container plants or as bare-rooted canes in bundles of 5 to 12. Choose healthy looking thicker canes with plump buds and separate the canes before planting them.

Dig a shallow trench and put some compost or well-rotted manure in the bottom. Fan out the roots and plant at the same depth they were originally growing at, about 45 cm apart. Then add a 7.5cm (3in) thick mulch of compost or well-rotted manure.

Cut the canes back to within 25cm (10in) of the ground after planting - unless they are summer-fruiting raspberries supplied as ‘long canes’, which will crop in the first season.

How do I prune them?

For summer-fruiting rasps the RHS recommends this:

  • Cut back fruited canes to ground level after harvesting; do not leave old stubs.
  • Select the strongest young canes, around six to eight per plant, and tie them in 8 –10cm (3–4in) apart along the wire supports.
  • Remove the remaining young stems to ground level.

For autumn-fruiting plants (but see above if you want double-cropping):

  • Cut back all the canes to ground level in February.
  • Reduce the number of canes slightly in summer if they are very overcrowded.

Anything else I should know?

After that, sit back and wait until next summer! And then read our post about what to do with a glut of raspberries!