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How to Grow Raspberries

By Michael Russell

When planning your patch of brambles (as these fruits are known), pay special attention to air circulation and soil drainage. Taking weed-control precautions before you plant is also important because most brambles sport hooked thorns that make weeding the mature plants difficult and shallow roots that hoes easily damage. Raised beds work well with brambles. Allow at least 8 feet between rows of plants. Don't plant where other brambles or potatoes, tomatoes, or eggplant have grown in recent years due to the risk of Verticillium root disease infection. It's also best to eliminate nearby wild brambles, if possible, because they often spread disease.

Brambles range in growth habit from upright to sprawling - some stand up on their own, but most need trellis supports to keep the fruiting canes off the ground. A typical arrangement consists of a T-shaped post and crosspiece at either end of the row with taut wires or heavy twine running between them down the length of the row. Trailing varieties of blackberry can also be ties to wire fence or other flat support.

Shoots called canes grow from either the roots or crown of the plant. Brambles are biennial, which means that plants flower on second-year canes, which subsequently die. Canes are called primocanes the first year they sprout and floricanes in their second year. Floricanes die after fruiting and should be pruned out. Most raspberries and blackberries produce fruit only on the floricanes, but some raspberry varieties, often referred to as everbearing, also produce on primocanes in the fall.

Depending your personal preference and climate, you can choose from several bramble types and many different varieties for your garden.

Red raspberries: This delicate fruit grows best in cool climates where plants will receive the 800 to 1800 hours of chilling they need to produce fruit. Most varieties bear one crop per year, but others produce two. Summer-bearing varieties produce fruit on floricanes in the summer, everbearing types fruit in the summer on floricanes and again in the fall on primocanes. Although most raspberries produce red fruit, some have yellow or purple fruit.

Black raspberries, black caps: The fruits of this plant have a rich flavor and lack the core that characterizes blackberries. Plants grow new primocanes from the crown instead of the roots and thus are easier to contain within a row because they don't grow shoots several feet from the mother plant as red raspberries do. Plant 3 feet apart in raised beds.

Blackberries: Preferring hot southern summers, blackberries grow in the lower latitudes, though there are varieties adapted to cooler climates. Blackberries fall into two main categories - bush or upright types and trailing. The trailing varieties make less appealing plants for most home gardeners because they require more trellising and maintenance, have more thorns than the uprights and are less cold hardy. Thornless blackberries are now available, under the names 'Arapaho', 'Black Satin', 'Chester', 'Navaho', 'Hull' and 'Triple Crown'.

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Gardening

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