Raspberry Tips

Tips for Success: Pre-plant Activities for Raspberries

Site selection. Choose a sunny location with well-drained, sandy loam soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 and at least 4% to 8% organic matter. Collect a soil sample and send it into a soil testing lab for nutrient analysis.  Avoid areas that have soil with a lot of clay or that are prone to flooding. Raspberries don’t thrive if they have “wet feet” all the time. If your soil is heavy, plant in raised beds to prevent root disease. Avoid planting in areas where strawberries, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, or peppers have grown in the last 3-4 years. These plants can encourage high levels of the soil fungus that causes the disease verticillium wilt. You should also get a nematode test done on your site’s soil if you plan on small-scale commercial growing. Destroy any wild brambles (blackberries or raspberries) within 600 feet of your site to help prevent the spread of diseases to your new plants.

 Soil preparation. Follow the soil testing lab recommendations provided to amend the soil for adjusting pH and balancing nutrients. If the soil is low in organic matter, amend with about 0.5” to 1” of compost and till in 6” to 8” deep. If your soil test results show the presence of root lesion, dagger, or spiral nematodes or you are planting where there is a possibility of higher levels of Verticillium fungi, consider using a brassica cover crop that can be tilled in prior to planting. It will act as a bio-fumigant for nematodes and disease-causing fungi and also increase your soil’s health. Ideally, amend soil and/or plant a cover crop in the fall for spring planting the following year. If ground planting is not an option, use a 15 gallon fabric grow pot for each plant. Fill with a mixture of about 40% sand, 40% garden soil/compost, and 20% peat moss. Be sure to check the media pH before planting. Adjust as needed with a fast-acting soil acidifier if the pH is too high or an alkalizer if the pH is too low.

Plant selection. Select disease-free stock from a reputable nursery. Ideally, try to pre-order in fall for spring planting. Nursery plants generally sell out fast and aren’t shipped past June. If you want to have the longest harvest season possible, choose raspberry cultivars with different harvest periods. For example, there are Red and Yellow primocane cultivars that can start fruiting in mid—July and continue through fall as well as Red early-, mid-, and late-season floricane fruiting cultivars in addition to Purple and Black raspberries cultivars! With primocane-fruiting raspberries, canes can be managed to get two crops – a larger crop the first year and a second smaller crop (typically lower in fruit quality) from canes carried over the winter.  Growers looking to get two crops of quality fruit from primocane-fruiting raspberries should consider varieties such as Anne, Caroline, Himbo Top, Jaclyn, Joan J, Prelude, or Polka.  If you live in a region with very cold winters, you will want to consider winter hardiness as you select cultivars. In general, Red and Yellow raspberries are the most winter hardy and can survive down to -30F while Purple raspberries can survive to -10F and Black raspberries can survive to -5F.

Irrigation system installation. It is recommended you use drip irrigation to save time, conserve water resources, and as a cultural method to help prevent diseases associated with wet foliage. Also, raspberries need good soil moisture during their planting year to establish well. See our resource library for companies that offer on-line instructions and ordering.

Trellis installation. Carefully read all assembly directions, gather tools, and people to help you set up the trellis.

Alleyway Cover Crop. A cover crop is recommended between the trellis rows unless you use a weed barrier fabric in its place. There are many types of both annual and perennial cover crops available and the best choice depends on the climate of your region, soil characteristics, the amount of foot traffic between the rows, and other factors. Weed control is very important in caneberry plantings. Weeds of all kinds compete for nutrients with your plants. Broadleaf weeds are especially troublesome as they can harbor viruses easily transmitted to your plants by piercing and sucking insects and soil-borne nematodes.