Hail the king of soft fruit
For me raspberries are the kings of soft fruit. We tend to shower our adoration much more on strawberries than raspberries maybe as they are seen as the herald that summer is officially here as much for their flavour. A shiny red strawberry is without doubt a tempting proposition when compared to the slightly dull bloom of a raspberry but for flavour and versatility for me the raspberry wins hands down.
There are two types of raspberry, summer fruiting and autumn fruiting. A combination of planting both types can provide fresh fruit from July until October. Even a few plants will keep you supplied for a few weeks and raspberries can also be successfully grown in pots and containers. It is not only the fruits that are harvested as for centuries raspberry leaves have been used in hot drink teas and infusions. Raspberries are part of the rose family, rosaceae, as are strawberries. They are even more closely related to the blackberry and share the same generic group of Rubus. Raspberries are believed to have originally been native to Eastern Asia but have been widespread across Europe from the Paleolithic times.
There are different selected named varieties for summer and autumn fruiting plants. The summer fruiting 'Malling Jewel' is an old variety, not quite Paleolithic, and is hard to beat still. Malling Leo and Glen Ample are also excellent summer fruiters. Autumn Bliss is probably the most popular autumn variety and the yellow coloured fruit of Falls Gold is also much loved.
Along with their different fruiting times summer and autumn raspberries have different pruning times and methods. Summer fruiting types should have their fruiting wood cut completely to the ground, no stubs, once they have finished fruiting. This will probably be from now onwards. New shoots will have been growing during summer and the strongest six to eight of these should be retained while thinning out the weak ones again back to the ground. These new stems will fruit again next summer.
Autumn varieties will be fruiting soon if not already. These should be cut back to the ground in February. When the new shoots appear in spring select the strongest six to eight and remove the rest. There may be additional new shoot growth during the summer and these should also be removed to leave the selected six to eight stems uncluttered.
Raspberries, both types, are best given some support. This can be done with bamboo canes and wire creating a frame work around each plant or by constructing a post and wire system that runs for the length of a row if you have multiple plants. Raspberries are also successful fan trained against a wall. Raspberries like a fertile slightly acidic soil so may struggle on soils with a higher ph value. A feed of sulphate of iron is often enough to keep them happy on such solis. The like to be kept moist but not waterlogged and like a sheltered sunny spot but they don't crave hot weather so places like Ireland and Scotland tend to be ideal for them.
They are best planted in the winter when they are available barerooted and therefore much cheaper to buy. Raspberries have a tendency to send out runners. These need to be dug up to control the core plant but can be used as additional stock if replanted. When planting incorporate well rotted manure or compost and a slow release fertiliser like blood , fish and bone. Space at about two feet apart and four feet between rows if you are doing so.
Mulch each year with compost and 30 grams of blood, fish and bone in March. In pots use at least an eighteen inch container and fill with a soil based compost. Feed regularly with an ericaceous liquid feed every three weeks from April to september. Prune as with open ground grown plants.