Able to withstand the frost, the raspberry bush is a vigorous easy-to-grow plant. It adapts well to any soil type, and does not fear the sun. However, it requires a lot of maintenance because the continuous production of shoots  quickly gives way to a tangled clump. Pruning and training are the secrets for keeping this plant healthy. Neatly trimmed and well-trained, a raspberry bush plantation is built to last.

Engaging in the planting of a raspberry bush is not a difficult task once you have the proper advice at hand. This plant, which belongs to the Rosaceae family, comes from Europe. Its botanical name is Rubus idaeus.

Description and overview of the raspberry bush

The raspberry bush is a perennial that, in its wild form, grows in the underbrush or on the edges of forests. By producing suckers, it naturally forms bushy clumps that can reach up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) high. The raspberry bush’s bloom starts in May and lasts until October. The fruits usually appear around June-July. This fruiting period extends until October for varieties such as Lloyd George, Zeva Herbsternte and Autumn Bliss.

Raspberry bush growing techniques

Raspberries can be propagated by seed, in which case sowing is conducted from July to November. The division of clumps, however, is a more common method of propagation. The taking of cuttings can also be carried out. Planting is best done in early autumn, in September. The raspberry bush is shipped bare-root or in a container. Before planting it, cut off the roots’ tips in order to freshen them up. The roots are then soaked in praline. If the need arises, a slurry made from a mixture of manure and compost will do. This will help boost growth resumption. Raspberry bush seedlings are hardy and very resistant to frost. They will have no trouble passing the winter.

There are two ways to plant raspberry bushes: in trenches, with a seedling every 4 inches (10 centimetres), or in 16-inch (40 cm) holes with a spacing of 32 inches (80 cm) between plants. During planting, one must plan ahead and provide the necessary space to train the young seedlings. The trench should be about 16 inches (40 cm) deep and the soil should be loose. Add a supply of manure. Horn meal can also be mixed with the earth. A  2-ounce (60 g) handful per hole is sufficient for the plantations. The raspberry bush will be buried up to its neck, which will be at ground level. Pack the earth well and water abundantly. If the branches are too long, they can be cut down to 8 inches (20 cm).

The raspberry bush can support many types of soil, although it has a preference for acidic and calcareous soil. However, it fears overly clayey ground, as it stifles its roots. Light soil that is rich in humus and has good drainage is ideal. Fertilizer supplies are generally performed in the fall, after pruning. A second supply of nitrogen fertilizer can conducted in early spring, when the plant begins to produce new leaves. As for lighting, the raspberry bush naturally likes shade or partial shade. Notwithstanding, they produce their sweetest fruits, and in the greatest amounts, when placed in areas exposed to sunlight. In this case, ensure regular and sufficient watering.

Maintenance tips for healthy raspberry bushes

In order to have productive raspberry bushes, it is essential to prune them. Pruning depends on the type of raspberry bush. The first type of raspberry bushes is the ever-bearing variety. These types of raspberry bushes bear fruit from August to October on the year’s shoots (primocanes). The same stems will bear fruit again the following year in June-July. These varieties are pruned in later winter. The dried out stems that have borne fruit need to be cut flush to the ground in late spring. Here we refer to the ones that have already fruited twice. Also remove shoots deemed too weak to give vigour to the rest of the plant. Stems that have borne fruit in late summer will only have their dried out tips removed. These canes will bear fruit at the end of the following spring. The second type of raspberry bushes, the summer-bearing varieties, only bear fruit once a year in June-July. Pruning is then carried out, either in spring or fall. Cut all the dead branches that bore fruit flush to the ground. Also remove overly weak shoots.

In addition to pruning, take care to train the raspberry bush. Training it is primarily aimed at making maintenance easy, while improving the plant’s exposure to sunlight. Fan-shaped training is the most common solution. Rows of thick wire will be stretched at heights of 20 inches (50 cm), 40 inches (1 m) and 60 inches (1.5 m). The stems will be trained against the support so as to form a fan shape. V-shaped training is less conventional. It consists of stretching two parallel lines of wire 24 inches (60 cm) above the ground. These two lines are spaced 40 inches (1 m) apart. One-year old stems are attached to these two wires, forming the shape of the letter “V”. Young stems, however, are left free in the centre.

Treatments against diseases

Raspberry bush seedlings can be treated with a fungicide to protect them against botrytis (grey fruit mould), or against spur blight. The fungal treatment is effective when repeated after a 15-day interval. At the beginning of flowering, treatment against insects is also possible. This treatment aims to get rid of raspberry fruitworms (Byturus urbanus) and aphids. Raspberry bushes grown from healthy seedlings are generally hardy and less sensitive to diseases and insects. Pruning and training for a good exposition to sunlight reinforces the plant’s vigour.

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Published in Red fruit by Alexander on 07 Sep 2011