Friday, February 25, 2011

Pruning the Raspberry Patch

I’ve already started to prune my raspberries. The snow is gone and if I wait much longer I’ll need to prune around newly emerging canes which will make the task more difficult.

Cut the plants back to about 3 feet

My plants are of the primocane (aka ever-bearing) category which bear fruit on first year as well as second year old canes. If your plants produce fruit at the tip of the canes you also have a primocane variety. If your plants produce fruit only off the side of two year old canes (aka biennial, summer-bearing and floricane), you have one of the biennial varieties of raspberries.

Regardless of what type raspberry plants you have, cut them back to a height of 3 feet. This allows you to see what you are doing and helps keep the canes from whipping you in the face as you move through the patch of brambles. The next pruning steps depend on which of these two types you have.
If you have the biennial type of raspberry, cut out the dead canes, remove any really thin canes and canes that are horizontal.  Prune the remaining canes so they are spaced about 5 inches apart. Leave the thickest canes as these produce the biggest berries.

Spacing the important!

If you have a primocane variety, you have two choices. You can cut all the canes back to the ground or you can treat them as if they are a biennial variety. Cutting the canes to the ground will result in the production of fruit at the tips of this year’s canes sometime later this fall. If you treat the canes as described for the biennial plants, you will enjoy a crop from last year’s canes and another crop in the fall on this year’s canes.
I decided to treat my primocane variety as I would a biennial type. There are several reasons for this. The first reason - I would like to have a mid-season harvest of berries. The second reason is even more important. Depending on the fall weather, the berries that form at the tips of this year’s canes may not mature before the plants shut down for the winter.

If you plant the biennial type of raspberry you run the risk of losing the canes during a hard winter. If the canes are killed you lose the crop. If you plant one of the primocane varieties, even if last year’s canes die during the winter, the new canes are capable of producing a crop. The nursery where you purchase your raspberry plants will be able to tell you the types they have available. Raspberry plants are usually in high demand so be sure to visit your local nursery as soon as they open to purchase your plants.

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