Behold, the raspberry, the gold standard by which I judge other berries whether planted in my garden or in my mouth. As easy as this cane fruit is to grow, pruning can take good berries and make them even better berries–bigger, sweeter, and in greater abundance.
And before you bristle about the pruning work involved in the cold soggy months of spring, may I remind you why you are doing this: shortcake and ice cream. Need I say more? Raspberries are a fruit that rewards you if pruned regularly, and judiciously, so lick your chops and grab the pruners.
Tom’s Video Tutorial:
How to Prune Raspberries
My foray into one-handed video production and tutorial land may leave you with some more questions (and a seasick feeling). Should that be the case, here’s my how-to in photos and the written word. Take a look for more information.
Know Your Berries
First determine the type of raspberries you have: summer-bearing or ever-bearing. Why does it matter? Prune the wrong way and you’ll have a berry-free bowl of regret come July. To keep it simple, I’m taking my lead from Genvieve at North Coast Gardening who distilled it down so well, “just remove any canes that gave you fruit.” Though I have a couple caveats to add, that is the gist of it. Now you may be scratching your head and asking how do I make that distinction between ever-bearing and summer-bearing? Read on Grasshopper, the prune master is here to share.
The Difference Between Summer-Bearing and Ever-Bearing Raspberries. Summer-bearing : The Tulameen raspberry cane above shows last year’s fruiting bracts (the nubbins on the branching ends) are still intact.
Ever-bearing: Fall Gold also has spent fruiting bracts, but there is a difference between the two, which is shown in the photo below.
- Brown stem, inside and out
- One crop
- Variety: Tulameen
- Spent cane: Last year’s fruiting cane dies after producing berries. It will send up new shoots in the same season for next year’s crop. Basically, it fruits only on the cane that sprouted the year before.
Ever-bearing (above photo, lower cane)
- Green fleshy stem inside
- Two crops
- Variety: Fall Gold
- Viable fruiting cane, year one and year two
- The ever-bearing cane with bracts will have a live green stem when cut. Each cane produces for two years, a late crop from the first year’s new green growth and an early crop the following year from the same cane, now woody.
Summer-bearing Tulameen, before pruning (and some weeding). Note the light driftwood colored canes (last year’s spent canes) and the darker wood which will produce this year’s July berries. Summer-bearing, Tulameen, after dead wood has been pruned to the ground and removed (though tip pruning is still needed to keep canes at five feet). Ever-bearing Fall Gold (above) produces two crops, a summer crop from last year’s cane and a late summer crop from new growth this year. Even if you cut ever-bearing raspberries to the ground in winter or spring, you will still get one crop of berries in late summer from new growth. This is not the case with summer-bearing; if you cut down every cane, you will have to wait a year to get fruit from the new growth of the prior summer. Ever-bearing Fall Gold (shown after pruning) I tend to prune ever-bearing much more severely, leaving only the stronger, more robust canes, which (in my observation) leads to a better second raspberry crop in September. And again you can cut them all to the ground and have one big fall crop. Let me recap for clarification. For both types, look for canes with spent or old dead flowering or fruiting bracts.
- Summer-Bearing Raspberries: remove all of the canes with dead flowering or fruiting bracts.
- Ever-Bearing Raspberries:
- TWO CROP option: For two small crops, one in July and one in September, remove the weakest, thinnest canes with dead flowering or fruiting bracts.
- ONE CROP option: For one large late summer crop, remove all canes, and the crop will come entirely from the new summer’s growth and produce berries in September through October.
- Summer and Ever-Bearing Raspberries: Prune the tip sections of both types, that is reduce the height of the cane to four or five feet. This helps create bigger berries, allows for easier picking and prevents the canes from breaking down during windstorms and heavy rains.
- Cut too high: Too much stem left above the bud will cause rot.
- Sharp angle: The cutting angle is too close to the bud and angled too severely, which may cause bud die-off or weak bud support and stem breakage when fruit appears.
- Just right. This is how you do it, a moderately cut angle just above the bud