It seems that every year on the garden walk in my Chicago suburb, there’s a house with a raspberry patch in the back yard. If you love raspberries and have a suitable sunny spot on your suburban lot, it’s a great idea to start your own raspberry patch.
Growing your own raspberries can provide you with a virtually limitless supply of this otherwise very expensive fruit. With raspberry plants selling for about $10 to $20 each, and the berries selling for $5.00 per pint at the supermarket, it doesn’t take long to recoup the initial cost of the plant. My small raspberry patch, now about 6 years old and 4 feet by 4 feet, produces 10 or more quarts each summer.
And homegrown raspberries, like homegrown tomatoes, taste much better than the store-bought kind.
First, a word about terminology. The shrub-like raspberry plants are referred to as “brambles.” Blackberries are also called brambles. The woody stems of the plant are called “canes.”
Several types and colors of raspberries are available in stores and through the Internet. Look for yellow, red, and purple raspberries. For my yard, I chose the Heritage raspberry, a popular and productive variety that is widely sold. A big advantage to Heritage is that my raspberry patch produces fruit twice a year, in June and July and again in the fall. This type of raspberry plant is also called a “everbearing” raspberry. Other types may produce only one crop a year and are called “summer-bearing” types.
It’s important to put your raspberry patch in a place where it will get full sun, 6 to 8 hours daily. Otherwise, the plants may not fruit or yields will be lower than in full sun.
One mistake I made in picking a spot for my raspberry patch was to choose a location too close to other perennials. Heritage raspberry spreads prolifically by producing runners, or side shoots. I’m constantly pulling up these shoots to contain the raspberry plants. Were I do do it over again, I would put my raspberry brambles somewhere that would allow us to mow around the patch.
Pruning my raspberry plants is the most important way to maintain them and ensure they fruit. It prevents the patch from becoming too overgrown and invasive and removes canes that will no longer bear fruit. Raspberry canes only bear fruit a limited number of times. In late winter or early spring, I cut the older, woody canes that have already borne fruit down to the ground. The Ohio State University cooperative extension service recommends pruning berries after fruiting as well, though I don’t do this.
My raspberry plants usually produce small, uninteresting flowers in late May. A late-June crop of berries follows this flowering. The second raspberry crop lasts from September until the first killing frost. When the plants fruit, it’s important to check them frequently for new berries. Raspberries become over-ripe quickly.
Extra raspberries are easy to store in the freezer. Freeze berries on a cookie sheet and store them in plastic zippered bags, such as those sold under the Glad or Ziploc brands. You can also make spectacular raspberry jam, but this is a bigger project than I have time for.