When and how to prune raspberries?

linnea56(z5 IL)October 10, 2013

When and how to prune raspberries?

A friends gave me a number of raspberry plants last year and this year. They were dug up from volunteers in his yard. He does not recall what kind they are, except that they seem to bear twice a year, more in spring and a smaller crop in the fall (late Sept early Oct.). My friend has never pruned his, and they are tall, arching, and jungle like.

My folks grew raspberries but those bore only in the spring. My Dad used to cut off the canes at chest level. But I don't remember when: I think it was the fall. He said they bore much better if he pruned them.

The plants I got last year did not bear in the spring at all, but bore this fall. This year's transplantings stayed pretty short and didn't do much, though they look healthy.

Should I prune the tall ones? If so, when? When the fruiting is done, or in the spring?


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With everbearing raspberries, the issue is not so much pruning, as it is thinning. We have everbearing reds, and they tend to send out lateral roots that result in volunteer raspberry plants coming up in the lawn, and pretty much anywhere within 6 feet of the established parent plant. Unless the bed is thinned out, it will quickly become too dense with plants, and then it will be impossible to pick all of the fruit. The patch will end up as an impenetrable thicket. I generally cut down our patch to about 8 inches in the fall, in November. Then I mulch heavily with shredded tree leaves. In the spring, just as the first leaves begin to emerge, I dig up some of the canes, leaving clumps about three feet apart. By August the patch is all filled in again.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 9:50PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

OK, you have everbearing raspberries. When canes have a fall crop, after harvest, remove parts that fruited. Usually the upper third of the plant. They will fruit again the following spring on the lower 2/3. After harvest cut cane right to the ground. In the meantime new canes will come up, they will fruit in the fall, and so and so on. Some people just harvest the fall crop and cut them down.
Some leave them for the winter and harvest the summer crop on the lower 2/3rds. First year canes are called primocanes. Second year canes are called florocanes.
So primocanes fruit on the upper 1/3 in the fall.
Florocanes fruit on the lower 2/3rds in the summer.
Summer bearing raspberries have one crop a year. No fruit on primocanes. Much like blackberries.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 12:55AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Thank you so much! So the ones my parents grew (one crop a year) were probably summer bearing. I thought of it as being spring that we picked them, but it was probably early summer. They must have just been early varieties. I know at least some were named Latham.

Your explanation is very good. I will also pass this on to my friend. I told him they were supposed to be pruned but couldnâÂÂt tell him how and when.

Just to have this totally clear in my mind: when you say, âÂÂAfter harvest cut cane right to the ground,â you mean after it fruits for the second time. So this is the second year for this particular cane, and the second time it has fruited (the first time in the fall, at the top; the second time in the spring, on the lower part that is remaining). Its useful life is complete and now it is cut to the ground.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 1:36AM
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I also have everbearing raspberries. I cut off the top of the canes that fruited (after the fall harvest) to about 3-5 feet tall. In February I thin them out so that I have only 5 - 6 canes a few inches apart. After the first harvest prune the canes that produced fruit back about 1/3.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 9:28AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a


Yes you got everything right, exactly about when they fruit and when to prune! And yes Latham are summer bearing, and yes, it just refers to one crop, they may fruit in the spring.
And Charlie adds an important point. You may also need to remove primocanes that are too close to each other. I usually let them have a fall crop and thin them in February as Charlie states.
Prune primocanes while dormant though! In early spring is best or late winter.(you know cut upper 1/3 off)
Cut down florocanes though right after fruiting.
You can trim primocanes after fruiting too, but many sugars are stored in the canes, it moves this energy to the roots when dormant, so it is a better time to prune. But pruning after fruiting all the same will not kill them.

On thinning. I myself thin primocanes that are closer than 5 inches. I prune out the weakest ones, ones that don't develop well. But if too close even strong canes should be removed. You want a good air flow so they dry quickly when wet. Plants staying wet invite infection and pests,

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 9:55AM
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This is all very weird to me. We have Summer fruiters - you cut out all fruited canes in late summer. And Autumn fruiters - you cut the whole lot down in the winter. I think I'd get lost with the complexities of raspberries in the US. And Spring bearers?? They haven't even leafed out in Spring here.

And black raspberries are unknown. I wonder why?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 3:49PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a


You could let the Autumn fruiiters have a 2nd crop. I would suggest it, often that 2nd crop is larger. We do that with the UK raspberries Autumn Bliss and Autumn Britten. In other words, they are just like yours. Not sure where you are? But only 2 types of raspberries. Summer bearing can fruit early like Prelude, as the name suggests it's really an early fruting berry. Also Autumn Britten is an early fruting fall bearer, often fruiting the fall crop in July! If you left that one in, you may get a spring 2nd crop!
Many here also so what you do, cut the fall bearers down after one crop. But if you think about it, 2/3rds of the plant didn't fruit and you cut it down? i would rather have the fruit myself. So far my 2nd crops have been huge! Maybe some cultivars don't produce much of a 2nd crop? I will know more with experience. I really don't have that much.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Sun, Oct 13, 13 at 22:48

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 10:41PM
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I have Malling Jewel (summer) and Autumn Gold. I will leave some AG this year and see if they produce any fruit this Spring. But I am doubtful. If it works in my climate I have to wonder why does nobody do it and why is it not mentioned in any gardening books? Maybe our springs are too cold and wet? Even the 'official' Autumn crop I find tends to peter out in mildewed sodden tasteless fruit.

I have tried out several techniques I've read about on these forums and few of them worked well in my conditions. Winter sowing tomatoes for example - dead loss. Cardboard to cover weeds - partially successful - but it created compacted soil and the bindweed laughed at it. Mulching with leaves or grass clippings - slug heaven unless done after plants are well established. Disaster in a seed bed.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 7:04AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Very cool, keep us updated! Cut off in early spring, before bud break (before any growth) parts that fruited, and leave the rest. Usually the upper 1/3. But you're right, some feel the yield is low. In hotter climates this does not work well.
But it won't hurt anything to try.
I mulch with leaves, but I don't use that many and I shred them, add them to compost, then mulch. I have a mulching lawn mower so the grass clippings remain on the grass.
You could always compost leaves and grass, and use the compost that forms instead. But it takes room and work to compost. I can't winter sow tomatoes here for sure.
I never used the cardboard, but if I did, i would throw the grass,leaves on top! Nice and thick! That would work!
Next season I would think the area would be ready for use.
Just let the cardboard decompose under the leaves. But new weeds may form on top! Maybe add compost to the mix too?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 9:37AM
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Drew51 - I'll try that method with the Autumn Gold.

I do compost and always have since I had my very first garden. I have 5 bins and compost every single thing produced in my house and garden which it is possible to compost apart from human waste. All the compost goes back on the garden. I don't have a lawn but get mowings from the edges of the allotments when the Council mows. Regarding the cardboard - I put down 6 - 8 inches of leaves on the top. Bindweed doesn't care. I have done this for the last 4 or 5 years on a patch alongside my raspberries. It ends up as an area of leafmould on top of barely rotted cardboard with bindweed growing up through it. Neater than just leaving it but not weed free. In my climate the ground doesn't freeze in winter and so there is very little frost action on the soil to help break things up. The cardboard just sits in a sodden sheet for months on end.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 10:57AM
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