How to - Gardening Resources

Caring for raspberry canes

How to keep a patch of red raspberries healthy, happy and more productive.

For me, fresh raspberries in cream are pure decadence. If you don't already grow raspberries, here are some pointers to get a patch off to a good start.

Buying plants
When buying plants, be sure to get them from a reputable nursery. It's important that the canes are free from viruses and insects, and that you buy varieties suitable for your area. In the Atlantic region, 'Nova' is a good choice—it produces large, disease-resistant berries with excellent flavour. 'Boyne' is a hardy, productive variety popular across the country, especially on the Prairies. Gardeners in southern British Columbia can grow many high-quality berries; new varieties worth watching for there are 'Tulameen' and 'Qualicum'—they're large, sweet and prolific.

Raspberry beds
Prepare your bed at least a year in advance. I have known too many gardeners who thought a quick tilling or plowing was enough preparation. The results are raspberries that struggle in a sea of perennial weeds by the end of the year.

We prepare our beds by first plowing or tilling, then seeding with buckwheat, which is a broad-leafed plant that allows very little light to reach the soil. When the buckwheat begins to flower, we till it under and plant a crop of fall rye. The next spring, the rye is tilled under and the ground is ready to plant. As well as shading out weeds, these cover crops enrich the soil with humus, and are toxic to quackgrass.

Choosing the best soil
Raspberries are tolerant of many soils, but the best growth occurs in deep loam soils that are neither too wet nor too dry. If your soil is sandy or gravelly, the addition of rotted manure or compost helps retain moisture and provides nutrients. It's best to avoid heavy clay soils, but if you don't have a choice, work coarse organic materials into the top four inches (10 centimetres) to create a well-aerated top layer where the roots can run freely. Plant your canes in this amended top layer, then apply mulch.

Raspberries prefer a slightly acidic soil; pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is ideal. Add sulphur or lime to adjust.

Spacing plants
The distance between plants is a matter of debate among experts. My personal preference is to plant them 30 inches (75 centimetres) apart in the row, the rows approximately 50 inches (125 centimetres) apart. In the end, raspberries will fill whatever space you allot them.


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