How To Grow Perfect Red Raspberries

Raspberries and other brambles are incredibly easy to grow. Plant a bush the first year, get a handful of sweet berries to whet your appetite and then watch as the brambles take off the following year and start producing dozens of beautiful, plump, juicy red raspberries.

organic raspberries in basket

just one day’s harvest!

The only downside to raspberries is that after a few seasons the brambles will ruthlessly invade your garden and eventually take over the entire plot unless you learn how to keep them in line.

By “in line”, I mean that literally. Red Raspberry brambles left to grow without any discipline will create a dense thicket that will be impossible to harvest at more than just the periphery, which will cost you a lot of delicious fruit. Of course, the birds and rabbits will appreciate it. Rabbits love the protection of dense thickets of brambles as very few animals will dare to pursue or explore, due to the thorny bushes.

Raspberries are a unique plant, in that their roots and crowns are perennial, while the canes are biennial. That means that the plant itself will live for many years, but the canes upon which fruit appear live only two years. Raspberry canes are produced three ways: from the seeds of fruit that fall; from the root base of the previous year’s canes and from suckers that grow straight up from the mother plant’s roots, which can be a foot or more distant from the mother plant.

Below are the steps to keeping summer bearing red raspberry bushes “in line” to maximize fruit production. I learned these techniques from American Horticultural Society Pruning & Training (American Horticultural Society Practical Guides).

organic raspberry brambles tied to fence

before flowers set, raspberry brambles are tied to the fence

Establish A Line

Train your raspberry bushes along a wall or fence to maintain a straight line. This will make it easier to get at all sides of the brambles and harvest as much fruit as possible. Any suckers that appear outside of the line you can uproot and compost or plant further down the line where needed. It’s very difficult to kill a raspberry sucker, so you needn’t be too concerned about delicacy when transplanting.

Raspberry canes only fruit once-they grow on new wood from the previous season, so after the fruit is harvested, cut the canes to the ground on which the fruit appeared, as that cane will soon start dying off. After fruiting, you want all of that season’s remaining energy to be concentrated in producing strong, new canes.

After you get a straight line created, tie the brambles snug to the fence or a wire grid connected to a wall. During the growing season, cap the brambles at about six feet to concentrate the plant’s energy on fruit production and not further growth. It will be hard to harvest a plant taller than you are.

Harvesting Raspberries

organic raspberries on the vine

almost ready to harvest

I don’t wear gloves to harvest, as the raspberry fruit is very delicate and tends to get crushed in a gloved hand. I’ve learned to accept the small amount of irritation on my arms the brambles create. Raspberries hide everywhere, so examine each plant from as many angles as possible, as you’ll see berries from one angle you don’t see from another.

As far as birds eating your berries – yes, they love them. The first time I bought bird netting to cover my plants, it became such a tangled mess that I found it all but impossible to harvest the berries. It’s better to let the birds take a little fruit off the top than to deal with the net you’ll find yourself tangled in. It’s the birds’ reward for keeping my garden free of unhelpful insects.

Raspberries will grow in nearly any soil, but for optimal results, acidify the soil as much as possible. I create compost/mulch from my Christmas tree every year and old raspberry canes, which does a fine job. This year my raspberries were a record harvest – more than 15 quarts from a 50 foot fence line – hundreds of dollars of raspberries at market prices. I froze a few quarts, but the rest we ate on a daily basis. Delicious!

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About Todd Heft

Todd Heft is an organic gardener and freelance garden writer who lives in the Lehigh Valley, PA and has gardened for most of his life. When he isn't writing or reading about organic gardening, he's gardening. His first book, "Homegrown Tomatoes: The Step-By-Step Guide to Growing Delicious Organic Tomatoes In Your Garden" is available on Amazon now. Google

11 Responses to How To Grow Perfect Red Raspberries

  1. Sue says:

    We grow beautiful raspberries but they are bland is there anything we are doing wrong

    • Todd Heft says:

      Are you fertilizing them? The less you do for raspberries the better. You might also try picking the berries first thing in the morning when temperatures are cool – that’s when the sugars in the berries are most concentrated.

  2. Rose Sullivan says:

    Thank you for your prompt response. You have given us incentive to pursue. I thank you NOW. in view of the fact that a h u g e endeaver awaits us——after which——thanking you may require a huge effort. (just kidding) I hope!!!!

  3. Rose Sullivan says:

    I am presently clearing a very large raspberry area created from a few plants left by the previous home owner. In the past 40 yrs this area has become a tremendous section of the back yard. In the past couple of days we have cleared-out all of the well-rooted weeds and what remains are numerous plants trimed to 3 ft in height. There is no uniformity or rows. In order to develope rows do we need to dig-up the plant and root to asemble rows. Are we doing damage to the roots and how deep do we plant?

    • Todd Heft says:

      Rose: If you wish to create rows to make it easier to harvest, yes, you can dig up the plants and put them in the position you’d like. Raspberries are amazingly hearty, so don’t worry too much about harming them by transplanting. You’ll notice that raspberries have relatively shallow roots for the mother plant and also have runners near the surface of the soil to create new shoots. You can safely detach the runners from the mother plant without affecting either one, as long as the runners have a decent amount of root. You can re-plant either of these now and you’ll have good canes next year. Just observe how deeply they’ve rooted and try to plant them at the same depth when you transplant. Try and do it this fall so you can enjoy some berries next season. If you wait until spring, the shock may interrupt their cycle and you’ll have very little fruit. Remember that fruit bears on canes that come up the previous season, so the canes you see now are the ones which will fruit and new canes will shoot up next spring from the current plants.

  4. Julia says:

    We planted two red raspberry bushes this year. They were looking really good until about a week ago and now they look dead. Would it be best to trim them clear back now, or are they probably aready dead. Has been really hot and dry here.

    • Todd Heft says:

      Julia: A raspberry is a bramble and all brambles die at the end of each season. Cut each bramble down to the ground – more will grow next season (or may start late this year) from dropped berries and from runners sent from the roots of the plants which just died. So don’t worry, what you’re seeing is normal. You’ll have more than double the raspberries next season.

  5. kg says:

    I was thinking of growing mine in a galvanized feed tub. I’ll put screens on the drain holes to contain any suckers.

    • Todd Heft says:

      That should work, KG. Although I wouldn’t worry too much about the drain holes. Just make sure you make a nice acid-y soil mix with peat moss or something similar.

  6. Shawn says:

    Thanks for your tips on the raspberries. Converting my garden to more edibles. Love your blog. I also enjoyed the growing tomato sections.

  7. Any recommendations on good varieties to grow? I have some blackberry and blueberry bushes, but I’ve never thought about raspberries until now.