Spring Pruning of Raspberries

PruningTo obtain maximum yields, raspberries must be pruned properly. Appropriate pruning procedures are based on the growth and fruiting characteristics of the plants.

Raspberries have unique growth and fruiting characteristics. The plant's roots and crown are perennial, while the stems or canes are biennial. A raspberry plant may survive and produce fruit for many years. However, the individual canes live only two growing seasons and then die.

The shoots of purple, black, and summer-bearing red raspberries are strictly vegetative during the first growing season. The following year, these same canes flower, produce fruit, and then die.

The growth and fruiting characteristics of fall-bearing red raspberries differ slightly from other varieties. Fall-bearing varieties naturally produce two crops. The first crop is produced in late summer or early fall at the tips of the current season's growth. The following year, the lower portions of the same canes produce a summer crop. After the second crop, the canes die.

Summer-bearing Red Raspberries

In March or early April, remove all weak, diseased, and damaged canes at ground level. Leave the most vigorous canes, those approximately 1/4 inch in diameter when measured 30 inches from the ground. When finished, remaining canes should be spaced about 6 inches apart.

Also, prune out the tips of the canes that have died because of winter injury. Cut them back to live tissue. If the canes have suffered little winter dieback, remove 1/4 of the total cane length.

Red raspberries sucker profusely. Maintain plants in a 1- to 2-foot-wide hedgerow using a rototiller or spade.

Fall-bearing Red Raspberries (Two-Crop System)

Remove all weak, diseased, and damaged canes in March or early April, leaving only the most vigorous canes. Prune out the tips of the canes that fruited the previous season. The lower will produce the summer crop.

Maintain the plants in a 1- to 2-foot-wide hedgerow.

Fall-bearing Red Raspberries (One-Crop System)

Prune all canes back to ground level in early spring. Doing so eliminates the summer crop, but often allows the fall crop to mature one to two weeks earlier. While there is only one crop per year, total crop yield is larger utilizing the one crop system versus the two crop system.

Maintain the plants in a 1- to 2-foot-wide hedgerow.

Black and Purple Raspberries

In March or early April, remove all small, weak canes, leaving only four or five of the largest canes per clump or plant. Cut back the lateral branches to 12 inches in length for black raspberries and 18 inches for purple raspberries.

There are several yellow raspberry varieties (cultivars). The growth and fruiting characteristics of yellow raspberries are similar to red raspberries. The only difference is fruit color. The pruning of summer-bearing and fall-bearing yellow raspberries are identical to their red counterparts.

To help reduce disease problems, the pruned material should be removed from the garden area and destroyed.

This article originally appeared in the March 14, 1997 issue, pp. 19-20.


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