Summer Care of Raspberries

Easy to grow, raspberries provide a good harvest for gardeners

By Richard Jauron 
Extension Horticulturalist
Iowa State University

Raspberries are an easy to grow crop for home gardeners. Good cultural practices help ensure an excellent fruit crop. Important cultural practices during the summer months include pruning, weed control and irrigation.

After the last summer harvest, promptly remove the old fruiting canes of red, purple and black raspberries at the soil surface. To help reduce disease problems, the pruned material should be removed from the garden and destroyed.

Pinch out or cut off the shoot tips of black and purple raspberries when the new growth reaches a height of 36 to 48 inches. Remove the top three to four inches of the shoots. Removal of the shoot tips encourages lateral shoot development and increases the fruiting surface area, resulting in higher yields.

Since all new shoots will not reach the desired height at the same time, it will be necessary to go over the planting approximately once each week between late May and late July. Discontinue shoot tip removal at the end of July. Canes that develop after July are small, weak and unproductive. These small, weak canes can be pruned out the following spring.

Weed Control
Cultivation, hand pulling, and mulches are the most practical weed control measures for home gardeners. Cultivate the raspberry planting frequently during the spring and summer months. Small weed seedlings are easily destroyed. Large weeds are more difficult to control. To prevent injury to the roots of the raspberry plants, do not cultivate deeper than two to three inches.

Possible mulching materials include straw, crushed corncobs, chopped cornstalks, sawdust, wood chips, dry grass clippings and shredded leaves. The depth of mulch needed depends on the material used. The optimum depth ranges from three to four inches for fine materials, such as sawdust, to eight to 10 inches for straw on well-drained soils. Avoid deep mulches on poorly drained soils to discourage root diseases. Since organic mulches gradually decompose, apply additional material each year to maintain the desired depth.

Adequate soil moisture levels are necessary throughout the growing season for good raspberry production. However, the most critical time for moisture is from bloom until harvest. During fruit development, raspberries require one to 1-1-/2 inches of water (either from rain or irrigation) per week. Insufficient moisture during this time may result in small, seedy berries.

During dry weather, thoroughly water raspberry plants once a week. Soak the ground to a depth of 10 to 12 inches. If possible, avoid wetting foliage and fruit to reduce the risk of disease problems. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems are excellent ways to water raspberries. If overhead watering is unavoidable, water raspberries early in the morning. Morning applications reduce the amount of water lost due to evaporation and allow the plant foliage to dry quickly.

When given good care, a 100-foot row of red raspberries can produce 100 to 150 pints of fruit. When you consider the amount of time spent in the garden pruning, watering and attending to other cultural practices, that's a bargain!

Richard Jauron, Horticulture, (515) 294-1871,