Plant a Home Raspberry Patch (cont)
By: Susan Littlefield
Planting and Trellising
Prepare a bed for your raspberries that is 2 feet wide and as long as you like. Full sun and well-drained soil are musts. Test your soil and, if necessary, amend to bring the pH level to about 6.0. Work in several inches of compost and a complete organic fertilizer. It's a good idea to avoid planting raspberries in a spot where strawberries or members of the tomato family grew previously to avoid the possibility of transmitting a fungal disease called Verticillium wilt. And, if you can, try to plant at least 600 feet from any wild brambles to reduce the likelihood of disease transmission from the wild plants.
You'll space your red raspberry bushes 2 feet apart in the row (black and purple raspberries need a little more room, 30" and 40" respectively). But before you do any planting, you'll want to erect some sort of trellis to support the canes as they grow. This will help to keep the berries clean and make them easier to pick. One common design uses a five foot high, T-shaped support at each end of the row, with the crossbar the width of the row. Lengths of 12-14 gauge wire are strung from one crossbar to the other on each side of the bed.
If you are planting dormant, bareroot bushes, soak them in water for a couple of hours to rehydrate the roots before planting. Set them in the ground so that the crown is just at ground level. Now comes the hard part. Cut the tops of bareroot plants back to the ground; this will remove any diseases that may be present on the canes and helps to get the plants off to a good start. You don't need to cut back container-grown plants.
Raspberries have shallow root systems and will benefit from a mulch to keep weeds down and soil moisture consistent. Placing a soaker or drip irrigation hose under the mulch is a good way to assure your plants get the water they need.
Care and Feeding
Give your raspberry patch a light feeding with a complete organic fertilizer such as 5-10-10 each spring and a topdressing of compost each fall. As soon as they are done bearing, prune out the old floricanes. You can distinguish them from the greener, more succulent primocanes by their silvery-brown bark and lighter green leaves. If you notice suckers coming up outside of your bed, dig them out so your patch doesn't turn into a jungle. If the row has filled in and is crowded, thin out, leaving 3 to 5 of the strongest primocanes per linear foot.