Of the many things we were fortunate to inherit with the purchase of our house three years ago, one of my favorites is the raspberry patch in the back yard. When we moved in that first spring, our neighbors informed us that there were rasberries at the back of our property. The back was so overgrown that I had a difficult time distinguishing the raspberry plants from the weeds. The berries had yet to even flower, so I looked for the tell-tale “thorny” stems and cleared out the patch. The first year we didn’t get too many, considering they hadn’t been taken care of for quite some time, and I also wanted a season of observation so I could figure out what we had and where. Between researching raspberries, and my observations throughout the summer, I determined that we had an everbearing variety. What luck!
The beauty of everbearing raspberries is that there are two distinct “seasons” in which you can harvest. The first harvest develops on the canes that are entering their second year. I do my pruning in the spring, when it is easiest to tell what are old canes and what are second year canes. Old canes have more of a grey, dried wood look to them and should be pruned down to the ground, they will not bear fruit. Second year canes, which will give you berries sometime in early to mid-July, will have a reddish-brown color to them, and they have stuck around from the previous year.
Note the reddish-brown color of the cane. This is indicative of a second year cane.
Notice how the end is turning gray? By next spring the entire cane will be gray and ready to be pruned down. It is done producing fruit.
First year canes will be the new canes that start growing in the spring. I find that after a few good harvests in July, there is about a month or so of downtime until the first year canes start producing fruit. Today was the first day I was able to pick a few ripe raspberries. Depending on the weather and sun conditions, I should have a decent harvest in about a week or so. There is a good amount of fruit on the canes and I imagine that I’ll have 2-3 big harvests before they start fading into the fall.
A first year cane with ripening fruit. Notice the green color on the cane. Leaf damage by Japanese beetles is evident.
In my opinion, the best choice for raspberries are the everbearing, especially if you have a houseful of berry lovers. I suppose the main reason for planting and keeping single-bearing plants would be to try different varieties. If you haven’t grown raspberries, and you have a nice sized, sunny patch that could use some plants, I would suggest you try some type of berry. Since I don’t grow them, I can’t comment on blueberries or blackberries, but if they are anything like raspberries, they are easy to grow and tend to, and every year it seems the patch grows a bit and gives us more berries to enjoy.
As a final note, many people strongly suggest trellising your berries in some way. Mine never were (they are not planted in any kind of orderly fashion) and I have had no major issues with them. Some of the plants toward the middle of the patch can be a bit challenging to reach, but they are definitely worth the effort. I have had no problem with disease, however my biggest issue is with Japanese beetles. If left unchecked, they can decimate a patch in an amazingly short time (which I discovered that first summer). Last year I went out every morning and evening with a bowl of soapy water and removed as many as I could by hand. This year I don’t have as many (possibly due to my work last year), but I anticipate more next year considering my laissez-faire attitude about removing them this year.