Start A Raspberry Patch From Scratch
Raspberries are a delicious fruit to enjoy fresh and preserve for the year. Although store bought raspberries are good there is nothing like picking them fresh from the berry patch.
As well, raspberries are an easy plant to grow and are a great addition to any backyard garden. This year we started our own raspberry patch from scratch on our homestead.
Our neighbour, Pat, has a beautiful raspberry patch that she opens to the community as a small U-pick every year. This year she offered to give me some raspberries to plant myself and taught me everything about growing a luscious and organic raspberry patch. Here I get to share with you all I learned from a seasoned raspberry grower and help you start your own raspberry patch!
Choosing A Location
The two main things to consider when choosing a location for your raspberry patch are soil drainage and sun exposure.
Raspberries do not like their roots settling in water, therefore it is important to choose a spot with good soil drainage. A location on a slight hill or slope is a good choice since water will flow away.
Avoid locations with soil that hold water (such as clay), low lying areas, or at the bottom of a slope since water will collect there. If you do not have a sloped area choose a flat location that drains well. To know if your area drains well check after a rain to make sure the water has flowed off.
It is important to note that you do not want the soil to drain too fast, since the raspberry plants need water to grow, therefore avoid overly sandy soils when choosing a location.
Raspberries grow best in full sun but can still grow with partial shade. Full sun is when a location gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day, so it is best to choose your most sunny location.
Although raspberries do best in full sun they can tolerate partial shade. My neighbour who taught me about raspberries has her patch beside a large tree, therefore some of her raspberries are shaded for part of the day and they still grow great.
The ideal location for a raspberry patch is a southern facing slope, since it will receive a lot of sun and has good drainage. However, if you do not have a southern slope just choose a spot with the best drainage and most sun.
Preparing The Patch
Once you have your location set, begin preparing the patch by laying out the rows and aisles. Here is how my neighbour taught me to lay out a patch, although I am sure there are other methods.
The rows, or where you will plant the raspberries, should be approximately 2 feet wide. Between each row leave approximate 3 feet for an aisle to walk in. As the raspberries grow they will encroach on the aisle, therefore it is important to not make them too small.
Since raspberries spread so much it is important to have a barrier around the patch to help contain them in their bed. For this you could use 4 by 4 cedar posts, which is what my neighbour has. Cedar is best since it doesn’t rot and the wood will be on the ground.
I wanted to keep costs low, so I just used birch logs that we cut down while clearing land for our cabin. Whatever you choose to use, dig into the soil a few inches and place the wood around the bed.
Another way to control the spread of the raspberries is to place something impermeable in the aisles. My neighbour has old carpet laid in her rows, this keeps the raspberries from spreading too much and also is nice on the knees while picking. Rocks could also be placed in the aisles to decrease the raspberries’ spread.
Before adding anything to improve the soil it is helpful to remove the vegetation that is currently growing in the rows. We had some grass growing in our rows, therefore we dug down below the grass and removed it.
After the vegetation is gone adding compost is important for improving soil quality for the raspberries. When my neighbour first started her raspberry patch 20 year ago she added a layer of sheep manure compost and then a layer of topsoil. This worked so well that she has only had to add more manure once to improve the soil.
Since we have horses we added composted horse manure to our beds. Use whatever compost or topsoil you have available to add nutrients to your raspberry patch.
Since raspberries have a tendency to flop over as they grow it is really helpful to add some support to your rows. At each corner of your raspberry row add one post. For this you could use fence posts, however I just used small trees that we cut and sharpened on the end. The post should be around 3 to 4 feet tall.
Along both long sides of your raspberry row, sting up a wire from one post to the other. With wire running along both sides of the bed you will be able to tuck the raspberry canes in between them. This will help support the raspberries and keep them upright as they grow.
If you are like me and live in an area with a lot of deer and goats looking to eat everything you plant, I recommend fencing in your berry patch. Even though raspberries have thorns there are a lot of critters who will want to snack on your plants.
Within one day of planting my raspberries an animal had come along and eaten some tops and pulled some plants completely out of the ground! That day I put up a temporary fence until I have time to build a permanent one.
Planting The Raspberries
Raspberries should be planted in the springtime, before the plants begin to grow. You want the soil to be thawed and warming up but it is best to get them transplanted before the growing season starts.
You can buy raspberries at most nurseries however check with your friends and neighbours first to see if they have any raspberries that they are getting rid of during thinning. Since raspberries spread so quickly most people with a raspberry patch will be thinning some out every spring and are often willing to give them to others.
When you get raspberries to plant you may just get the root bulb or you may get the root bulb with some canes, which are the stems, attached. Raspberries produce new canes from their roots every year, therefore both methods will grow into raspberry bushes.
Once you have the raspberry canes or roots try to plant them as soon as possible so the roots do not dry out any more than necessary. Raspberries are a shallow rooted plant, therefore you only need to dig a small hole for planting.
To plant, dig a hole as deep as the root, put in the root, and cover the base with soil. After planting, water the raspberries since the roots will have been dried out from transplanting.
One great thing about raspberries is that they are low maintenance. After planting the canes in good quality soil all they need is thinning once a year.
Raspberries have a 2 year cycle. In one year the plant root will have a cane that is the main berry producer and a new shoot will come up that produces less fruit. The next spring the cane that was the main producer last year will have become woody and stop producing berries, and the young shoot from the year before will become the main shoot. The cane that is woody and will not be producing fruit needs to be thinned out.
If you wait till the spring to thin your raspberries you will be able to clearly see which canes are the old woody ones. In the spring the main berry producing canes will be nice and red, so it will be clear to identify them.
To thin the canes take a pair of pruning shears and cut off the old woody canes at the base. Never pull the canes out of the ground since the healthy shoots are also attached to that same root.
The old canes that are cut away during thinning are not the canes that someone would give you to plant. The canes that someone would give you to plant are the healthy red ones, and they would dig up the root of the plant. These will be the raspberries that escape their beds so they are looking to get rid of them.
Now you are ready to grow your own raspberries and get creative with all the delicious recipes and preserves to make. I hope this guide has helped you on your way to starting your own raspberry patch from scratch.
Thank you to my neighbour, Pat, for sharing your 20 years worth of raspberry growing knowledge with us, and for giving me canes to start my patch! Learning from friends and neighbours is an important part of homesteading and is something I enjoy and am thankful for.
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Hey, I’m Maggie. I hope you will join me and my family in getting back to the land. Here you will learn about making things yourself, cooking homegrown food, and beginning a homesteading journey.