Raspberries are juicy, luscious, and delicious – few fruits taste as summery! Whether you plan to whip up a raspberry pie, make some raspberry freezer jam, or preserve them to enjoy all year round, raspberries are one of the most beloved British crops. So, how can you grow a bumper crop of this tasty berry? Follow our guide to growing raspberries in the UK.
Growing Raspberries in Polytunnels
While most UK gardeners find it relatively easy to grow raspberries outside, our weather notoriously fluctuates and changes year to year. This means that one year you could have a brilliant crop while the next your crop might fail. One way to minimise this uncertainty is by using polytunnels to grow your raspberries. That’s what commercial raspberry growers do – they know that polytunnels can guarantee success. Polytunnels provide reliability and quality, ensuring an abundant crop and making the most of your vertical and horizontal garden space.
In addition to using a polytunnel, you can also make good use of a fruit cage when growing raspberries. Fruit cages are tall, netted enclosures that allow fruit bushes, such as raspberries, to grow to their full height while protecting them from birds. Fruit cages are often constructed of small-gauge mesh that prevents even the tiniest birds from pecking their way through to the berries. When placing your fruit cage in your garden, select a bright area that is visited by as many bees as possible.
How To Grow Raspberries
Most gardeners choose to acquire their raspberry plans as bare-root canes that are usually sold from garden centres and specialist berry farmers in the dormant season (late autumn to early spring).
- Choose your variety - You will first need to choose whether you want to grow summer-fruiting or autumn-fruiting varieties. When you acquire these bare root canes, you should plant them into their final growing position as soon as possible. Some people choose to plant a mix of different varieties so that they can enjoy fresh raspberries from early June all the way to the end of October.
- Plant your canes in the late autumn or early winter – Select an open, sunny spot in our garden, and add a lot of compost or manure to get them started.
- Support your bare root canes - Before you acquire your raspberry canes, you need to decide how you will support them. Most people build a frame out of wire or wood, and then attach their raspberry canes to the frame. If you have very limited space, you could also tie a few raspberry canes to just one wooden post.
- Don’t overcrowd your canes - Don’t fret if you bare-root canes look too barren at first – they will soon start to bloom and come to life. Resist the urge to pack them in too tightly when they are still spindly, as this can encourage fungal growth. Space them 45cm apart, with at least 1.8m between rows, and just add around 5 cm of soil over the roots.
- Soak your canes before you plant them – It’s a good idea to give your canes a good soak in water before you plant them in order to get them ready to accept the nutrients in the soil.
- Use a polytunnel to protect your raspberries from birds – Polytunnels protect your crops from hungry birds who can swoop in and steal your berries before you get to them.
- Prune your raspberries every year – You should cut back your summer fruiting canes immediately after your harvest their fruits, as the first-year canes will fruit the following year.
- Water them throughout the season – Giver your raspberries a lot of water, watering them at the base of the plants. Consider adding a mulch around the base to lock in moisture.
Here are some wonderful raspberry varieties to grow
Early summer harvest:
- Glen Moy – provide robust, large berries and resist many diseases
- Malling Jewel – delicious and reliable flavour that tend to fruit early good flavour, reliable and early cropper
- Zeva – perfect for northerly climate, and provide a large crop Late summer
- Glen Ample – produce a lovely heavy crop with no spines and good disease resistance
- Glen Rosa – small but delicious fruits, with no spines and good disease resistance
- Valentina – wonderful apricot-pink berries with no spines, and good disease resistance
- Tulameen – delicious flavour with very few spines, and is resistant to mould
- All Gold – unique yellow
- Autumn Bliss – nice big fruits on a self-supporting canes
- Joan J – a reliable variety with lots of large, juicy and sweet fruits
How to Harvest Raspberries
Early summer varieties will be ready to harvest in the early summer, while the autumn raspberries will only ready in the late summer and the early autumn. When you are ready to pick your raspberries, choose a dry day and pluck them firmly and pull them from the branches. You can eat them then and there, freeze them (initially on a cooking tray until frozen solid), or preserve them by canning or making jam.
Harvesting: Harvest your raspberries as soon as they have ripened, from June to September (depending on the variety you have chosen).
Sowing: Sow your raspberries in the late fall to the early spring (October to March), depending on the variety that you have chosen. Frost will not harm the canes once they are in the ground.
Raspberries are a delicious and healthy fruit. No matter which raspberry varietal you choose, you won’t be disappointed by their sweet flavour and myriad health benefits. Now get out there and get planting!
- BBC Gardener’s World (2019). How to grow raspberries. [online] BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine. Available at: https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/grow-plants/how-to-grow-raspberries/ [Accessed 21 May 2020].
- Bourne, V. (2017). How to use fruit cages to protect homegrown soft fruit - Saga. [online] www.saga.co.uk. Available at: https://www.saga.co.uk/magazine/home-garden/gardening/fruit-and-veg/how-to-protect-soft-fruit [Accessed 21 May 2020].
- Bourne, V. (2018). The best varieties of raspberries to grow and how to care for them - Saga. [online] www.saga.co.uk. Available at: https://www.saga.co.uk/magazine/home-garden/gardening/fruit-and-veg/raspberry-varieties [Accessed 21 May 2020].
- Old Farmer’s Almanac (2018). Raspberries. [online] Old Farmer’s Almanac. Available at: https://www.almanac.com/plant/raspberries [Accessed 21 May 2020].
- Royal Horticulture Society (2018). Fruit cages / RHS Gardening. [online] www.rhs.org.uk. Available at: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/allotments/allotment-styles/fruit-cages [Accessed 21 May 2020].
- Royal Horticulture Society (2019). How to grow raspberries / RHS Gardening. [online] www.rhs.org.uk. Available at: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/fruit/raspberries#harvest [Accessed 21 May 2020].