An afternoon of berry picking is a joyful memory that many of us have from our childhood. Wandering around and scouting out these delicious little nuggets of sweetness like a treasure hunt for candy can be so much fun! In adulthood, many gardeners will try to replicate this experience in their own backyard, or kitchen or patio garden! For gardeners wanting to replicate their childhood joy of picking fresh growing raspberries, consider installing a raspberry raised bed. An afternoon’s work of installing one will bring years of ease and convenience!
By growing in a raised garden, raspberries are able to produce as they would naturally, but also give a few extra benefits to the gardener themselves. People with back problems can better reach and tend their plants, and deter pests from making off with your delicious bounty!
Raspberries are a small fruit that grows on long and often thorny bushes. While the actual canes of most raspberry bushes will only live for two years (with the exception of everbearing varieties), the roots of the raspberry plant are perennial and will continue to grow outwards under the ground and keep pushing out new raspberry canes as they creep along. This is how raspberries can spread and become invasive. While the site of an old stone house covered in raspberry brambles can be quite beautiful, the reality of it in your own backyard can be a nightmare!
For people looking to successfully grow these in their own garden, raised beds may offer the perfect solution to some difficulties that can come with this plant. Install 3-4 planters, and you have your very own raspberry patch! Raspberry plants do well in zones 4-8, and there are certain varieties that do well in zones 9 & 10. Anyone can easily grow and enjoy these delicious fruits!
Why A Raspberry Raised Bed?
While raspberries grow quite well in nature, a raised bed brings many benefits that can tip the scales towards a more productive and efficient home garden.
Gardeners with mobility problems can have difficulty both reaching fruit and tending to canes, runners and weeds. Planting a few feet off the ground brings fruit and soil into reach. Walking into a keyhole garden with established raspberries can offer the same experience of a wooded raspberry thatch, only without an aching back or long drive. Raising the planting level up off the ground can also reduce the number of weeds that can crowd your plants and steal away nutrients.
Installing these in a portion of the yard that wasn’t productive previously can open up a world of possibilities. For growers with a sunny space who have rocks, clay soil or concrete covering the ground, a bed revitalizes the area and makes it a welcoming and fruitful addition to their yard.
Additionally, a raised bed means that you are in charge of the soil and nutrition you’re planting in. You can provide healthier soil with lots of organic matter specifically conditioned to grow raspberries, improving your harvest. This is important as raspberries grow best with a soil pH between 6.0-6.2. You can also ensure that there is sufficient drainage in the raised bed, as ground soil can be too wet. Include a drip irrigation system to evenly water deep into your soil and you’ll be growing raspberries even while on vacation!
Raspberry plants spread by sending their roots sideways and shooting up new canes. In the backyard this can be a bit problematic as the raspberries will fight for space. A raised bed, especially one at least 2 feet off the ground, provides a natural barrier to keep raspberry roots from trying to encroach on your prized veggies and other plants growing nearby.
With this elevating your raspberry plants off the ground, an additional benefit arises – early warmth. Due to the raised beds’ exposure to the sun, the soil surrounding the raspberry roots warms up earlier than it would have if it were just in the ground. Brick and galvanized steel planters especially soak up the sun’s warmth and retain it during a chilly night. This means an earlier harvest! Additionally, for gardeners in very northern climates, this gives them a large enough window to have raspberries at all!
Using a planter above ground level means that many pests are now unable to attack the base of your plants. You can also lay hardware cloth at the bottom of your planter to keep out rodents. Be it gophers or other pests that go after your plants, a smooth sided planter can be an effective deterrent.
Raspberry plants are perennials. It’s best to plant raspberries in an area separated from annuals as their needs throughout the growing season are so different.
Raspberry Spacing In Raised Beds
You’ll usually find raspberries for sale as bare root plants, or occasionally pots for easy planting. When planting bare root stock, keep in mind that the roots attach to the cane about an inch below the soil level, and plant at the suggested depth. Be careful when planting potted berries to set the roots at the same soil depth as they were when in their pot. Don’t plant too deep or the plant will struggle.
If you’re planting several together, space them about 3 feet apart in the beds. Make sure that your planter boxes are at least two feet wide. These need ample width to continue spreading year after year. This will give plenty of space for new canes to grow in and fruit.
Tips For Growing Raspberries In Raised Beds
Setting up a trellis system for your raspberries makes care much simpler in the long term. Not only does a trellis provide support for raspberry canes year round, it makes it easier to block out pests by draping a row cover over your plants. Build a trellis that has wooden beams extending out a foot past where the canes are. You can easily drape a row cover over without it getting tangled up in thorns.This can keep away many of the pests that would eat or lay eggs on your bushes.
When the canes are flowering, make sure the row cover is off; the berries won’t be pollinated without the help of our pollinator friends! Alternatively, the same trellis can support a shade cloth during the heat of the summer when high temperatures can damage or kill your plants.
For regions with a snowy winter, it’s much easier to build a cold frame around a raised bed than around a ground bed. This cold frame will help to give your soil a kick start come spring so the canes can start bearing early in the season. By building the cold frame to just 6 inches taller than the height you’d want the raspberry canes to reach, it’s easy to gauge where you’ll be pruning to come fall. A cold frame can protect against a surprise last frost. The frame keeps snow off of early developing buds, which if damaged won’t grow into raspberries.
Once your raspberries have been established and begin bearing year after year, be sure to mulch well, especially in summer. By mulching, you’re deterring weeds and retaining water. Try adding 2-3 inches of organic matter in early summer to the soil. This mulch can be dried leaves, pine needles, or wood chips. Raspberries do well with infrequent deep watering, something that’s made easier with a bi-annual application of mulch.
There are a few crops that grow well with raspberries and can even discourage pests. Garlic, chives, onions, and chamomile all do well when grown in the same garden bed as raspberries, and provide a larger bounty for cost-savvy growers hesitant to spend on a bed for a single crop. Conversely, keep certain crops away from raspberries such as tomatoes, eggplant, strawberries and potatoes.
Here’s a rough planting schedule to follow for a 1 year season growing raspberries:
- Late Winter/Early Spring: Buy & plant out, giving each plant at least 3 feet of space to spread into. Apply a dormancy spray to control the spread of fungal diseases.
- Late Spring/Early Summer: Cut back previous years fruit bearing canes if not already done. Fertilize with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. Begin to water regularly. Apply 2-3 inches of mulch to help with water retention.
- Summer: Continue to monitor soil moisture and adjust watering as needed. Apply shade cloth if necessary. Monitor for pests. Depending on the variety, harvest.
- Late Summer: Continue to monitor for pests, soil moisture levels & harvest.
- Fall: Harvest fall-bearing berries and apply 1-2 inches of mulch to the base of the plants.
- Early Winter: Plan on pruning fruited canes back before the first frost. Cover the plants with a cold frame depending on your zone.