Practical guide to Raspberry farming
Raspberry production is well suited to small farms, as a small area of raspberries can provide significant income and equipment needs for an acre or so of raspberries are not great.
One of the basic foundation of any business venture especially if it is about farming is knowing the crop or plant you are growing. In this regards, it is important for you to grow your raspberries in a suitable location. This means the land which your raspberries should grow ought to be rich in organic compounds and sandy in nature. It is also important to make sure that your raspberries should get ample sunlight as they grow. Another tip about growing this in-demand fruit is that your location for it should not be in a low lying area where there is a possibility that water clogging can happen in the farm. Also, do not attempt to plant your raspberries in a crest of a hill. The reason for this is to avoid the plant getting affected by too much wind.
- Full sun
- Good air movement
- Fertile, well-drained soil
- pH of 5.5-6.5
Raspberries come in two basic types: red and black. Yellow raspberries are a mutation of red or black raspberries, and purple raspberries are a cross between red and black raspberries. Red raspberries have chilling requirements that limit their production to cooler regions.
Raspberries are produced either in open field or protected culture systems such as high tunnels. This publication is written with the assumption that the crop will be produced in the field. Under high-tunnel production, growers have the potential to produce higher yields and better quality fruit, but they must also consider the significant costs for the tunnel and higher level of management required.
Choose plants from a reputable dealer, so they are healthy and disease free from the get-go. Be careful not to let the raspberries’ fine roots dry out; soak the plants in a bucket of water for an hour or two before planting.
To get them started right, add plenty of compost to the planting area. Plant them an inch or two deeper than where the stem turns to roots, and prune the cane back to ground level.
Water the raspberry plants well. Keep watering very regularly until you see new sprouts, which may show up from the roots rather than from the central cane. Raspberries require 2” of water per week through the growing season.
Red raspberry canes sprout from their root system, so they spread. Plan an area that can fill in with the bushes. Ideally, a row of raspberry bushes is 3-4’ across, with plants initially spaced every 28-36.” If you’ve got room for more than one row, the rows should be 8’ apart (due to plants spreading and canes hanging over the walkway).
If you’ve got a less expansive space, black raspberries may be the way to go. They are more contained, since they sprout form a central crown instead of from the roots. You can plant them in the same spacing as red raspberries, or in hills 3-4′ apart.
Black raspberries are generally less hardy than red raspberries. But there are several varieties that will thrive in our Pittsburgh Zone 6b. Black raspberries don’t spread like red raspberries, but they do grow lanky canes that need to be cut back. They produce a harvest in June/July.
Red raspberries fall into two categories: summer-bearing or everbearing
- Summer-bearing berries produce once a season, within the months June-Aug. Their canes die back after fruiting, and new ones emerge for the next season’s harvest. This type needs a year to establish before producing.
- Ever-bearing raspberries produce twice in a season.
Black raspberries: Trim side branches back to 8-10” in March. Cut back 2-3” of growth in summer when the canes reach 2’ tall. Remove canes that produced fruit, right after the harvest.
Summer-bearing raspberries: After harvest, prune the canes that produced fruit to the ground. Thin the new, first-year canes to every 3-4.” During the growing season, if the canes are bending over to the point of breakage, prune them back to 5.’
Ever-bearing raspberries: For a double crop each season, prune like summer-bearing raspberries.
Irrigation is highly recommended and will help ensure a more consistent crop from year to year. Trickle irrigation is greatly preferred over overhead irrigation because it adds water directly to the root zone and does not wet the fruit. Also, very little water is lost from evaporation.
Though a trellis is not absolutely necessary, all raspberries can benefit from trellising, as it keeps branches off the ground and fruits from getting dirty. A wooden post with a crosspiece like a “T,” placed every 15-20’ works well. The crosspiece should be about 2’ across. Run wire cable or twine along the top edge of the T, on both sides of the bed. For black raspberries, the optimal height of the crosspiece (and therefore the support wire) is 40,” while for red raspberries the height should be 36.”
While high prices can be obtained for red raspberries, these delicate fruits are susceptible to numerous diseases and insects (including spotted wing drosophila, a new invasive fruit fly that infests the fruit), require a great deal of labor for hand-harvesting fresh-market fruit (machine harvest is an option only for berries that will be processed), and have a very short shelf life. Therefore, the production of a good crop from year to year requires careful management.
Several insects and diseases can injure or destroy raspberries. Therefore, monitoring and controlling pests is important. Some pests, such as spotted wing drosophila, affect the fruit, while others, such as cane borers, attack the plant. Pest management involves many aspects of production, with pesticide application being only one. Try to use all available practices to reduce the potential for disease and insect damage. Many pest problems can be avoided through proper site selection, crop rotation, variety selection, soil treatment, and by planting disease-free plants.
Weeds must be controlled in a raspberry planting. Raspberries have shallow root systems, which puts them at a disadvantage when competing for water and nutrients.
Some weeds also harbor insects and disease. The first steps in weed management are to avoid sites with persistent weed problems and eliminate weeds before planting. Mulch and herbicides can be used to control weeds after establishment.
Harvesting and storage
Raspberries must be picked and handled very carefully. The fruit must be firm, well colored, and insect and rot free. If harvested at the proper time and handled carefully, raspberries will remain in good condition for several days. Because the fruit is fragile, it should be picked and packed directly into containers without further sorting. Pickers must be closely supervised and instructed to harvest only high-quality fruit. The fruit should be harvested at least once every three days, with adjustments made to the picking schedule based on weather conditions.
Proper postharvest handling of raspberries is essential if you are to be a successful marketer. Cooling the berries to remove field heat and improve shelf life is especially important. Harvesting early in the day while temperatures are cool and then precooling the fruit before shipment significantly extends shelf life.
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