Pruning Raspberries

It's easy. Relax. You've never been in better hands. Her name is Cass Turnbull and she's on intimate terms with anything that's ever needed pruning.

Cass is the founder and current president of PlantAmnesty, an organization I have been a member of for at least 13 yrs. I can just about recite its mission statement from memory but in the interest of accuracy, it reads:

To end the senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs caused by mal-pruning.

What first attracted me to PlantAmnesty was its name. You gotta figure that an organization promoting plant (vs. human) rights knows better than to take itself too seriously. Not that topping trees and other pruning atrocities aren't cause for alarm, but since its founding in 1987, Plant Amnesty has consistently found ways to smarten us up about trees and shrubs and make us laugh in the process.

Sexy, wholesome and easy to grow, raspberries simply need space, sun and pruning advice from PlantAm

Sexy, wholesome and easy to grow, raspberries simply need space, sun and pruning advice from PlantAmnesty. photo credit: Barbara Galasso hide caption

toggle caption photo credit: Barbara Galasso

A case in point, from the most recent PlantAmnesty newsletter which features the art of pruning raspberries:

...the people from PETP (People for the Ethical Treatment of Plants) want me to let you know that fruits (and maybe nuts) are the only plant parts that actually want you to eat them.

C'mon, that's funny!

This is all to say that Cass's current column takes the mystery out of pruning raspberries. Here's the quick and dirty:

1)If you've got good old-fashioned plants, simply remove the old, dead canes. Those are the ones that are grey and woody, NOT bright, fresh green. First-year raspberries canes neither flower nor fruit.

2)If you've got "ever-bearing" or "fall-bearing" raspberries, simmer it down to one word: OY. As Cass writes,

My advice to you is to just do what's "obvious" by looking at the patch. Cut out the "finished" tops, and the completely finished, dead-looking canes to the ground. Or forget the cutting in-half part and just cut the completely dead ones out. Leave the live-looking ones. That oughta work.

Your two cents?



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hmmmm...not so sure you have that right with the raspberries. Here in Vt. we also thin them to stand about 8" apart.
They can get pretty thick otherwise and produce smaller and fewer berries.

Sent by D Quant | 8:12 PM | 9-22-2008

We're on the same page, D. No doubt berry exuberance varies coast to coast...besides, when you thin them out, no doubt you're starting with old canes.

Sent by Ketzel Levine | 8:39 PM | 9-22-2008

My very exuberant vines are completely out of control by mid-June, so I sometimes have to prune them just to get to the canes in the middle-and the remaining canes still produce berries. Is this OK?

Sent by Karen K | 10:37 PM | 9-22-2008

Perhaps obvious, but ... all those suckers that pop up all around the base of the central central bush? PULL them out, tap root and all. That helps to remove the sucker buds from the root mass underneath the larger bush. Then thin the central bush as you've recommended - leave a half-dozen or so of the most vibrant looking canes. Leave bushes about 2 feet apart - again, cleaning out all the suckers in between that try to turn your neat row into a solid blanket.

And on the coldest and rainiest of winter nights, pull out raspberries from your freezer and dream summer dreams. :-)

Sent by Anna | 11:56 PM | 9-22-2008

i work with raspberries almost everyday (and am on the west coast.) you definitely need to remove canes that have already flowered and fruited, but you also should cut out any suckers that have come up away from the original plant, and would be best off removing some canes where the original plant is also, to fend off disease and improve plant vigor, berry size, etc. although this website sounds fun, i'd recommend checking your local extension center site for more accurate, in-depth info. growing berries is fun, but also a lot of work.

Sent by debunker | 12:47 AM | 9-23-2008

In Portland, we have everbearing raspberries that we adjust in height twice a year. In mid summer [3rd week July], we remove the canes that have bloomed and bore the first gathering, they are brown on color. We remove them at the base. The remaining canes are bright green and grow rambling. We control their direction with some twine and tie to stakes/fence.
After last berries [near Halloween] we have the second pruning to bring the long whips to about 6 feet tall. Those reduced canes are tied to the stakes for wintering over. All leaves removed. New branch growth will come at the leaf axis along those canes for the next spring harvest and the cycle starts again.

Sent by Dave Erickson | 8:52 PM | 9-23-2008

I thought I basically understood the rule, cut out the brown, leave the green. And, b/c I live where we get deep snow, I was told to cut even the green canes so they'd stand up in deep snow, otherwise they'll get a rotting disease. This meant taking off the long, wand like ends. I recently met someone who had a much greater yield and they said, especially with the snow pruning idea, too much cutting. My rasp bushes are under on older tree that grew large, tall and shades them for part of the day. This might be their problem too, not enough direct sun. I am thinking. After all these years everything is still in progress. Thanks for the info.

Sent by Julie McCabe | 11:40 AM | 9-24-2008

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