It’s not too early in the year to begin a few simple chores to help raspberries and blackberries stay healthy and bear more fruit.
Bernadine Strik, a berry crops specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, suggests pruning raspberries in the late fall or winter.
In summer-bearing raspberries, she recommends removing dead fruiting canes, cutting off their tops and training new canes that will bear this summer.
Most types of raspberry canes grow and produce only leaves the first year, when they are called primocanes. They do not produce fruit until the following year, when they are called floricanes.
Cut canes of primocane-fruiting raspberries in early March so they’re mere stubs in the ground to get a late summer crop on the tips of the new canes that will grow this spring.
If you want two crops—one in June and one in late summer—remove the dead tops on last year’s canes only. You will get a crop on the base of these canes in June and a late-summer crop on the tips of the new canes. No other pruning is necessary.
Remove unwanted new canes or suckers that grow between the rows once spring growth starts in both types of raspberries.
Prune and train most blackberries in August or February. If you haven’t yet removed the dead fruiting canes and trained the new canes up the trellis of trailing blackberries—such as Marion and boysen—do so in late February.
Cut out last year’s dead fruiting canes and train the new canes after most of the risk of winter cold injury has passed, but before the buds start to swell, generally in mid- to late February.
Blackberries and raspberries benefit from an application of horticultural oil and lime sulfur to combat pests and diseases when they are dormant.
Fertilize all cane berries in the spring. Fall-fruiting raspberries need another shot of fertilizer at bloom in June.
Don’t forget to irrigate cane berries frequently throughout the fruiting season to ensure good fruit size. Raspberries and blackberries need an inch to an inch and a half of water weekly.
“If it doesn’t rain that much, you need to provide water,” Bernadine says.
Pick fruit when fully ripe to ensure good quality. Over-ripe fruit on the canes promotes fruit rot.
Control weeds, which rob the fruiting canes of water and nutrients.
Be on the lookout for insect pests, especially leaf rollers and spotted wing drosophila. Control if necessary. n