Tips for Growing Raspberries in Alberta
Updated: Mar 10
Who doesn't love the sweet, with a touch of tartness, taste of raspberries? They are normally quite expensive to purchase in the grocery store but easy to grow in your backyard. Raspberries are one of the limited fruit varieties we have in zone 3 that grow well in our cooler climate. Once established in the right location, raspberries require only a small amount of maintenance and will provide you with plenty of fresh berries year after year. If you don't yet have a raspberry patch now is the time to start one! Today I will share with you a few tips for growing raspberries to get you started.
Raspberry plants are classified as either summer bearing or ever bearing. Summer bearing raspberries produce fruit from July to mid August whereas ever bearing raspberries produce from mid to late August until the first frost in the fall. A mixture of both varieties gives you raspberries all summer long.
Summer bearing raspberry varieties (can be both floricane and primocanes - see the "Pruning" section below) include:
Boyne - Probably the most common variety and known for being very hardy. Boyne is a great raspberry variety to grow in zone 3 Alberta.
Festival - short, hardy canes.
Killarney - Produce a firm fruit.
Honeyqueen - A yellow-fruited variety.
SK Red Mammoth - Bright red, sweet berries.
Ever bearing raspberry varieties (only grow primocanes - see the "Pruning" section below) include:
Red River - medium sized berries.
Double Delight - small berries.
Summit - small to medium size berries.
Autumn Bliss - large, dark red berries.
Fall brook - large, bright red berries .
Best Location for Growing Raspberries
Raspberry plants produce best when planted in a full sun or a full sun with afternoon shade, location. Raspberries prefer to be planted in a place protected from the wind. When choosing a location keep in mind that raspberry bushes will spread and send out many suckers (new plant shoots off their roots). If you do not want your raspberries to spread, cleaning out suckers can be a big task each spring.
Best Soil to Grow Raspberries In
Raspberries benefit from rich soil that has had compost added to it as they require high nitrogen levels for maximum fruit production. A perfect soil PH for raspberry plants is slightly acidic PH, from 5.5 - 6.5. Adding fresh compost to your raspberries each spring will aid in keeping berry production at its best. If you don't have easy access to a good compost, another option is fertilizing the plants with a 10-10-10 when the snow melts and again in mid May.
How to Plant Raspberries
Prior to planting your new raspberry plants, soak roots in water for one hour. Avoid placing roots in the sun or wind while transplanting to protect them from drying out. Water raspberry plants soon after planting to fill in air pockets. If plants are taller than 9 inches, trim cane down to a 9 inch height to promote good root growth. Spacing for raspberry plants should be 12 inches apart with rows 3 meters apart for easy picking.
Water raspberries at the base of the plant to avoid powdery mildew and other fungal diseases. For maximum production ensure plants are watered well from bloom to harvest. After harvest don't water plants until late fall once the leaves have dropped. Withholding water will encourage raspberry plants to go into dormancy. Once the leaves have dropped water once deeply to prepare plants for winter.
Raspberries are ready for harvest once they have turned red and the berry easily slides into your hand after a gentle tug. The best time of day to harvest raspberries is in the cool of the morning or evening, being careful to keep the berries out of the sun. Place unwashed raspberries in the fridge and hold off washing until use to avoid your berries going mushy. To freeze raspberries, wash and allow them to fully dry, then place in a single layer on a pan lined with parchment paper. Once they are frozen transfer the raspberries into the storage container or bag of your choice.
Pruning Primocane vs. Floricane Raspberries
The first step to pruning raspberries is to determine what variety you are growing. Rasperries are either:
Primocanes - Green canes that grew in the current year.
Floricane - Brown, woody canes that grew in the previous year.
Ever bearing raspberries produce fruit on primocanes whereas summer bearing produce fruit only on florocains. You need to know which type you have to know how to properly prune your raspberry bushes. The roots of raspberry bushes are perennial but the canes are biennial and your plants will benefit from you cleaning out the dead canes that will no longer produce.
To prune ever bearing raspberries, cut down all cains to ground level once fruit production is finished for that year. If you don't get the pruning done in the fall they can also be cut down early in the spring.
If you are not sure if your raspberries are ever bearing or summer bearing, check what colour the branches are when they are blossoming or growing fruit. If the canes are bright green you have everbearing and need to prune all branches every fall. If the branches with the fruit are brown, and the bright green branches have no fruit, you have summer bearing and only want to prune down the brown branches in the fall. Slightly confusing? I agree. Hopefully this makes sense and you can figure out the proper branches to prune. If you don't prune, your raspberries will still produce fruit, just not as abundantly.
Summer bearing raspberry varieties grow the primocane the first year. This will not produce fruit until the next year. Once the cain is on it's second year it is called a florocain and will produce fruit that year and then die. To prune this variety you need to determine what canes are the green stemmed primocanes that need to be left uncut and what ones are the brown woody florocains that need to be pruned down to the ground. Prune floricane once fruit production is finished for the year. It is important to get pruning done in the fall because once spring comes you will not be able to tell what canes to prune.
Raspberries are known for being fairly pest resistant. Pests to watch out for include aphids, mites, leaf borers, cane borers, and fungal disease such as powdery mildew. If you notice an infected branch, remove and burn the infected part.
Companion Planting with Raspberries
Raspberry companion plants include garlic, chives, onions, chamomile, nasturtiums and yarrow for their tendency to drive other pests away and for the flowering varieties to attract bees.
Do not plant raspberries near potatoes, strawberries or tomatoes to avoid fungal disease.
I hope you have enjoyed these tips for growing raspberries in Calgary, Alberta along with other zone 3 climates!