Raspberries are one of the tastes of July. Sue Bradley looks at the varieties to try, and continues to strive to keep weeds under control
Sue Bradley shares her seasonal gardening advice, plus an Open Garden in Creuse
Tart and ever-so-tasty juicy raspberries are an eagerly awaited summer treat and are one of the easiest fruits that you can grow. In fact, canes should last for several years and produce many kilograms of fruit, along with plenty of runners to plant elsewhere, before reaching the end of their productive lives. Many can even be grown in roomy containers, which means one or two can be squeezed into even the smallest of spaces.
Raspberries are best suited to areas with a cooler climate – more Normandy and Brittany than the French Riviera – and thrive in sunny but sheltered spots. Slightly acidic soil is preferred, although they will grow and produce fruit in more alkaline conditions too.
When choosing raspberries, the first thing to decide is whether to go for summer or autumn-fruiting cultivars, or a mixture of the two to enjoy a succession of berries from June to October or even November if frosts are late.
One important thing to remember is to keep the two types separate so that they can be pruned at the appropriate times of the year. Summer bearers fruit on the previous year’s canes and should be cut down once the harvest is over. Autumn raspberries fruit on new growth, however, and pruning should be left until late winter or early spring.
Once the desired fruiting time has been decided, the next step is to settle on which cultivars to grow. ‘Tulameen’ is prized for its large, red and flavoursome fruits, the highest yields of which are produced in midsummer.
Another earlier fruiter is ‘Valentina’, which yields tasty berries that are a mix of bright pink and apricot in colour and are very resistant to pests. The best known of the later fruiters is ‘Autumn Bliss’, which well and truly lives up to its name as the nights draw in.
Raspberries are usually associated with being dark pink or even red, but it’s possible to grow yellow fruit, of which ‘All Gold’ is a good choice.
All canes should be planted anytime between late autumn and early spring, although avoid periods when the ground is frozen. The soil should be free-draining and fertile, so dig in plenty of manure or compost before putting them in.
Plant canes in rows and erect posts at each end, from which horizontal lengths of wire can be used to train canes against. This will prevent heavily laden branches from dipping to the ground and provide some protection against wind damage.
Aim to keep raspberry canes weed free and mulch them well every year so that they get maximum benefit from moisture and nutrients.
Raspberries frequently make new plants known as runners: keep an eye on these and dig them out if they appear to be causing overcrowding, which can lead to poor ventilation and diseases such as raspberry spur blight.
Other things to look out for are raspberry beetles which can cause dry patches on fruit in midsummer, although they tend to be more of a problem with summer-fruiting plants.
If there aren’t any raspberries in your garden already, make it your mission to try different varieties this summer so that you can choose your favourites and plant them later on for a harvest of your own next year.
Use your raspberries in a tempting trifle – turn to page 62 for the recipe.