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Growing raspberries in containers and pots
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Raspberries can get quite expensive when you buy packs in the supermarket. But growing the canes yourself in containers can produce a high yield without the high cost. In fact, good care of raspberries can manifest in 5 or 6 years’ worth of good fruit.
When to grow raspberries in containers
There are two types of raspberry canes and the type you grow will determine when to plant them in your container.
The first type are those that fruit in the summer. The second type are those that fruit in Autumn. There is some overlap in their production, so if you cultivate both you can enjoy fruit from June through October, as the summer fruiting canes will have fruit June, July, and August, while the Autumn starts August and goes through September and October.
The Autumn fruiting raspberries are better for newcomers because they fruit on growth from the current year, while the summer producing plants produce fruit on canes from the previous year so pruning a little complicated.
Both can be planted between November and February, whenever the ground is thawed and not waterlogged. They can often be purchased bare root but if you want to plant them in summer you can get container-grown plants too.
Both can be fertilized twice per year, once in March and again in June.
The summer fruiting canes should be pruned in July and August. The Autumn fruiting canes should be pruned in October.
Note: If you grow both, just put them in separate containers.
Best raspberry varieties for pots
Some varieties grow better in containers than others, because they are not as impacted by wind and won’t get as tall.
Summer fruiting raspberries for pots
For summer fruiting varieties, Glen Ample gives strong, large fruit. The canes grow upright so there is no need to build any support structures. This is one of the most popular varieties not just because of taste but because of its disease resistance. Another popular option is the Malling Jewel which has low growing, strong canes. The colour is particularly red and vibrant.
Autumn fruiting raspberries for pots
For Autumn fruiting varieties, Autumn Bliss is a favourite. This one is ideal for containers because of the short canes, the sturdy design, and the lack of support structure need. This is also disease resistant, so you won’t have to contend with diseases as much.
When to plant in containers
The best time, as mentioned, is between November and March. You don’t have to worry about waiting for the ground to thaw if growing in containers, something with which you must contend when growing in the ground.
Plant bare root plants in winter and potted plants in summer
That said, bare-rooted canes are the cheapest canes, but they are only sold in winter and they need to planted right away or at least healed in some compost until you are ready to plant them. Alternatively, you can buy plants already in a container throughout the year. This saves you, temporarily, from having to uproot and replant but they do cost more but its a great option for those who want to plant raspberries when the bare root season is over.
How to plant raspberries in pots
If you have a bare root plant, fill the container with potting compost. It is good to make a mixture of 80% general purpose compost with some loam-based compost such as John Innes potting compost comprising the rest, in order to help the roots secure themselves within the container.
Choose deep pots to support the long roots of raspberries
Place one or two canes in a container at least 45-60cm wide. You should dig a hole big enough for the roots to slightly spread out. Depth is very important here, as the plant needs to be the depth it was if you took it out of a previous container, raspberries tend to have long roots and need deep pots. If you purchased a bare roots cane, you should be able to see the soil mark near the base, indicative of its former depth.
Firmly pat the soil around the canes and water well.
Supporting long canes
As the canes get bigger, you can make some form of a support structure such as a trellis, and tie the canes loosely to it for extra support. Summer fruiting plants will need more support than Autumn fruiting plants, so bear that in mind.
General care and maintenance
Watering raspberries in pots
The plants should have moist soil at all times, particularly when they are bearing fruit. The frequency of your watering is contingent upon the size of the container. The bigger the container, the less frequent the watering needs to be because the larger amount of soil will absorb more water.
If, for example, your going away for a week and have no one who can water your plants, move the containers in a sheltered area where they will be protected from wind to compensate for the lack of watering. With deep shade, raspberries can survive about one week with no water, and won’t be damaged. But this should only be done sparingly, as a last resort.
To assist with moisture retention you can add a layer of stones, gravel, or chipped bark about 5cm worth to help with water absorption. Better yet, consider installing a timer and water system using a drip system to slowly water every few days. Check out some of our recommended water timers in our buyers guide for water timers.
Feeding raspberries in pots
Raspberries will do well feed with a slow-release fertilizer applied in March/June, worked into the top 2cm of soil and watered thereafter. Beyond that, container-grown raspberries need a monthly application of general-purpose liquid fertilizer. Follow the instructions on the container when applying.
Tinning out old stems
After about one year of growing you should see more than one stem, if your plant is healthy. When this happens, keep your eyes peeled for overcrowding. If you are, for example, growing an autumn fruiting plant, and multiple stems are appearing, choose the strongest as the survivor, and cut back the remaining stems to ground level. Too many stems can choke the air supply.
If you have a summer fruiting container, you need to leave at least one cane from last year, on which the fruit will grow currently, and one or two canes from this year for the fruit to grow on next year.
Pruning raspberries in containers
Pruning Autumn fruiting raspberries
If you have an Autumn fruiting raspberries such as Autumn Bliss, you can prune any branches, just by cutting them back to about 3cm above the soil level in February. This will encourage new branches in March, and new fruit that Autumn. These are by far the easiest to prune which make them a good choice for beginners.
Pruning summer fruiting raspberries
If you have a summer fruiting plant, you need to exercise more caution, as the old canes are where the current fruit is produced. To prune these, you need to be on the ball timing-wise and prune as soon as they are done producing fruit. Cut all the canes that produced fruit in the current year back to ground level. Even if you didn’t mark the ones with fruit and now you can’t remember, that’s ok. The new canes are light green in colour and the old canes are much darker. The old canes will also look tired and worn out while the new canes will appear vibrant and happy.
You can harvest your berries as soon as they come off the cane with a gentle tug. The best time of day is bright and early in the morning or late in the evening when the temperatures are at their lowest. Lower temperatures during harvest will lengthen the time they remain fresh in the fridge.
If you want to freeze them, spread them on a tray like a baking sheet and place them in the freezer for about one hour. Once they are frozen, toss them in a bag and store them for up to three months. The texture won’t be the same when defrosted thereafter, but they will work perfectly for sauces, drinks, smoothies, and desserts. If you toss them in a bag fresh, without freezing them first, they will all stick together which makes it much harder to use later.
Other than this moderate pruning, and the removal of any dead or diseased branches, you won’t need to do anything else to keep the plants healthy. Just leave them in a protected area and keep the container weed-free.
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