One of the greatest joys I’ve discovered since we moved to upstate New York is picking fresh berries! Last summer, my youngest son and his friends became pros at picking sun-ripened raspberries. They would run into the house, begging for bowls or baskets to gather the berries in and then enthusiastically gallop back to the raspberry patch to fill them.
Our raspberries flourished last year. The kids picked them daily for weeks!
Such a blessing.
I totally attribute that bountiful berry success to the spring pruning I did last year. When we moved here, the raspberries were growing wild near a cherry tree. And when I say wild, I mean WILD. Overgrown. Tangled. Weeds taller than I’ve ever seen shooting up through the middle. Craziness.
Determined to tame the chaos and enjoy a good harvest, I researched. A Lot.
There is so much to know about fruit-bearing canes, but the most essential thing I’ve learned? The importance of early spring pruning.
Here’s the BEFORE pic.
At the end of the winter (early April here in New York this year) once the mountains of snow melted, this is what it looked like.
Here’s what I did to make it easy on myself.
Just Use The Process of Elimination
For an established rasperry pacth like this, get it in your head that two thirds of it must go! If you start out with an overgrown mess, you can trust that it will bounce back if you get too carried away!
Break out those loppers and cut these all the way to the ground.
- Canes that are spindly, skinny or just plain wimpy.
- Spent canes — the ones with branches.
- Damaged canes; broken, bent or or otherwise ill-fated.
- Canes that are taller than you are. (My personal recommendation.)
- The dead ones that look like colorless, dry wood. (The ones you want to keep are red and usually show signs of budding.)
- Anything outside of a 2 -3 foot row width!
I start on the outside of the row, chop, chop, chop and work my way to the width I want. I just eyeball it.
I am more selective with the canes I keep than those I whack. I want only the very best canes; thick, strong and not afraid of a gust of wind (because I’ve chosen not to stake and tie them).
We should see another beautiful crop of berries this summer now that they’ve been given room to grow, and for plenty of fresh air to flow through and keep them healthy.
P.S. For expert guidance on how to prune raspberries, I reccomend watching this video.