Perhaps no other small fruit commonly found in the gardens of the Hilltowns and Valley mystify their owners as do raspberries. There is no shortage of information out there on how to prune these thorny canes. As a professional and homeowner I can tell you I am often perplexed on how to prune them after reading one of the numerous tomes written on the subject. I will attempt to simplify the process with the below 5 steps.
The steps below assume that you have “summer bearing raspberries” as opposed to “fall bearing raspberries.” Even if this is not the case, the below system will work fine.
1) Get the right tools- Loppers on the left & hand pruners on the right.
2) Remove all canes that are dead.
If they fruited last year they will be dead or virtually dead this year. Cut them out at the base (1-2″ above soil).
This is a simple task your kids can help you with. They might find hand pruners a bit hard to use so let them use loppers.
3) Remove all canes smaller then the diameter of a pencil.
4) Thin out remaining canes to a 6-12″ spacing from one another. Leaving the stoutest healthiest ones.
5) Reduce height of canes with topping cut to approximately 4 1/2 feet.
The photo below shows a row of raspberries at my farm: thinned & topped.
When it comes to bramble fruits, less is more. That monstrous tangled rats nest of a bramble patch that you fear treading into will yield less fruit then a spartanly pruned row of orderly canes. The above 5 steps are the most important things you can do to help you get a good berry harvest. But in conjunction with this do not forget to mulch, irrigate, trellis & fertilize, all topics for a future article.