When to Prune Raspberries and Blackberries
Pruning raspberries and blackberries after the harvest is a necessity for an orderly, trouble free berry patch. I should know…I skipped this step last year due to a number of time constraints and paid the price with a congested mess of raspberry plants that could hardly be approached, much less harvested. Thankfully you can avoid my mistake by following these easy steps for pruning raspberries and blackberries. While this can be done almost any time, the easiest (but not necessarily most comfortable) time is mid-summer. For everbearing varieties, read the steps and see the *note at the end.
How to Prune
- Harvest your berries and enjoy the fruits of the season. Pruning will start after the harvest is completely finished. There is no definite time to begin, but it may be easiest for beginners to see what needs to be removed by waiting for three or four weeks after harvesting before beginning to prune.
- Remove all of the stems (canes) which produced berries, because they will not produce again*. This process is called caning. To do it, just find where the berries had been attached to the plant then follow those canes all the way to the ground and cut them off. If you have only a small patch, a pair of hand pruners will do the job. For larger plantations, you may want to invest in a bean hook which will allow you to do the caning from a standing position rather than on your knees.
- Transplant and/or cut back all new canes that are out of bounds or crowded. The remaining canes should be in a twelve inch wide “row/patch” with the canes spaced at least six inches apart.
- Rake up the debris and remove it to be burned or composted.
- Add a three inch layer of mulch. I have used pine needles, hardwood bark, compost, and grass clippings over the years and cannot see a difference among those options, but no mulch is a bad option.
Pruning raspberries and blackberries, is a straight-forward cleanup process that should not be avoided. When done in the summer, soon after harvest, it will allow plenty of room for the next years canes to grow unobstructed aiding fruit production and providing easy access for plant support systems.
*Everbearing varieties will produce flowers and fruit on cane-tips late in the growing season of their first year, then after overwintering they will produce a main crop on lateral branches in the “regular” season. When caning these varieties, look for the telltale sign of lateral branching on the canes to be removed…rather than relying on the presence of spent berry clusters alone.