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Time to prune raspberry and blackberry plants

Everbearing raspberry plants can produce twice a season
Everbearing raspberry plants can produce twice a season

FREEPORT, Ill. – While most fruit trees have been pruned for the season, homeowners should look to prune raspberry and blackberry plants in the next couple of weeks.

Your first step in pruning these is to know that brambles produce primocanes and floricanes. “A primocane would be a cane that grew in summer of 2019 that will then be called a floricane in spring 2020,” said Grant McCarty, U of I Extension local foods and small farms educator. “These floricanes will produce your fruit this summer. When we talk about pruning in the spring, you are removing the canes the produced fruit last summer.”

For pruning purposes, you need to know the type of bramble you have. Blackberry pruning will consist of pruning out canes that produced fruit last summer. Then, you’ll cut your main canes back to 3 to 4 feet. Next, side branches of the blackberry canes will be pruned to 12 inches with five to six buds on each.

Raspberry plants are a different story. “You have three types: Everbearing, Summer Red, and Black/Purple Raspberry. Each of these will be pruned slightly differently. However, the first step is to remove canes that produced raspberries last summer,” McCarty said.

For summer red raspberry, you’ll prune back this year’s floricanes to 5 feet. If you have summer black/purple raspberry, these can be pruned three times a year. From this year’s floricanes, cut side branches to 8 to 10 inches in length and then months later, do a summer tipping when canes are 24 to 30 inches in height. This summer tipping involves removing 2 to 3 inches of new shoots at the top of the floricane.

Everbearing raspberry plants can produce twice a season which will dictate how you prune them. For summer and fall yields, thin out this year’s floricanes to 5 inches between. These will produce fruit in early summer. This summer, newly grown primocanes may then produce fruit in the fall before overwintering, thinning out next spring, and producing again in the summer to start the cycle over again. For just fall raspberries, mow all canes down this spring. You’ll have primocanes develop this summer and produce fall fruit.

“Many homeowners have bramble patches that are messes,” McCarty said. “Your first step in remediating them is to prune out the old canes. From there, create a trellis/support to keep them in place. With few disease problems, these brambles will produce in most year and provide you with a great summer crop.”

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