Growing Raspberries this Summer in Your Family Garden

5 Simple Steps for Pruning Raspberries

Stop by one of the many plant sales happening over the next few weekends around Western MA and pick up raspberries dug fresh out of someone’s garden to take home and grown in your own!

Picking ripe raspberries straight off of their canes and popping them into your mouth is a summer delight that kids can carry with them into adulthood as fond memories from their childhood! But perhaps no other small fruit commonly found in Western MA  gardens mystify their owners as do raspberries. And 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. To make it easier for families to grow the berries in their home gardens for their children to enjoy, I’ve demystified their care here with 5 simple steps.  These steps assume that you have “summer bearing raspberries ” as opposed to “fall bearing raspberries.” Even if this is not the case, this system of care will work fine:

Five Simple Steps

  1. Get the right tools (Loopers on left; Hand pruners on 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.
  5. Reduce height of canes with topping cut to approximately 4 1/2 feet.

Here’s a what a row of raspberries that have been thinned & topped will look like. Click on image to see larger.

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 sparsely 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 these steps, remember to mulch, irrigate, trellis and fertilize… all topics for a future article!

Good luck!


Jim McSweeney

Jim is a certified arborist, certified horticulturist, licensed pesticide applicator (needed for the application of organic pesticides in MA) & a professional landscape designer with over 15 years experience.  He is also the owner of Hilltown Tree & Garden LLC.  Jim is on the faculty at the New England Wildflower Society, teaching courses on a diverse range of topics.  He lives and works in Zone 5 (Chesterfield, MA) with his family. Once a month here on Hilltown Families you will find timely gardening tips, from a pro in the field, that can be easily used by both avid and novice gardeners, specific to Western MA.

2 Comments on “Growing Raspberries this Summer in Your Family Garden

  1. Thanks, Jim. Is it too late to do this now? I pruned but not this drastically.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: