Should I cut back my raspberry plants?
With all of the rain in July, I have raspberry plants way over 6′ tall. Few berries this year. Should I cut them back? I don’t want to hurt production next year, but these seem out of control. If cutting is the answer, how much and when?
Also, I just planted a new section of June berries. I tried using weed cover on the bed, cutting 6 – 8″ holes for each plant. I plan to use ground straw in between plants. Will this work and will runners survive when routing in straw?
Emma Fournier, Horticulture Community Education Assistant
During the summer months you should prune out old, unproductive growth. You can also prune out any new shoots that are growing in an undesired place, such as outside the row. The reason you have had few berries is likely due to overcrowding. It is recommended that the raspberries grow in rows that are 12-18 inches wide, and have 5 canes per foot of row length. This will improve sunlight and air penetration which increases fruit production. During late winter/early spring before the emergence of buds, you should continue to prune out old canes, ones with gray, peeling bark. Only the most healthy and vigorous canes should remain. Check out our raspberry pruning publication for more information.
As for the strawberries, they should be planted 18 inches apart within rows and 48-52 inches between rows. They only require mulch in late fall to protect them from the harshness of winter. Straw will make a great mulch. In mid-April you should pull the straw off of the plants. Runners will root best in soil, not straw. They can be held down by rocks or clips to ensure root development. For more detailed information check out this publication on mulching.