How to Grow Raspberries in Containers
Are you convinced that you can’t grow anything at all and have a completely brown thumb?
I guarantee you – there is hope! Growing raspberries is like trying to grow weeds, seriously.
You’ll be able to grow a bounty of delicious raspberries, promise. They’re so easy and yummy that they make a perfect beginner crop for kids too.
They can handle minimal care, less than ideal soil and will happily live in containers for years too.
They’ll even take some drought and still recover to produce beautiful berries for you all season long.
What kind of raspberry plant to choose?? There are so many types!
Each colour and variety has slightly different characteristics and growth habits. All of the different varieties are bred to make them more suitable to different characteristics, climates and temperature zones. It’s a safe bet that if the particular plants are for sale in your area, then it’s likely that they are good to live in your area.
If you live in an exceptionally cold place or a place that has sharp cold winters your raspberry plant might not survive very long in a container. This happens because they don’t have the insulation of the (underground) ground around the roots to keep them warmer. The container will freeze more quickly and more solidly than the ground soil will.
If you are using a raised bed or very large container then it will likely fair better.
These are just few of the many varieties of raspberry available:
- Autumn Bliss: ripens early fall, large fruit, medium height canes
- Meeker: upright variety, low maintenance, no need for staking usually
- Heritage: 2 crops per year, one in early summer and another in August. Self pollinating.
- Nova: ripens early, tart flavour, does best in zone 5 or greater
- Boyne: ripens early, small fruit, winter hardy, very productive
- Tulameen: ripens very late, large fruit, good choice for home garden, does best in zone 5 or greater
- Latham (red) – Extra sweet, hardy, ripens mid June, self pollinating
- September (red) – Ripens early summer and late August, self pollinating
- Fall Gold: Ever-bearing, yellow-gold fruit, unique very sweet flavour, harvest from June to October, no need for staking
The availability of different varieties varies greatly around the continent. You will likely be able to find varieties I have not mentioned here and/or you may not be able to find the ones that I have listed here.
Choose a variety that is local to your region and bred to withstand the weather of the area. This will ensure you get a lower maintenance plant and an easier growing season with a more rewarding harvest.
I recommend that you try the golden variety, the Fall Gold is what I have. These are a beautiful golden yellow colour and is distinctly different in taste. These have a unique flavour and are sweeter than the red ones.
Fall Gold raspberries won’t need staking like some of the other varieties as they only grow about 5 feet tall and have strong biennial canes to support the weight of the fruit.
Royalty Purples are delicious but taste nothing like any of the other colours either.
Black raspberries are more dense and have a different, slightly more tart flavour to the rest of the colours and varieties.
If you have wild blackberries growing in the surrounding areas then you will have a greater chance of picking up pests from there such as the Raspberry Crown Borer.
Both purple and black raspberries have a vining nature and do need a bit of space to spread out, so if you only have a little then don’t bother with this plant. Stick with the red and golden varieties.
The Gold raspberry varieties are delicious, unique and will more than adequately fill the spot in the garden.
There are several yellow varieties in the stores, availability varies by region:
If you have room for two large containers then you can grow one gold variety and one red variety.
Contain Your Raspberries
Even if you have an in-ground garden, I strongly recommend a containment system for your raspberry plants because they spread very quickly by underground shoots known as rhizomes.
A large 24″ toy tub will be more than adequate for growing raspberries.
If you are working with a raised bed, I recommend a long and narrow 2′ wide bed because it’ll be easier to reach all the berries from both sides and it helps facilitate better airflow as well.
The reason for the extra thought when choosing the place to plant them is worth the time and effort because they have a relentless underground sprouting system.
Once they get established they easily become hard to control and contain.
They will spread themselves as far and wide as they can find soil. This isn’t necessarily bad but it needs to be considered beforehand.
It’s technically a weed and that’s the same characteristic that makes it a tough, perfect plant for beginners and brown thumbs.
Don’t let them loose!
If you’re in a rush and eager to plant for the harvest to come and choose not to pre-plan the containment system for them and just plant them loose in your yard then you’ll likely regret that decision after just a couple of years. They will be growing happily in all directions and everywhere you don’t want them.
If you really want them to look like they are planted in the ground and have the space options open to you, then you just need to create a containment system for them under the surface of the soil. This is just a matter of creativity and ingenuity.
It can be as simple as planting them in a standard container and then dig a big hole to bury that whole thing. Then your plant will look like it’s growing in the ground but without the hassles.
One suggestion is to make a rectangle frame of plexi-glass with the corners screwed together really well, make sure it’s at least 18″ deep to contain the deeper roots and shoots.
The method is simply to dig a narrow channel in the very same shape to sink the frame into…essentially making a buried raised bed.
The sides will contain the fast spreading rhizomes. If the soil you have is lacking then you can dig it out from the centre of the frame and fill it with nicer planting mix.
To ensure that your plants do not get Raspberry Crown Borer it’s helpful to spray down the root ball and entire plant with Spinosad two or three times in the early spring and just after the flowers open.
Spinosad is a microbial pesticide that attacks worms and larvae only. It’s harmless to humans and pets, it’s safe for food crops and is widely used in the organic gardening industry.
This product is harmful to bees –but only when wet and freshly applied– so use this product at night when the bee activity is lowest. The danger passes when the liquid dries up.
For the vining varieties that grow long and far, I recommend just keeping them trimmed to a manageable size and height. The plant will adapt and produce fruit anyway.
The first year the plant will grow primocanes which do not produce fruit in their first year.
Over the winter, these canes will mature and turn brown. By the next growing year they will mature and be called floricanes. These canes are the ones that will be ready to produce fruit in the summer.
Then during that year the plant will grow another set of green canes.
The fruit grows only on the older, second year canes that grew in the first year. This is called a Biennial Growth Cycle.
Raspberries will produce a good harvest on their own without a lot of care and attention, but at the same time they will respond well to the addition of fertilizer and nutrients to the surrounding soil.
Using raspberry fertilizer, such as this one made by Gardens Alive! will increase yields and help feed the canes throughout the spring and summer. “Super Grow for Plants” is a natural enzyme plant booster that’s suitable for all plants and also a good option for feeding them.
Applying good quality fertilizer will help develop a stronger healthier plant which in turn produces larger and more flavourful harvests.
End of Season Clean Up
Once they are done fruiting, leave the largest green canes in tact but cut the little spindly ones down to about 1″ high.
Then for the brown canes, these are the ones that grew last year and produced fruit this year…cut out the damaged and the smallest of these to allow the larger canes to receive more of the plants energy to produce fruit.
The ever-bearing varieties will give two harvests each season, so wait until late fall before cutting those types down. The second crop grows on the very ends of the tall green canes.
During all pruning be careful not to damage the new green shoots that just grew this year, they are delicate. Those will be the ones that produce the fruit next year.
Fall Clean Up
Cut the tallest canes down to a more manageable height, usually about 4′ or 5′ is good. This stops the plant from getting too leggy. Thin them out so that only 3-5 of the strongest canes (per linear foot) stay standing for the winter.
In the spring, usually around March (depending on your zone) you’ll see the new shoots emerging on last years canes and also you’ll see new green shoots coming out of the soil.
Leave the largest of the canes that are making sprouts and cut the dead tips of these canes above where they are making shoots. This will help to ensure a very healthy plant that produces large berries on large healthy canes.
That’s all until spring
That’s all you have to do until next spring. In the spring the new green shoots will emerge and the green shoots of last year will have turned brown and are now ready to make flower buds and eventually produce fruit later in the summer. Use your pruners to cut the dead top ends of the canes that are not making new shoots.
In the early spring, give them some good organic seaweed fertilizer or fish fertilizer mixed with water and sprayed on the plants with a hose end sprayer.
It’s a little bit smelly but the plants LOVE IT!
Include other nutritional options such as worm castings, guano or good compost.
Give them a feeding of organic fertilizer in the mid summer as well, twice a year is enough.
If you have just a small area or a few containers then use a watering can and mix the solution in there.
I recommend Neptune’s Harvest Organic Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer because it’s a combination product with both seaweed and fish fertilizer in one. Save time and spray both together.
You should find raspberries generally very easy to grow. Let me know how your raspberry garden goes!
Please leave a comment below and tell me your experiences with growing raspberries.