A perennial sarmentose shrub native to central-northern Europe, it is made up of a small stump, from which long shoots grow with a two-year development, covered by a thin down, sometimes thorny, arched and flexible, growing to 150-200 cm in height. In spring it produces small pinkish white flowers, grouped in pyramidal inflorescences; some varieties produce fruits in summer, on one-year branches; other varieties produce fruits in spring on one-year branches and in late summer on new suckers.
The fruits of the raspberry are sweet and juicy, they are small drupes, rattached one to the other, around the receptacle, from which they detach easily; in autumn, we can prune the branches which have fructified during the previous summer. The raspberries are utilized for preparing jams and liqueurs, the leaves are utilized also in herbalist shops.
It belongs to the same family as the apple tree and the pear tree and includes several species spread almost all over the world. We are talking about the raspberry, a species with a bushy habit to which we dedicate a detailed cultivation sheet. The plant, which appears spontaneously in some wooded areas, is also suitable for cultivation both in the garden and on a large scale. The techniques and methods of cultivation vary according to the variety chosen.
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Place in a sunny or semi-shady place; they prefer cool places, possibly with the lower part of the plant far from direct sunlight. Raspberries are not afraid of the cold and tend to develop widely over the years.
The raspberry belongs to the boundless family of Rosaceae and the genus Rubus. It includes several species, but the best known and most cultivated is mainly the European one, the Rubus idaeus L, commonly known as European raspberry. The plant, native to Europe and Asia Minor, has a bushy habit and also includes other varieties widespread mainly overseas and little cultivated in Europe.
Thanks to crossbreeds between the different varieties of raspberry, however, have been obtained cultivars that resist any climatic condition and soil and the most common pests and diseases. The plant has about three, five deciduous, oval, dark green leaves, consisting of a serrated edge and fruits that, depending on the variety can take on a color ranging from red, purple and black. The vegetative cycle of the raspberry is biennial and continuous.
The European raspberry, in particular, is a bushy plant composed of numerous biennial shoots that expand and renew continuously. The roots of the plant are superficial and perennial, formed by stubby and rhizomatous main roots, and by secondary sorted roots. The shoots of the year are called suckers, the two-year-old shoots are, on the contrary, called “fruiting shoots”.
These vegetative parts, of pale green colour, can be at times covered by small thorns and can reach even a length of two metres. If they develop from buds placed along the roots, they are also called radical suckers, if they appear at the base of the shoots and at the collar, they are called “collar suckers”.
Usually, they are satisfied with the rains, even if it is advisable to water in the summer time, before the harvesting of the fruits, in order to avoid that they dry up too much, especially in case of prolonged drought periods.
Raspberries love soft soils, rich in organic matter and very well drained. They are planted in autumn, after having enriched the soil with mature manure; after planting, the stems are cut at about 20-30 cm above the ground. In autumn, organic or slow release fertilizer is supplied; every 8-10 years, it is advisable to move the raspberry stumps, in order to always obtain a good fructification.
It usually happens by division of the tufts, in fact, the young basal suckers root easily once separated from the mother plant.
Pests and diseases
Usually raspberries do not get sick easily, even if the fruits attract many insects and animals that eat them.
Flowers and fruits
The white raspberry flowers are grouped in small racemose inflorescences. The development of the same takes place in mid-May with the appearance of the apical flowers and then the axillary ones that open in correspondence of the basal leaves. Usually, the flowering of the raspberry lasts for about one month, then until mid-June.
The fruits, on the contrary, called “sorosi”, are composed by a group of drupes which, united together, form the very well known blackberry, called also “forest fruit”. The shape of the blackberry can be round or elongated and conical, while the color varies from pale pink, to ruby, to deep red and almost purple.
There are many varieties of raspberry and it would be impossible to list them all. Among the most famous are the rubus strigosus, or wild raspberry, originating in the United States, with smaller, darker shoots and red fruits similar to European raspberries. It seems that there is no difference between the two species and both are included in the common name “red raspberry”.
In addition to the red raspberry there is also the black raspberry, with fruits from the purplish color so intense as to seem black. The botanical name of this second variety, also native to the United States, is Rubus occidentalis. Also American is the violet raspberry, botanically known as Rubus neglectus. The different varieties of raspberry are also classified according to the time and type of fruiting.
In this sense there are the unified raspberries, which bear fruit only once a year, and the re-flowering raspberry or bifer, which bears fruit twice a year. The cycle of these plants is always biennial, but in the unified varieties, during the first year there is the formation of the suckers and in the second, that of the fruits; in the biferous varieties, on the contrary, suckers and fruits appear at the same time both in the first and in the second year.
Habitat and raspberry cultivation
The rubus idaeus is a plant that grows wild in mountain areas, mainly in the undergrowth and at altitudes not exceeding two thousand meters above sea level. The ideal habitat of the rubus idaeus is therefore represented by a wooded environment, humid, fresh and rich in organic matter. Thanks to the cultivation for productive and ornamental purposes, raspberries are now cultivated all over the world. Currently it is particularly widespread in the United States, Canada and Chile.
In Europe, raspberry cultivation is widespread in Poland, the United Kingdom, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. In our country, the plant is grown in both the southern and northern regions. Raspberry can be grown in open fields and in pots. The planting methods vary according to the species cultivated. The unified varieties are cultivated with traditional espaliers, i.e.
with shoots placed in the same row, or with espaliers every other year, with separate rows and dedicated to the production of renewal shoots and the production of fruiting shoots. These rows can be reversed from the second year. The biferous varieties, on the other hand, are cultivated with traditional espaliers.
Land and repotting
Raspberry prefers fresh, well-drained, humus-rich soils with a slightly acidic pH, not exceeding 6,5. On the other hand, the plant does not tolerate clayey, hard, compact and too humid soils. These soils, in fact, can cause root asphyxia and fungal diseases that can lead to death of the entire plant.
Even soils rich in limestone should be avoided, because, in the most sensitive varieties, they can give rise to chlorosis, or leaf yellowing caused by the lack of absorption of iron by the roots. The raspberry grown in pots should be planted in a new container every eight or ten years, so as to ensure good fruiting of the plant.
Temperature and exposure
The raspberry fears high temperatures but also intense and prolonged cold. The ideal exposure for the plant is in a partially shaded place where it can receive sunlight during the coolest hours of the day. Avoid, however, hot and dry places. The roots of the raspberry can also be damaged by the cold wind. This climatic condition often leads to the burning of the roots or their damage. The roots themselves can burn due to sudden drops in spring temperatures.
Changes in temperature can also damage suckers that develop from the ground. For this reason, soils in valley floor areas, where cold air accumulations are most likely, should be avoided.
Multiplication and planting
The raspberry reproduces by pollination, that is by the intervention of the bees, or by division of the suckers taken from the mother plant. The planting of the plant, as already said, can take place in open field and in pot. The small plants with already rooted suckers should be planted during the vegetative rest, that is, in autumn. In the regions with particularly rigid climates, however, it is better to plant them in spring and in a cool and humid place.
The small plants in pots, on the contrary, are to be planted by mid-May, placing the containers in a place sheltered from the wind and the draughts. The operations of planting the raspberry are quite simple because they only require the insertion of the bread of earth inside the holes.
The raspberry should be irrigated immediately after planting, at the vegetative restart, during the flowering and during the enlargement of the fruits. In these phases, and especially during the fruit enlargement, the irrigations must be abundant. After harvesting, and especially in autumn, irrigation should be progressively reduced, so as to encourage the ripening of the stem and the development of new roots.
The amount of water to be distributed varies according to the climate and the type of soil. In shallow soils, frequent irrigation with little water will be necessary, while in average soils more water will have to be distributed but spaced out between applications. The water can be distributed through sprinklers that water the canopy, or through the system of drippers. In light soils and in cool, windy climates, it is advisable to use a sprinkler system for irrigation.
Always avoid excesses and water stagnation, which can cause fungal diseases and fruit rot.
The raspberry is a plant that during its development endures a considerable expenditure of energy. The greatest effort of the plant occurs during the development of the suckers and fruits. Fertilization therefore involves various interventions, both in the planting phase and in the production and harvesting phase. Before planting, the soil must be thoroughly fertilized and enriched with bovine manure or, in the absence of such manure, with mineral fertilizers.
The latter must also be administered during the growth and production phases and over a period of time that goes from the vegetative recovery to the beginning of the harvest, in the unified varieties, and halfway through the harvest for the re-flowering varieties. Every two years the soil should also be enriched with mature and decomposed manure. Care must be taken that the same manure is easily absorbed by the soil so as not to constitute an obstacle to the release of the basal suckers.
If you do not want to do too much fractionated mineral fertilization, you can choose a slow release fertilizer for fruit plants, to be administered every three or four months.
The raspberry requires small pruning operations that are quite simple to perform. Usually we proceed by removing the shoots that have produced the fruit to leave room for new unproductive shoots. The latter will then be cut and capped in the apical part. The operations described above are carried out every year, but in different periods that vary depending on the species cultivated and the farming system chosen.
In the unified varieties with traditional production, pruning is carried out after harvesting the fruit, cutting the productive shoots at the base. Thinning and pruning, on the other hand, take place in autumn. A second intervention on the production shoots is carried out in spring. In the varieties that are uniform in alternate years, the productive shoots are eliminated in autumn only when they are completely dry.
The re-flowering varieties can be pruned in autumn by removing the apical shoots or by cutting the basal shoots to ground level. To avoid the development of pests and diseases, it is advisable to burn and promptly eliminate all the residues of pruning.
Raspberry – Rubus idaeus: Pests and diseases
Raspberry can be affected by insect pests and diseases. The most common insects in raspberries are aphids, mites, cockchafers and curculoid beetles. The latter, in the larval phase, are similar to worms that damage the fruits making them unmarketable. Mushrooms, viruses and bacteria can cause very serious diseases in the raspberry, such as root cancer, hate or white pain and grey mould. Virus diseases include the mosaic of the leaves and the curling of the leaves.
Many raspberry adversities can be prevented by setting the right cultivation methods, choosing resistant cultivars and selecting the right soil.