While raspberries and blackberries have different habits, once they bear fruit on canes grown in the previous years, then pruning is a sure thing you have to do on both.
But when and how should I prune my raspberries and blackberries?
If you’re a beginner gardener, let me help you!
Benefits Of Pruning Raspberries And Blackberries
The two biggest benefits of pruning raspberries and blackberries are:
- Prevent pests and diseases
- Remove dead canes to optimize the plant growth and for low maintenance.
Besides, this job helps ensure providing enough light and nutrients to each plant through controlling the pace between them.
When To Prune Raspberries And Blackberries
According to Cornell University, two times of year that are safe for pruning raspberries and blackberries:
Late fall or when all of the leaves have died
Late fall pruning helps prevent any risk of disease overwintering on the plant.
Late winter, early spring
Late winter pruning helps the plant to survive through its dormant stage while early spring pruning is perfect to manage the plant height and eliminate dead or damaged branches – which encourages it to grow more healthily the following year.
Take note that in some climates, too thick snow might make late winter pruning challenging.
And, you should actually not prune your raspberries and blackberries during harsh weather conditions to avoid carbohydrate loss. Instead, wait until the snow melts enough – which might extend to February in some regions.
During pruning, make sure that you don’t cut off all the primo-canes in favor of fruiting floricanes.
How To Prune My Raspberries And Blackberries
The essence of pruning raspberries and blackberries is to remove spent floricanes and dead canes for optimal growth and further pest and disease prevention.
The whole process includes four steps:
- Eliminating spent floricanes (to prevent any risk of diseases from lingering and spreading to your plants)
- Maintaining the row width
- Thinning damaged canes
- Trellising young canes
Distinguish between spent floricanes and new floricanes
New floricanes have a brown bark while the spent ones have to peel gray bark, along with brittle lateral, fruiting branches.
After the early spring pruning, new floricanes will put out their branches.
What you’ll need for pruning raspberries and blackberries
- Appropriate apparel (such as thick, warm clothes, gloves, hat, and boots) due to the weather condition
- Protective eyeglasses
- Pruning equipment: a saw, long-reach pruner, loppers, secateurs, or dedicated scissors for gardening. The choice depends on the thickness of the tree branches, the height, and your budget.
Eliminating Spent Floricanes
Cut off all the spent floricanes that are close to the ground.
Maintaining The Row Width & Thinning Damaged Canes
The recommended pace between rows is 1-1/2 to 2 feet.
If there are more than 5 canes per foot, discard the weakest and sickly ones because they are going to affect the overall yield in the following years and also attract potential pests or diseases to the garden. The ideal density should be 3-5 canes.
Check if any of the new canes thrive across the row boundary, then trim them back.
Trellising Your Canes
Canes are going to branch out at the top and this is necessary for proper light penetration and air circulation – which are also the two most important elements to the growth of raspberries and blackberries.
Proper light penetration boosts new canes to grow within your row without pointing towards the outside. Proper air circulation helps prevent any risk of diseases.
And, trellising your canes helps future pruning easier and optimize the yield.
Out of various trellis styles, you should opt for the one that supports your canes the most while allowing light to penetrate.
Raspberry And Blackberry Pruning Tips
To get most of the pruning on your raspberries and blackberries, you should know these tips:
To boost side shoots on young blackberry plants, prune the tips of new canes.
To ensure the light penetration on new raspberry bushes for optimal yield and easy harvesting, wait till the first few years of growth and prune back the cane height to 4-5 feet
Make sure that all of your pruning equipment is clean and sharp before starting out the project to prevent damaging the plant and attracting pests or diseases
Remember to wear a pair of ultra-thick gloves and long-sleeve shirts for extra protection when pruning because thorns of both raspberries and blackberries are very sharp.
That is a bit of work that gardeners should do for the best crops. I hope that the article “When and how should I prune my raspberries and blackberries?” made sense. If you have any questions, never hesitate to let me know. In the meantime, happy gardening!