Growing Raspberries in Utah with Ashley Patterson

Ashley Patterson in her huge raspberry patch.

Ashley Patterson in her huge raspberry patch.

By Alicia Rice

Learn How to Grow Raspberries in Utah

We recently spent a morning with Ashley Patterson, Wasatch Community Gardens Executive Director, and home gardener. She showed us her garden and gave us some great tips on how she maintains her giant raspberry patch, which she lovingly refers to as her “raspberry forest.” We learned about growing raspberries in Utah and how to maintain them with as little effort as possible!

Where’d she go?! Ashley in her Utah raspberry forest.

The Most Sincere Raspberry Patch

When we visited Ashley’s home and asked her to tell us about her garden, she led us straight to her massive raspberry brambles. Nestled in the shady area next to her home, what started as five plants has grown into what she calls “the most sincere raspberry patch in the world.”  Ashley says she loves the ease of care and yearly harvest her patch provides. It’s hard not to feel like her raspberry patch is at least a little magical.

Video: Growing Raspberries in Utah

 

Raspberries 101

Before we dive into Ashley’s methods, knowing some basic raspberry facts will help ensure a bountiful raspberry harvest.

Raspberry plants are made of multiple canes, or reed-like stalks, that grow from a crown at the base of the plant.  Crowns will be connected by an underground branch called a stolon. While the crowns of raspberries are perennial, the canes only last one or two growing seasons. Check out a diagram from NC State Extension here to see all the different parts of a raspberry plant.  

Raspberries come in a variety of colors, including gold, purple, and black. But if you’re looking for a variety that stands up to Utah’s cold winters, choose red raspberries. There are two types of red raspberries available to grow — June bearing and everbearing. These different types require different harvest times and maintenance.  

June bearing (aka: summer bearing)

  • Canes will fruit every other year.
  • Will bear fruit all at once, typically in early summer.
  • May be susceptible to cold temperatures.
  • Sometimes referred to as “floricane,” or canes with second-year growth.

Everbearing (aka: fall bearing) 

  • Canes fruit every year.
  • Fruit will trickle throughout late summer until the first frost.
  • Can withstand colder temperatures better.
  • Sometimes referred to as “primocanes,” or canes with first-year growth.

For more information about raspberry planting and maintenance, visit the USU extension site, which provides a list of Utah specific resources for growing raspberries in your home garden.

 

To Grow Raspberries in Utah: Keep it Simple!

So, how does Ashley maintain her huge raspberry patch with less effort than it would take to maintain a side yard of lawn and growing beds? 

Ashley likes to call her raspberry patch “a pretty low-maintenance, perennial, edible crop” and notes that “the biggest thing is picking and cutting the canes.” We’ll go over how she picks and prunes below.

 

 Ashley holds some of her everbearing raspberries.

 

#1 Picking Raspberries

Ashley grows two types of raspberry canes in her garden — June bearing and everbearing —  which means that she has two rounds of harvest each year. 

June bearing canes are what give Ashley her biggest fruit yield. This is the heavy harvest, so Ashley says she’ll “pad up for the tussle ahead,” by wearing thick layers of clothing to avoid getting pricked by the tiny thorns on the raspberry branches. The June bearing harvest provides enough berries for huge batches of raspberry jam and pie filling.   

Ashley says her everbearing canes are great for having a small handful of berries in your morning cereal or to garnish a salad at lunch. Different everbearing raspberries varieties have varying harvest times, so try to pick one that will fruit earlier in the season. We tried some of Ashley’s everbearing raspberries and they’re prickly, but delicious!  

With either type, make sure you’re harvesting your raspberries when they are a deep red color, which signifies they’re ripe and ready to go. If you’re not sure, just wait a day or two before picking. The National Gardening Association suggests only picking the berries when they’re dry and to wait to wash until you’re ready to eat them to ensure maximum freshness.

Because Ashley’s raspberry forest has both growth types, she benefits from both types of harvest. But that also means that she has two types of pruning that she needs to plan for. Keep reading to see how Ashley does it!  

Ripe everbearing raspberries ready to pick. 

#2 Pruning Raspberry Canes

Keep in mind, June bearing and everbearing raspberries need pruning at different times of year, so make sure to keep track of what type of cane you have and when you last harvested.    

When it's time to prune, Ashley simply cuts the canes to the ground. Some gardeners use pruning as a way to “train” their raspberry patches, using careful cuts, fences, and trellises to create a maintained bramble.  Ashley prefers to keep it simple and uses pruning as a way to maximize her fruit yield.  

Ashley prunes her June bearing right after they finish producing fruit in early summer. You can tell which canes are ready for pruning because they will be brown and splitting. Make sure not to trim your floricanes (or first-year canes) so they can keep growing to produce fruit the following year. 

For her everbearing canes, Ashley waits to prune until winter, leaving the canes up after they’ve been harvested.  December or January is a good time to prune because this is when the canes aren’t hidden by leaves. Important carbohydrates in the plant’s leaves have also had a chance to move down to the base, but haven’t yet started to move to new offshoots.  Pruning these types of canes too early or too late will result in less fruit the next year.

Raspberry canes in Ashley's garden.

 

Tips for Maintaining Raspberries 

Ashley admits she doesn’t typically fertilize her raspberry patch, but for those interested, raspberries do well with a nitrogen-based fertilizer. But for Ashley, she often has to worry more about her raspberries taking over the rest of her yard than about low plant growth.  

Her solution for keeping it in check? What you don’t water won’t grow, so she makes sure to only water the areas she wants to keep. For the rest of her raspberry patch, she waters about three times a week. 

“I water it pretty deeply during the season,” Ashley said. “But otherwise, [when it comes to maintenance] that's really it!” 

Ashley also took care to plant her raspberries in a shaded part of her yard. While raspberries require 8 hours of sun a day, our harsh Utah sun can cause bleaching or browning of the leaves. She said the shade makes it possible to keep a limited watering schedule and protects the raspberry leaves. So be sure to keep sun exposure in mind when planting your own raspberry plants.

 

Ashley loves her everbearing raspberries!

 

Utah Raspberries: Bringing More Joy and Less Work to the Side Yard

A raspberry patch “is a joyful thing to have in your yard,” Ashley says. 

For Ashley, the raspberries mean she gets to have a beautiful, delicious perennial crop in her yard without all the work that comes from other types of plants. As Ashley puts it, “Honestly, this is like the lowest amount of work for the highest return that I could ever even imagine.”  

We hope you have found this information helpful and are inspired to grow a raspberry forest of your own!

Have you grown raspberries in your yard?  Don’t forget to follow Modern Gardener on Instagram and Facebook to see more information about gardening, and make sure to chime in with your own tips or stories! We love to learn from other gardeners, and look forward to seeing what you’re learning in the garden too!

Alicia Rice

Alicia is a documentary filmmaker and associate digital producer at PBS Utah.Read more