Raspberry Bush Care in the Fall

Autumn is the best time to prepare for a spectacular crop of full, healthy, and delicious raspberries

Give your raspberry bushes some TLC this autumn to ensure a better crop next year. Raspberries are biennial, which means that canes last for two years. Both the new canes and the old need attention and care to ensure that next year’s crop is spectacular. Here are several things to do now, as well as a few things to think about for next year.

Toss Out Old Raspberry Canes

At the end of the season, the old canes that have produced this year’s crop of raspberries needs to be removed. Do this by cutting the canes just above ground level.

Some gardeners prefer to cut old canes in the late winter or early spring, but fall is the best time to tell the difference between the old and new. As the weather begins to cool, there is a huge difference between the old canes (dark) and the new canes (green), but by mid-winter it gets harder to tell them apart.

Remove Wandering, Sick, or Rusting Canes

Raspberries like to spread, so remove the canes that are starting to grow away from your main plants.

Be on the lookout for diseased or rusty canes and leaves. If you are like many West Coasters, your raspberries may have had rust this year and they need to be removed.

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to remove the diseased canes and leaves. Put the old canes and leaves into the municipal garden waste, not into your own compost bin. Rust is a type of fungus, and if it hangs around, it may affect your plants next year.

Stake or Tie up New Canes Before Winter

Supporting the new canes will ensure that they don’t fall over and get trampled, and will help them to survive the fall rains and the occasional winter snowfall.

Although a robust stake works fine, a trellis or waterproof clothesline (plastic-covered clothesline) strung between strong posts is ideal. To avoid damaging the canes, allow for some movement by looping coated wire loosely around the cane, and attaching both ends of the wire with a few twists to the clothesline.

Don’t Cut off the Tops (Yet)

Some types of raspberries produce fall crops that bloom and form berries at the top of the cane. Next year’s crop of raspberries will bloom lower on the plant, so after the fall crops are finished the tops can be cut off.

Weed and Mulch

This is a great time to pull up all the weeds and grass that have invaded your raspberries over the summer months. Adding a generous layer of mulch will help to prevent weed growth and keep the plants hydrated. Some gardeners also recommend adding lime in the fall.

Prepare for Next Year’s Raspberries

Fertilize, support and water. Fertilize your raspberry plants in early spring with an organic fertilizer of your choice. If you’re currently using stakes to support your raspberries, think about using a more permanent structure, such as a fence or trellis.

Perhaps purchase a soaker hose for next season to keep the roots watered without soaking the rest of the plant, which will reduce chances of rust.