You may have heard and been confused by the terms June-bearing, summer-bearing, ever-bearing, and fall-bearing raspberries. Let it be understood that there are only two types: those that bear the bulk of their fruit in about June and those that bear mostly in the fall. While there are cultivars that have been selected to be summer-bearing or fall-bearing, how and if you prune your canes really determines the quality and timing of your harvest.
The key to understanding the timing of raspberry production is recognizing the two types of stems that raspberries have, primocanes and floricanes. Primocanes are green, fleshy stems that emerge from the soil in early spring. If these canes are not cut, and do not die in winter, the following year they become woody with more branching and are called floricanes.
Fall-bearing varieties are simply those that bear fruit on primocanes (first year canes). Summer-bearers produce fruit on floricanes (second year canes). Floricanes die the winter following production. The term ever-bearing comes in when a primocane variety (able to produce fruit on first year canes) is managed to produce floricanes.
For summer-bearing varieties, you need to remove the floricanes that produced fruit this year and leave the primocanes that will flower next year. Sometimes the primocanes will produce fruit, so watch for the woody canes with branches and multiple spent flowers.
For a good crop on fall-bearing raspberries, cut all canes off close to the ground (two or three inches high). This puts all the growth into new canes that will bear a heavy fall crop. This approach eliminates the selective pruning needed to preserve summer-bearing canes.
Much confusion arises from the fact that fruit can be produced from most varieties in summer or fall depending on how you manage. If you are treating a fall or summer variety incorrectly, you will get inferior harvests. If you don’t know your variety, an easy way to learn the best management for your raspberries is to treat half your patch as a summer-bearer and half as a fall-bearer. Then see which method gives you the best results.
Raspberry pruning can be done this fall or early next spring. Regardless of which method you choose, it is a good idea to dispose of the pruned canes to help prevent pest and disease problems.
While not a complete list, Canby, Cascade Delight and Reveille are good summer-bearing cultivars for our area. Polana, Joan J and Polka are some recommended fall-bearing cultivars.
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