Growing Raspberries in Colorado

By: Molly Gaines, CSU Extension-Denver Master Gardener since 2019

Picking and eating homegrown raspberries are a quintessential summer pleasure. Before moving to Colorado in 2017, we lived in Minneapolis, where I had a prolific raspberry patch. Picking a mix of red and black raspberries in late June through early July, at the height of ripeness and flavor, was always a joy for our family. Yet it was a labor of love, as we didn’t have good walkways weaving through the patch. For about two weeks each summer, we’d happily head to the large patch each morning, donning our heaviest long-sleeve shirts to avoid pricks from the thorny canes. The heaping bowls of fresh raspberries were always worth our efforts.

I find the flavor of homegrown raspberries to be rivaled only by homegrown peaches, another Colorado favorite. They are a perennial, like other fruits, so once they are planted, they will come back for many years if properly tended. 

Following are a few ideas on planting and caring for your own successful raspberry patch.

Selecting Varieties

While I had great luck in Minnesotan — a considerably harsher climate than Denver — with summer raspberries, fall-bearing raspberries seem best-suited for the Front Range, according to tests conducted by Colorado State University. For a better guarantee of success, consider growing a variety of raspberry types. (For more information on varieties, see the CSU Extension Raspberries for the Home Garden fact sheet.)

Finding the Right Spot 

With good growing conditions, a raspberry patch may last 10 to 15 years. Raspberries need full sun but avoid planting them in areas with a lot of reflected heat, such as alleys, where already hot temperatures may be even hotter. In open windy areas, wind protection is important. Dry winds, common here in Denver, can dehydrate and kill exposed canes. 

Soil Conditions

Raspberries require good soil with slight acidity and adequate drainage. They also require one to three inches of water a week. As the berries get close to harvest, more water is required. Apply enough water to maintain a moderate moisture level in the root zone. During flowering and fruiting, more water is required. 

Merrill Kingsbury, CSU Denver’s Colorado Master Gardener program assistant, has grown raspberries for years and often gets asked about her tips for success. She recommends not overhead watering, as it leads to disease. As with most other fruits and vegetables, drip irrigation is preferred so the water goes straight to the roots, rather than soaking the foliage. Another benefit of drip irrigation is that it leads to less water waste, as water goes straight to the plants’ roots, versus being lost in the air. 

Planting

New plants should be planted in the spring. They prefer well-drained, sandy loam soil and perform poorly in compacted clay soil, or soil with poor drainage. If your soil has a lot of clay, consider planting in a raised bed. Add compost and other amendments frequently to improve the soil’s organic content. As a long-term crop, your raspberries will perform better as a result of your efforts.

Due to soil borne diseases, do not plant raspberries where raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, or vine crops (cucumbers, squash, and melons) have been grown in the past four years. To reduce virus potential, do not plant raspberries next to blackberries. Be sure to purchase certified virus-free nursery stock.

Other Notes on Care

Trellising is advisable for all bramble crops in Colorado. Without some type of support, canes will flop and sprawl in such a way as to make weed control and harvesting much more difficult.

For summer-bearing varieties, remove the spent canes by cutting them off at the ground after they bear fruit. Dispose of these canes, as they often harbor insects and disease. In the spring, remove the dead, weak and small canes. Remove winter-killed tips of the canes that remain.

While a raspberry patch requires continual work and attention, your efforts to grow them successfully — like most wonderful things in life and the garden — will be well worth it. 

For more information on growing raspberries in Colorado, visit the following links: 

One response to “Growing Raspberries in Colorado

  1. What a wonderfully informed article- thank you for posting this…just wish I had the space….

    Like

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