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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Choosing Right Varieties Secret of Growing Raspberries

LAS CRUCES -- New Mexico gardeners can grow red, ripe raspberries in the state's alkaline soils by selecting fall-bearing varieties, a New Mexico State University horticulturist said.

"Although raspberries prefer cooler climates and more acid soils, everbearing types that produce fruit in the fall have been grown successfully in most New Mexico soils," said George Dickerson with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "But traditional raspberries with biennial canes such as Latham tend to suffer from winter kill here."

Biennial raspberries produce canes during the first growing season and fruit the following summer. The canes are often damaged from alternating warm and cold weather in the spring of the second year, and fruit tends to sunburn in summer, Dickerson explained.

On the other hand, everbearing red raspberries such as Heritage, Red Wing and Autumn Bliss produce fruit in the fall of the first growing season, on the ends of canes produced earlier the same year.

"Berries produced in the fall when it's cool are sweeter and of superior quality," Dickerson said. Cutting back canes during the winter protects them from late spring freezes.

Everbearing raspberries can be "prima donnas" when they're first planted in New Mexico's alkaline soils, Dickerson said. Once established, however, raspberries will thrive in most well-conditioned garden soils with sufficient water.

"Bareroot cuttings planted in the spring often have to contend with drying winds and soils with relatively high salt content, which can kill plants."

Applying compost or peat moss will help condition soil. Soaking the roots in water with a root stimulator for about half an hour before planting improves the plant's chance of survival.

Once established, underground suckers can be dug in the fall or spring and transplanted to other areas of the garden.

"Raspberries will come into full production in about three years," Dickerson said. "At maturity, the suckers can get out of hand, so it's important to hoe or dig them up, keeping the hedge about two to three feet wide." On wider hedges, berries will be smaller and harder to pick.