Black raspberries are a delicious and productive crop for the small landscape. Learn how to train and prune black raspberries for the best harvest.
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When I started growing black raspberries in my shady front yard, I hoped they would survive, but I had my doubts. Luckily, my little black raspberry patch showed me it would thrive, as long as I trained and pruned them correctly and consistently each year.
>>> Read about creating an edible landscape.
Black raspberries are easy to grow, but if you want to reap a good harvest, training and pruning them are essential.
If you DON’T train and prune black raspberries…
• berries will be smaller.
• bushes will look wild and lose their advantage as a beautiful landscape planting.
• plants will take up more space.
• harvest will be an unpleasant fight with thorns.
So let’s get to it.
First, I’ll cover training and then I’ll cover pruning.
Note: These instructions work for black and purple raspberry varieties. Red raspberries, on the other hand, grow differently and follow a different pattern for training and pruning.
How to Train Black Raspberries
Step 1: Ensure Proper Spacing
Black raspberry canes should be planted 2-1/2 feet apart in a row, and you should have access to both sides of the row. (For more planting tips, see my article How to Grow Black Raspberries).
During the first year, new shoots will come up in the area around where you’ve planted each original cane. Each area is called a “hill”.
Step 2: Build Support
Black and purple raspberries need a supportive, trellis-type system that keeps them manageable and makes harvesting easier.
It’s wise to build the trellis system at the same time as planting while the plant roots are small. This reduces the stress on a mature black raspberry plant, which has shallow roots that can be damaged easily if posts are added later.
For example, below is a picture of our first solution for a post-and-wire support system. We used leftover scrap wood for the posts, which worked well, but only lasted two years.
First, set a 2 x 4 pressure-treated or metal T-post behind each “hill”that is 4 – 4-1/2 feet high and about 2 feet deep.
Next, secure a heavy gauge wire or heavy duty twine to run from post to post near the top. Create a notch in the wood (if not using a metal T-post) for the wire to sit in so it stays secured.
As the canes grow during the first year, train them to drape over to grow along the wire, as pictured below. Otherwise, the long canes may root themselves and create anarchy in the ranks. 🙂
In this picture, the black raspberries are ready for their first early fall pruning (second year).
Note: We replaced the scrap-wood posts with 6-foot green plant stakes at each hill in an “X” shape, which has worked as a more secure and durable option. View it in the pictures below under “Early Spring Pruning”.
Want to grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs in your front yard landscape without sacrificing curb appeal? Check out my mini guide, The Permaculture Inspired Edible Landscape.
How to Prune Black Raspberries – Spring and Fall
Note: Pruning requires covered skin! It’s a good idea to wear long sleeves, pants, and closed-toe shoes.
Therefore, rose pruning gloves make the job more enjoyable, and good pruners make the job easier. Felco Pruning Shears are excellent for cutting woody matter, and long-lasting, too:
- Pruners for Large Hands (Felco F 7)
- Pruners for Medium Hands (Felco F 12)
- Pruners for Left Handers (Felco F 17)
First Year: Do Nothing
In the first year, do nothing except admire your plants’ energetic will to live!
Second Year and On: Prune Black Raspberries in Early Fall
In the second year after planting, you should get a small harvest in the late spring/early summer. After fruiting, set your black raspberry plants up for a smooth ride through winter and a successful future harvest with an early fall pruning.
First, head (pinch, tip, or cut off) each cane at a desired height in the early fall, anywhere between 28 and 48 inches. The ideal height for bigger harvests is 28 to 30 inches, but you might like the canes a little taller in your edible landscape. Be consistent across the row.
(To clarify, a cane emerges directly out of the ground.)
I have a hypothesis that the shorter the canes are, the fewer berries you would lose to birds, because predators such as cats are a higher risk to them closer to the ground. Experiment with the height for yourself and let me know what you find out!
Tip: Learn how to invite birds to the garden without losing your precious harvest.
After heading the canes, you may LOOSELY tie all of the canes in one hill to their coordinating post. This isn’t necessary, but if your berry patch is in a tight area, this will help to keep walkways clear of thorns.
Third Year and On: Prune Black Raspberries in Early Spring
Prune black raspberries in the early spring to make sure your summer harvest is fantastic.
To do the following early spring pruning steps, wait until the plants are beginning to create buds. Do not wait until the plant is leafing out, since this could stunt growth. It is difficult to see in the picture below, but the canes have buds on them, no leaves.
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Early Spring Pruning (Step 1): Remove Dead Canes
Canes that produced berries in the previous year will be dead, so cut them back to the ground. Meanwhile, other canes will have been damaged by the cold and will be brown and brittle. Cut all dead canes off as close to the ground as possible.
Early Spring Pruning (Step 2): Thin Canes
There should be no more than 4-6 canes per hill. Therefore, choose the 4-6 strongest ones, and cut the rest back to the ground.
If your plants are young and haven’t produced this number of canes yet, then you can skip this step.
Early Spring Pruning (Step 3): Head the Laterals
In the previous fall, each cane was cut back to a desired height (see “Early Fall Pruning” above). That action inspired lots of side branches to grow.
In this step, we’re going to manage all of those side branches — or laterals — to get the best harvest. These laterals are where the berries develop.
For each lateral, or side branch, count 8-10 buds away from the cane and then cut the rest of the long branch off. Note: The detail doesn’t show in the picture above, but for each lateral the buds are clearly visible so that counting 8-10 buds is an obvious procedure.
You can see in the picture above that the laterals are quite the weaving, tangled mess in the spring. Between removing the dead canes, thinning, and now, step 3 — heading back the laterals — you will take quite a bit of biomass away. Time for a spring fire!
After that, the black raspberry plants will look dramatic and bare. However, have faith that it will result in better yields. You can see in the picture below that the lateral branches are shorter after pruning, and include about 8-10 buds.
Again, you may wish to LOOSELY tie the canes in each hill to their coordinating post to keep everything tidy and out of walkways. This is optional. Notice in the picture above our X-post solution for support.
Here’s another picture just two weeks later:
Although this process can seem complicated, the actual pruning doesn’t take long in the home-scale berry patch. With this method, you’ll be on your way to having a healthy and productive black raspberry patch.
Have you found a training and pruning method for black raspberries that works well?
i grow several black raspberries as a result of a happy childhood in virginia – will try your “v” posting to stake a new variety added to my collection. What about spring feeding?? do you add compost or fertilize?
Your childhood sounds wonderful!
We mulched the black raspberry hills with a thick layer of homemade compost when we planted them, but I haven’t fertilized them since that first year. The ground is covered in an ornamental ground cover, which keeps the soil moist and prevents erosion of nutrients.
However, you bring up an important point, especially for those who are growing their black raspberries in bare soil. Adding compost is important since nutrients will wash away, and mulching will help. I would consider mulching with a living mulch such as chives or comfrey, planting them around and in between the hills. See my post about living mulches to read more.
Best of luck with the ‘X’ post solution – let me know how it works out!
Will do, thanks!!
I am thrilled to have found your post! I am a novice gardener and this is my very first attempt at raspberries. I have planted a SINGLE potted plant (about 1 gallon size) of the BLACK variety in May of this year. It has quadrupled in size! I will explain, the best that I can, its current condition. Firstly, it was planted in rich, organic soil and mulched. It is planted NW facing, closer to one end of an overhead arch type trellis. As the canes have grown, I have used garden twine running low (about 2 ft. high) between each end of arch. This is roughly a 5 ft. width. I am randomly tucking the wild, crazy canes wherever I can into and along either the arch itself or the twine that runs through it. Just wanting to get them off of the ground the best that I am able.
This is its first year and it is already nutso!! I was originally considering just letting it continue to climb and tuck until I had a bit of a “wall”, if you will, that runs the height (about 7 ft.) and width of the arch. However, after reading this post, am wondering if this is not a good idea? Also, I am a little unclear as to when I should begin to prune. Again, this plant was put into the ground this last May. When should I begin my 1st pruning project? What, exactly should I prune off at that first session? Thank you so much for any advice you can offer.
The canes will grow long and lanky in their first season. Just keep tucking them along the twine.
You don’t have to do anything until after they’ve fruited next year. At that time you can do your early fall pruning. They’ll look a little gangly until then, but letting them go will help them establish good root systems before you start managing them more intensively.
Thank you, yes they are a bit wild right now. Cannot wait for a taste!
I have one black raspberry I just planted this spring. So, your X support works perfect for me. What did you use for the X’s?
Here is a link to the types of stakes I used 😉
I tried the link but it doesn’t get me anywhere. Can you describe the material the poles are made of?
Thanks for letting me know that the link wasn’t working. Hopefully I fixed it.The poles have a steel core with a hard plastic coating. Most home improvement stores will carry them.
I have three hills of old black raspberry plants that were transplanted to their current location last summer. Nothing has been done with them since. The soil they were planted into is very poor quality,(mostly sand), and leans a little to acidic in pH. What I’m wondering is, do you know what pH black raspberries prefer ? And what, if any, type of fertilizer I should use ? Thanks. Your post on pruning is very informative. I look forward to starting this fall.
According to the cooperative extension office, black raspberries enjoy a pH of 5.6 – 6.2. I would probably focus on adding organic matter to the soil, which will increase the moisture-holding capacity of the sandy soil, and fertilize at the same time. In addition, it will help balance the pH over time if that is an issue. Compost soil and aged manure are the best amendments for sandy soil. Good luck 🙂
Nancy Hartley says
I lived north of Albany NY where the soil is sandy down 9′ or a foundation. I grew black raspberries on the sunny slope with the tall pine trees west of them. The pine needles were great for the raspberries as a mulch. I did amend the soil with Compost and aged manure then only applied the pine needles each year. Every year I had a bumper crop.
Can you orube blackberry bushes the same way? I have two patches. One is two years older than the other
Blackberries are best managed like red raspberries.
Robert May says
I am trying to restore a black raspberry patch that my Great Grandfather planted over 40 years ago. The 2nd year canes have leaned over and now the tips have rooted in the ground. I will prune them by snipping it in half and try to get two plants out of each vine that crowned over. I’m just learning about these plants now. I don’t have much of a green thumb but, these plants are important to me.
Wow, what a treat to have this black raspberry patch! I hope my instructions can help you restore it. Sounds like you’re on the right track. Best of luck 🙂
Last year, I began tending a long hedge of black raspberry canes that my great grandparents planted in the 1920s. My mother has been unable to care for them for a few years, so it’s quite messy, but they grow like gangbusters. I’ll be taking some starts to my property when construction is complete.
When I went to do my spring pruning this year, I discovered,( to my great dismay ), that rabbits had eaten all the canes down to the ground ! I didn’t realize they would do that. I would suggest to anyone who has a large rabbit population in their neighborhood, to fence in your black raspberry bushes in.
Oh my! I’ve never heard of rabbits doing such damage to raspberries. I hope yours grow back. Thanks for the tip!
I saw moose tracks going to where my bing cherry tree used to be, it ate it down to a 6″ stub, could not believe it. It was in for a couple of years and was probably 7′ tall. I wish I had at least seen him in my yard and had pictures of it but only prints and a stub, oh well. Can hardly wait to plant black caps, I will try to transplant from the wild so I hope they will be safe? Thanks so much for this article, so helpful.
Marci Pistner says
Hi there, Thank you for your posting. I am pinning it for sure! I moved to my property last spring, and was happily surprised last summer when I found black raspberries in a tangled mess of shrubs. Last fall, after a small summer harvest, I read some less thorough blogs that said to prune the dead canes and leave the new canes to grow over the winter and prune in the spring. So I supported them over the winter, now (May 3rd) I have three cleaned up bushes with 4-5 seven foot shoots on each bush. Should I trim them, or leave them this year and follow your fall pruning schedule next year? Thanks for your help!
Congrats on finding an existing berry patch. How exciting 🙂 I think what I would do is follow the directions above for “Starting Renovation in the Spring”, using step 3B for spring renovation. Make sure the hills are 2.5 feet apart, digging up any canes that have rooted outside of the hills. Provide a trellis of some kind for the long canes to drape over so they don’t root themselves, and cut back any canes that died over the winter. After fruiting/in the fall you can cut all the canes back to 28-48 inches, and you’ll be on track.
Black raspberries are pretty resilient, so they will likely provide a crop for you even if neglected. Happy berrying 🙂
One more question. I did read that when a cane bends towards the ground it can reroot. Since I only have two bushes last fall I purposely buried a cane to increase my blackberry bushes. New shoots are coming out of the ground. About 5 new ones (4 inches tall) spaced about 12 inches apart. I’m assuming I need to wait until they are more established before I seperate them from their mother cane? I guess I don’t know how to proceed. Thanks!
I think you could try transplanting the babies. I would probably wait until they were around 6-8″ tall, but if you try and they don’t take…you can always make more 🙂
Thank you for your post. Black raspberries are my favorite fruit. They are precious because you can only get them fresh two weeks out of the year (although I found a new variety that is supposed to fruit twice a year I am trying). I’ve planted several plants in raised beds and this is my second year for the first planting. I was wondering if you had ever heard of using bird netting to keep wildlife from them. Do the berries when they are in flower need the bees to make fruit? I was considering getting a closer type netting (like butterfly netting) to create a “room” I can walk into where the beds are versus just netting the plant. Thoughts?
The flowers will need insects for pollination, so I would recommend using bird netting that allows insects through. If you use the butterfly netting, I would just wait until the fruit has already been set to put it up for the season.
George Agnew says
I am a New Zealander so our southern hemisphere location is reverse to North America. Winter is just beginning so my black raspberries have finished fruiting and dropped their foliage. I’ve given them a fairly severe pruning and am concerned that I may have ruined them. What do you think?
The good news is that black raspberries are hard to ruin 🙂 Just follow the pruning schedule in the spring and you should be back on track. You may have a reduced harvest in the spring, but they should bounce back.
I’m having a hard time understanding how to prune. My black raspberries are two years old. The two year old canes are just now getting done fruiting and while they were fruiting, more new stalks started growing. After the two year old canes are done fruiting, how should I prune them? Cut them back all the way to the ground or just 28″? What do I do with my new canes? Let them keep growing or prune those a little bit too? I’m just confused and don’t want to hurt my lil babies. Thanks so much!
You will want to follow “early fall pruning” above, which means you have some time–anytime between now and the first frost in the fall is a good time to prune. They will all be 28″–“Be consistent across the row.” Congrats on getting a harvest!
Two years ago I had done no pruning and and had an enormous crop of black raspberries amid an incredible tangle of vines(harvesting was not pleasant!). The new canes that came up amid this tangle and should have borne in early June(I live in central NC) were weak and many were dead, so the crop was extremely poor). The new primo canes that emerged this spring look healthy and I pruned them at about 3 ft on June 7 and on July 3 they are already putting out side branches of 6-12 inches. Three questions: 1. Why did the canes coming up through the unpruned patch fare so poorly—no light? 2. Did I prune the primo canes too early this year(early June). 3. When should I prune back the side branches?
Thanks in advance for advice.
For a consistently healthy crop, the canes should be headed back to 3 ft after fruiting, before winter.
In the spring at budding, don’t head any canes back, but rather make room for fruiting by cutting the dead out, and thinning to the 4-6 best canes per hill. The laterals on the canes that are left are shortened at this time.
It sounds like you did most of the right steps, but not at the right times of year.
Helen Rasmussen says
I bought a couple black raspberry plants 2 years ago and was so happy to come across your blog! I followed your pruning advice and it has been great so far. I have a question regarding some die-off I’m experiencing.
This spring the two plants took off great, had lots of flowers and I was looking forward to a lot of berries. One plant is fine, the other has had a lot of the lower branches die late, after blooming and starting berries. A few berries managed to reach full size and ripen but most have just stunted on these branches. The branches , leaves, and berries all brown and dead. (I was hoping to attach a photo, but I’m not able.) I wondered if you had any insights into what might have happened?
This sounds to me like cane blight, which often shows up during wet seasons. It can spread from plant to plant if infected tools are used to prune the plants, so sanitize your pruners before and after using them on your plants. The disease may also occur more often in the shade, since it takes the plants longer to dry out, although my plants in the shade were fine.
You may be able to save your plants by doing the following things: Cut them down to the ground before winter, and either burn the infected plant matter or send it to the landfill. Composting it could keep the disease alive on your property. Weed and mulch really well under/around each plant, as in this case, weeds could harbor the disease. Do not add any nitrogen fertilizer to the soil, as this could encourage the plants to grow more diseased matter at an increased rate, and we want to stop growth for this year to try to discourage spread of the disease.
In the spring, keep a close eye for signs of disease. If the disease returns, I would try transplanting the plants to a sunnier area. If that’s not possible, or if they’re already in the sun, you may need to destroy the plants, wait a few years for the disease to die out in your soil, and start again. If you have any wild brambles nearby, they could be spreading the disease, as well.
We have so many wild black raspberry plants all over our 100 acres, but I would like to transplant them to one spot in our orchard so picking is less of an all day process. Is this possible? Will they survive? Should I do this after they are done producing?
Fall would be the best time to transplant them, and most of them should be fine. I usually have about an 80% success rate when I transplant black raspberries. Be aware that wild brambles may harbor some diseases, but they are not known to infect other crops, so it shouldn’t too much of a problem to cut them back if they become diseased in the orchard area, while allowing them to continue growing in the wild areas.
can I just weave them? They are all full in a area 10-15′ x 15′ -20
After fruiting, cut them back to 28 inches before winter.
Veronica Hill says
Last fall we purchased some property and this spring we have discovered many wild black raspberries growing all over the property! Do you know, can I dig them up and transplant them into one garden patch? Or is it best to let them keep growing in the brush and under trees where they are now?
For cultivating black raspberries in a garden patch, you might be safer purchasing certified, disease-free plants. Although perfectly safe to consume wild black raspberries, the wild patches can sometimes harbor diseases. So…transplant at your own risk. Mine were not certified disease-free and they were fine, but there is a risk.
dear amy, thank you for this very fine clear post.
Thank you for this blog! I’ve begun mixing edibles in with landscaping, on a small scale. I planted black raspberries last year. I also have strawberries and blueberries in my front yard. My favorite gardening moment this spring: a breakfast, in my yard, of blueberries, strawberries and black raspberries! Cheers!
I have two bushes I bought last summer. They looked good this spring, but haven’t really grown a whole lot yet. They were nice and green but are now turning yellow like it’s fall. They are in a very sunny area, but I am watering very few days. would you have any idea why they are getting yellow already in July? Too wet or too dry? I’m in Northeast Georgia. Thanks in advance for any insight you can give me.
Sorry, meant watering every few days. My soil is clay but I added gardening soil when I planted.
All types of raspberries can be susceptible to fungus, so that’s why it’s important to purchase your starts from a reputable nursery that is selling certified disease free stock. I was lucky that my plants from a neighbor didn’t travel with any fungus, since I didn’t know about this issue at the time!
Watering practice can help prevent fungal outbreaks. Water the root area and avoid watering the above ground parts as much as possible. Perennials growing in clay soils will enjoy a 1x-per-week deep watering as opposed to frequent shallow waterings.
If your plants have already contracted a fungal disease like verticillium wilt, there is no cure, so your best bet is to remove the plants and burn them or put them in the garbage to avoid spreading the disease. You won’t want to plant raspberries in this location again, since the fungus will persist in the soil and attack any new plants. In fact, you may have bought disease free stock but unknowingly already had the fungus in your soil. Nightshade vegetables and roses are among some other crops that can spread the disease to your raspberries’ soil.
Here’s more info about verticillium wilt.
Bob Pleasant says
We have two black raspberry bushes that were given to us last summer. I have been struggling to understand how to care for them, specifically pruning. This article eliminated my confusion caused by reading care instructions from other web sites. Thank you.
We were also given two Latham Red raspberry bushes at that same time. I have read that the Latham variety is a summer bearing red raspberry. What little bit I have found on pruning this summer bearing red variety sounds the same as your instructions for black raspberries. Does this sound accurate to you? Any advice for me on pruning care for them?
You’ll want to do some more reading on pruning red raspberries, but one of the main differences is heading. Black raspberry harvests depend on heavy heading (tipping) for good production, while red raspberries do not respond as favorably to this practice. Red raspberries generally fruit on the canes, while black raspberries fruit on the laterals.
Can you please explain the difference between canes and laterals?
I just purchased a couple of black raspberry bushes. I live in zone 5 central illinois. When can I plant them
Spring, when ground is thawed, but wait a few days after a rain/snow. The ground shouldn’t be super-saturated.
Lori Barnhouse says
Can black rasberries grow with white pine trees close to them? I’m thinking of growing black rasberries along a fence line with pine trees mixed in with them. I live next to an interstate highway in Michigan. I’m looking for both black rasberries & cover for a sound barrier & privacy from the highway. Please let me know. Thanks!
Black raspberries won’t do much as a sound barrier or as a privacy buffer. I would recommend planting a solid row of pines along the fenceline, with rows of black raspberries or other edibles inside of that. One of your considerations will be air pollution from the highway, and the pines will help to buffer that, reducing the chance of airborne contamination on your food crops.
Where is a good place to order black raspberries? I am unable to find them locally.
There are plenty of nurseries that sell via online ordering, a google search will bring up some choices. As a general rule, I always seek out nurseries that are relatively close to me and would have a similar climate. This way your plants will have an easier time adapting to their new home. That is typically more important for fruit trees, but if you find a nursery you like, you’ll be able to use them for any future orders.
How much of a harvest do you get off of those stalks?
Each hill yielded about a pound and a half of berries each year. Harvests will vary depending on variety, soil health, and sun exposure. My plants are in full shade, which as a rule will yield less.
Gary Wallendal says
My dad used to apply an 1″ to 2″ of mulched leaves in the fall. Is that good? I’ve also been told to apply a fertilizer of 10-10-10 as soon as buds start showing. again is that good. I have plants that really produce but are an ugly, tangled mess. I hope your pruning suggestion helps.
Applying mulched leaves in the fall is an excellent practice. Wood chips that have composted for a couple of years are also an excellent amendment for brambles of any kind. Planting a living mulch of clover can also add a boost of nitrogen, but overall, brambles do not require any specific fertilization.
Gary Wallendal says
Okay you answered my question. Bad mistake, cause now I’ll ask more.
1st thing you should know is that I have a “black” thumb. If I touch it, it will die. I have a 2nd home in central WI. I have discovered I have a thicket of wild black raspberries, about 12′ by 35′. What a mess. I don’t think even the rabbits venture into it. Can I “tame” it? It seems to be producing raspberries, but very small berries and I can’t get to most of them. I plan on cutting a few paths into it and trimming it down as you suggested .Anything else I can do. I’m 70 and probably not long for this world (another subject best not to get into) so if you do have some suggestions I hope they won’t take longer than 3 yrs. to accomplish.
Your strategy of cutting a few paths through is probably how I would handle it. Good luck and let us know how it goes!
Mikel McCormick says
Are black raspberries suitable for a creating thorny living fence that would keep deer out of the garden?
In my experience, deer find brambles of all kinds to be delicious. You might have better luck with a thick hedge of wild roses, wild plums, gooseberries, and buffaloberry. The combination of thorns, food, and the girth of the buffaloberry should deter them. Non-edible deer resistant shrubs of considerable size can help to deter them as well. But your only real assurance for keeping deer out of a garden is a deer fence. A short fence flanked by 12-foot-high shrubs will work, but only once the shrubs have reached mature height.
I planted a small black raspberry last spring and the plant did well. My question is, some of the canes arched and rooted to the ground. Do I need to cut them at the arch? They are starting to bud leaves right now in early spring and only one of the rooted arches is leafing at the base of the end ( where it rooted to ground. What should I do? Do I leave them or cut them?
In a tidy bramble patch, canes will not be allowed to bend over and root b/c when they do, they create uneven spacing in the rows and can complicate future training and pruning. So you could pull the live ones and replant them according to good planting practice. If you have the space, you could let them grow and follow first-year instructions in the article above.
I’m wondering if anyone has tried to grow black rapberries in large planters? I have a couple that are prob. about 2.5 ft tall and about 2 ft in diameter.
I’m in the NW and have a south facing deck. It gets the sun in the mornings and early afternoon. As afternoon progresses, it becomes shaded. I could stake and
twine between the two. Do you think this would work?
Dorthy H says
We have what we believe are Concord grapes growing intertwined with our black raspberries. They were already here when we bought the house 30 years ago. We have only discovered that we had black raspberries about 10-15 years ago when we pruned them all back and then they began to grow. My dilemma is that we have the grape vines which are not producing, that are intertwined. It is quite difficult pruning all of them together. I would like to get rid of the grape vines and keep the black raspberry ones but don’t know how to do it. Can we pull up the grape vines and not disturb the black raspberries? Any suggestions?
Black raspberry cuttings propagate quite easily, which you can read about in this article.
Take several cuttings before digging up the old grapevines, so that you can replant young raspberry canes afterward.
An alternative approach is to move the black raspberries to another location b/c it is so easy to propagate them, and revive the old grapevines. (A google search can give you hints on pruning and restoring old grapevines.)
I just noticed that my black raspberry bushes have lots of young fruit on them and tons of ants. Should I worry?
The ants are annoying but not harmful. If you notice an anthill directly under the bushes, then I might disturb it to encourage them to go elsewhere, since they may decide that the mature fruits are a food source. But overall, they shouldn’t be a problem.
My next year canes are huge and get in the way of picking this year’s berries. Can I cut them at all or do I need to wait until early fall?
You can do your fall pruning now and check the canes again in the fall. 🙂
I planted 3 black raspberry plants this spring. There were multiple canes in each pot. Canes have gone nuts this year! Do I have to wait until after fruiting next year to prune back, or can I prune back this fall? Thanks
Yes, you can cut the canes (not the laterals) back to 28-48 inches high if they’ve grown taller than this, but it is typical to let them grow in the first year to ensure strong root systems.
Ted Westling says
can I use steel rebar instead of green poles?
Yes, they will rust faster than the green coated stuff, but otherwise may last longer.
Maybe paint them with a good anti rust metal paint first? I might have to use them too and I think I will try it (the paint).
I have beautiful black raspberries, but I did not head them off in the fall, so they are long. It is Mar. 31st and they will be budding very soon. Should I head them off now, or should I wait until fall to head them off and just thin and clean up the dead canes now
Wait until after fruiting, then follow the “early fall” pruning tips above.
Help, my red raspberries have taken off and severely invaded my black raspberries. It is impossible to get rid of all of the red raspberries. Will they kill my black raspberries? What do I do?
Unfortunately, once red raspberries have gotten out of control, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to separate the two. Follow good pruning practices and you should be able to continue harvesting both.
I assume that the same rule applies to staking raspberries as it does with tomatoes. Do not use any treated lumber for stakes as the chemicals in the stake will leach into the soil and the into the plant you are using the stakes for.
This is a good rule of thumb, although according to Cornell University, fruiting plants do not usually take up toxins in the fruit.
Thank you for this great article! My husband and I just bought our first house in northern Mass. and discovered that we have some black raspberry cane in our side yard. The entire yard was wildly overgrown and the raspberries are no exception. I would like to keep them in the future but right now they are not staked and about 5′ high in a mounded mess. I’m wondering the best way to approach taming this back and setting it up to be cleaner next spring. I’m guessing based on this article that it would be worthwhile to assess this fall, prune and stake them in preparation for next year 🙂
This fall, cut all the canes back to 28-30 inches tall. Then, next spring follow the steps above for early spring pruning, and at that point you should be able to have a clear view of where to provide staking.
Hello! I’m glad I found your post! We moved into a new house this past winter. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a black raspberry patch growing in our yard this spring! The problem is it’s an unruly mess. It’s creeping up under the fence and getting tangled in some other perennials that the previous owner had planted. I love it all and want to try and rein it in before it takes over everything.
Is it possible to cut it ALL back (to the ground) this fall and essentially start over? Even if we have a fruitless year it may be something I’m willing to do as long as it will eventually come back.
Yes! This fall, cut all the canes back to 28-30 inches tall. Then, next spring follow the steps above for early spring pruning.
A rogue grapevine got in my black raspberry patch and strangled many of the canes and laterals, below the set, but not yet ripe, fruit. The berries above this just dried up.
Should I cut those parts back now, or wait until fall?
And thank you for this great post. It has helped me revive an old berry patch, and I refer back to it each year.
If the strangled canes have died and dried up, then you could cut those back now. Or wait until fall. Either way is fine in the long run, as long as you tame the grapevine. 🙂
I have referred to this article many times, and used your advice to bring a wild patch under control. This year a rogue grapevine crept into my patch, and strangled several canes before the fruit matured. Should I trim anything back now, or just wait until fall?
Thanks for sharing your knowledge,
Hi Liz, your question is answered just above this.
Robyn Schulze says
Hi, so glad I’ve found this page–what a great help! I’m in zone 5b, planted my black raspberries this spring in a raised bed next to my geodesic dome greenhouse (on the east side). The 3 plants have done very well and are over 4′ tall. We get a lot of snow in the winter, and it will pile up next to the greenhouse. I can’t really find any information on how to winterize the canes with that amount of snow. Should I lay them over and cover with soil or mulch, and then let the snow sit on them and help insulate as well?
Thanks so much,
Trellis the plants as I’ve instructed above. Snow is a great insulator, but mulch before the snow comes.
I was so happy to see this. I planted my black raspberry canes and some Fall Gold canes this February. They grew nicely, the black ones are pretty long and wiley, and I had several handfulls of fruit to enjoy this summer. We are not moving and I’d love to take them with me. What do you recommend for pruning and potting in order to get them to their new home? I was thinking of pruning heavily, waiting a couple weeks, and then digging up and potting. But I’m not sure what the right amount to prune is of the long lanky canes or the shorter Gold canes. Any advice welcome! Thank you for all your super informative writing!
You can prune them anytime after they’re finished fruiting in early summer. I would cut the canes back to 28 inches tall, then you can dig them up for transplanting.
Larry Reeder says
So glad I found your post and website! I transplanted about 10 wild black raspberry plants (hills) this year and wonder if I should cut them all the way back or just prune them to about 30 inches.
Prune to 30 inches. These will produce the lateral canes which produce the fruit.
Judith L Carlson says
so like in red raspberries… the first year canes keep growing, but the 2nd year… and fruiting canes… get the laterals pruned to 8-10 buds and then in fall after harvest prune them to the ground… or do that in the spring? looks like you are doing two kinds of pruning… 1.. for the first year canes.. and 2… for the 2nd year canes. Is this correct?
There are two kinds of pruning for 2nd year plants and beyond: fall and spring.
In the first year, you’re simply planting the canes with proper spacing and setting up the trellis system.
Laurie Higgins says
I have wild black raspberries volunteering in my yard, near where we park cars. I also have volunteer wine berries near the barn. Wine berries are invasive and I don’t like them and the birds get them first anyway. I want to remove the wine berries and replant that space with wild black raspberries. It’s now late fall. What should I do, in what order and when? Can I take some of the wild black raspberries and move them? Or would I be better off buying cultivars?
If you’re happy with the level of production of the wild raspberries, then you could transplant some of them in the spring or fall.
buy cultivars. wild ones are tiny and seedy. my friend gave me what she told me were big blacks only to find out after i planted that they were teeny tiny wilds. i was not happy. i have since purchased cultivated ones and am excited to see what the berries look like! dont bother with the wild ones!
Thanks so much for this article! I planted two black raspberry bushes this past April, and they are both producing a few bits of fruit, and several canes are taller than I am. Should I still use the Year-One pruning rules, or should I treat these more like second year plants since they produced fruit? I don’t want to hurt them, but I don’t want them to go completely feral. Thanks!
If the canes produced laterals, then you can prune them like second year plants. Otherwise, follow the instructions for first year plants.
I really just wanted to leave you a note after reading your post and instituting your recommendations early this spring. Holy bounty! I have only picked 4 times so far this year and it equaled almost 15 cups! I feel a little like be careful what you wish for (more berries) because you may just get it! I made 30 3.5×3.5 hand pies over the last two days and today I’m making chutney with the 6 cups I just picked. I have no idea what I will do with the likely 20-30 more cups of berries yet to be picked. Anyway, I hope when I sell this house I will be able to transplant these babies at the new one. Thanks again for the post, it was super informative!
Thank you for sharing your good news, I’m so glad to hear that! 🙂
Robert V says
I planted black raspberries last year and, after a rough start, they fruited like crazy this year in late spring and early summer. Here is my issue: both my plants have shot up ENORMOUS canes, six feet tall and still growing. Your article says not to prune until early fall, but I’m having trouble managing them. Should I prune now (early July) or just try to tie them up until September?
You can follow the fall pruning steps anytime after they’ve finished fruiting. 🙂
Helpful article—I shall venture into our volunteer tangle with fall pruning shortly. Question—to you still use the wire in the X stakes, or was that only for the wooden supports?
The wire is most useful for preventing the long, first-year plants from rooting. It can also be helpful to hold up the long laterals of older canes to keep them from rooting. However, proactive pruning should prevent most unwanted rooting from occurring, so you could get by without using the wire.
I am super excited about your article; it is very informative! Quick question, if you have any ideas: I grew up in the WI, where black raspberries are plentiful and generally self-sufficient. But now I live in the low desert (zone 8a/8b), where the coldest it gets is about 20, and only for about 3 months out of the year, and then our other seasons are “hot” and “hot and windy.” This has required I basically retool my gardening instincts for perennials from back home, like black raspberries. I had luck getting black raspberries established at one house in this area, but have had trouble at my current one. I think maybe it’s a sunlight and/or temperature issue, but more likely one of surplus. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations that might help?
I just ordered a new black raspberry variety that is thornless, and would love for this to be the batch that finally takes!
Zone 8 is really at the edge of the growing zone for black raspberries. Red raspberries can handle your climate a bit better, and blackberries are even better. Also look into marionberries. I’d say that the best location for black raspberries in your climate would be on the southern edge of the shade of a deciduous tree. This provides protection from the hot wind while exposing it to the coldest temps of winter. Add a topping of compost each spring, top soil with a thick layer of leaf mulch for the ‘hot and windy’ months, and maintain consistent moisture. This is a plant that will not like bone-dry soil.
Sarah Kaye says
Hello hello, so glad to have found this post, thank you! We too moved to a property in the suburbs where we found several “hills” of blackberries along an East facing border of tall trees, including a line of honeysuckle trees that they are in line with. The hills are at least 10-15 ft apart so they don’t curve together, but get rather shaded from the tall trees in the afternoons. I’m guessing once upon a time they were planted when the landscaping was much less mature. The last 3 summers they produced a couple handfuls, not very many…I noticed lots of berries that never completely ripened too. Because the long canes arched out into our yard I tried using twine that I tied to the honeysuckle branches above to loosely pull them up off the ground so we could mow the grass…. Having just researched this I had no idea on the pruning techniques of when/where and saw today that they are already leafing out allover–,just too late for that early spring pruning! Should I try to do any pruning at all now? (We are in southwest Ohio), at least try to remove dead ones? I found a couple spots where they had fallen over to the ground and started rooting in the yard too… Should I cut them off in the middle somewhere? I was also thinking about taking a risk of transplanting one of them to another sunnier area of our yard or to a large container, is that possible this time of year? Thanks again so much for your time, greatly appreciated!!
Martha Courtney says
Hey Amy, I am in East Tennessee and just now Have my new black raspberries planted. I purchased them from a local garden center. I was told that they were at least two years old. There are several canes and they were all left out. In fact, they have some flowers starting on them. At this stage, with it being early May, how do I prune them or should I leave them alone this year? None of the pruning instructions that I can find anywhere really apply to this stage. Could you please give some advice? Thank you so much! – Martha
I just purchased 5 cumberland black raspberry plants on clearance at Walmart for $2.50 each because I felt sorry for the plants. They looked so sad. They’re gangley and have just a few leaves on the canes. I’m not a gardener and didn’t know what I bought until I goggled it and found your site. I’m inspired by your blog to make these grow!
I’m in zone 8 North Texas area. Should I leave the poor things in their black rubber containers until fall or plant them now? It’s very dry and hot here right now and the plants look bad, but I have some old shady pecan trees I can plant the berry plants under if it’s better to get them in the ground now. Trying to keep them alive until fall planting.
Thank you for your help!
I would place them in the shade and keep them fully watered until you can plant in the fall when the temperature is cooler.
I have been growing black raspberries for at least 8 years I think. I always struggle with the fall pruning because the canes are already hitting the ground and it is only mid August. I don’t like to wait because they will be rooting if I don’t get them pruned. Can I prune them lightly now and give them a proper more aggressive pruning mid September or early October?
I am also wondering about my soil. I have heavy clay that hold too much moisture and I don’t think they like it too much, especially in winter, as I can have quite a lot of dieback (I am in Virginia zone 6a). I have considered digging them up and amending the soil and raising it a bit to help. Any suggestions?
Thank you for such a well written post. I will be saving this for later reference.
I started with three and now have over 50 in my patch. I let them touch down and root in the third year . The next spring they were clipped from the parent plant and transplanted to my new berry patch. As the new patch grew I would continue to wreath the vines to prevent any from touching down. This fall I’ll be able to trim them to the height I like. The original patent plants are getting transplanted this spring too. They are already set for height following your instructions and are doing beautifully. Do you have recommendations for transplanting the parents? I’m wondering if I need to trim the plants shorter, they are at a 4 foot height right now but I’m wondering how the stressor moving will affect them. The original patch is being crowded with shade by my neighbors growing spruce trees. Thank you for your article. Wish I could leave a picture of my patch…
Transplanting in the fall is best. However, if transplanting in the spring, it’s best to do so before the plants begin to leaf out.
Which of your staking systems (arch vs X) is easies to put bird netting on? And do you have any tips for using bird netting?
I don’t know that it matters. The plants usually end up being taller than the support structures, so either way you’re either draping bird netting over the plants themselves, or adding taller support to hold the netting over them.
I like the 3rd photo on your article, “How to train and prune black raspberries” the photo with the arch. So you tie the new unwieldlly anes to produce the arch, but tjem when you do pruning, you cut them all back and the arch is vacant for a while. Is that correct? Thanks.
Yes, that’s correct.