Cure for Wayward Raspberry Canes

Most people know about the cross-arm and parallel-wires method of confining raspberry canes, which results in an open, fountainlike top with canes flopping all over. But an old gardener taught me the best method for handling the canes, allowing me to control even my very vigorous ‘Tulameen’ raspberries.

The secret is to use two single wires, and fan the canes out on top. This way, the new laterals can develop without the main canes flopping over, and you can pick heavy crops with ease because you don’t have to reach into the depths of the bush.

For new plantings, place one stout post about every 10 feet. Run two smooth wires from post to post (drill through the post for best support) at 2 feet and 4 feet from the ground. Space plants every 30 to 36 inches, starting 15 to 18 inches from the end posts.

If you’re dealing with an existing planting, put in new posts and wires after you’ve cut down to ground level the old canes that have finished fruiting. Select the best four to seven new canes from the base of the plant, removing all spindly, sickly, or wayward ones at soil level. Tie the new canes to the lower wire, allowing just a couple of inches between canes. Spread the canes out when you tie them to the upper wire so they look like a fan trellis. Tie the canes tightly, spacing them so the outermost nearly touch the outermost from the next plant.

My new canes regularly grow over 9 feet tall by December, but with this method they are not sprawling all over, subject to damage by winter winds and snow. In early spring, I cut the canes back to about 5 feet, and the strong resulting laterals produce tons of fruit. My rows are 6 feet apart, and if it weren’t for this method, I would never be able to pick between them.