After last week’s post on raspberries, I received several phone calls and emails wanting to know how many a family should plant.  Obviously this is an almost impossible-to-answer question with all the variables.  But we hope to clarify the answer somewhat, so let’s give it a shot.  It starts with how well do you like raspberries if they were always available?  Most people say they love fresh raspberries because they only get them a few times a year.  But if you had them to eat anytime you wanted from mid July thru October would you calculate your weekly consumption as a little less than you first thought?  How about the other members of you family, are they the same?  I have a grandson that will pick and eat every Saturday until he can’t eat anymore.  The next week he is at it again. He is a real consumer and we can easily calculate what to grow based on his intake! The next question is do you want enough for fresh use or do you also want to freeze and can for use year round? How big is the family etc.  If canning them, are you wanting extras for gifts? 

The next issue is what your cultural practices are.  The more consistent you are with water and nutrient application, the better and more consistent the crop.  We recommend starting a row using 1 plant per 18”.  We also put a ½ gph dripper on each plant.  This works good with our clay soil, however if yours is sandier you will need to space drippers closer and water more frequently. We try to keep the width of the row at its base 12”-16” wide and the drippers will water about this area, inhibiting suckers from growing in the path.  If you need a few more berries you can allow your row to get a little wider without adding plants or increasing row length.  We will assume that you are adding compost and trying to improve the soil each year for maximum yield.  From my experience with these parameters you will get a good crop the first year, a very good crop the second year and reach maximum potential yield from the third year on for many years if maintained. 

 For the average family of four that will eat raspberries all the time you would want to grow 10’-15’ of row or about 7-10 plants.  This will give you enough to always have for fresh eating and be able to share with some neighbors.  You will also be able to freeze some extras, make milkshakes and an occasional pie.  Twenty to forty foot of row is for the serious family that makes their own jams etc and wants to do canning, freezing and other food storage for the year.  This length row will supply enough to have pie whenever you want, share with neighbors, can a dozen ½ pints in a picking and still have some for smoothies.

 In the warmer weather, raspberries, once pollinated, ripen quickly and we suggest harvesting twice a week.  You can harvest weekly but some berries will be over ripe, sweeter and losing the “tartness”. These are good to mix into making preserves, smoothies etc. By later in fall say first of October usually once a week is sufficient. We feel a properly cared for row of raspberries will provide more fruit and a better return per square foot of space than any other fruit crop.

 To freeze raspberries, place on a cookies sheet on the counter and let dry for an hour. Then put into the freezer on the cookie sheet for a few hours or overnight.  Once they are frozen then put into freezer bags or freezer jars.  If you put them direct into freezer bags you will end up with one frozen chunk that is then harder to use later.  Do not wash or rinse berries before freezing or storing.  Only rinse right before using or they will get mushy and not keep long.