Fiona Lawrenson celebrates the autumn-fruiting varieties of raspberries, which are easy to grow and will produce delicious crops right up until the first winter frost
At this time of the year, I mourn the passing of the summer fruits and almost dread the winter months with their endless supply of apples, pears and oranges. To me, nothing can compare with the rich, juicy flesh of a raspberry and the late-fruiting varieties make sure that my summer goes out on high overdose.
For me, the autumn varieties are the easiest to grow, since there is no need to spend a great deal of time either pruning or training them. If you really want to, you can always find some space to grow a few canes in the corner of your garden. You don’t have to grow raspberries in a row since this can take up a great deal of space. Try growing them in a circle, which is not only space saving, but also looks more attractive in a small garden. The autumn varieties don’t need supporting, unless they are grown on an exposed site, because their stems tend to be much stronger than the earlier fruiting varieties.
You do need to make sure that you have both the correct soil conditions and site. Raspberries tend to crop much better in cooler climes where there is plenty of moisture. Choose a site that is sunny and sheltered. The soil should be rich in organic matter and moisture retentive. Light soils need an annual dressing of compost and regular watering.
Buy your dormant canes in the autumn/early winter from a good fruit supplier and plant them into your well-prepared soil at 30-cm spacings in a circle with a diameter of 1.5m. Cut the canes down to a height of 15cm from ground level.
The autumn varieties fruit on the current season’s wood. So, allow the canes to grow throughout the season and, if required, remove a few of the weaker stems to prevent over-crowding.
Maintain the plant by cutting all the old canes to ground level in February before the new growth appears. Top dress with blood and fishbone, and mulch generously with compost or rotted manure to help retain the moisture and keep any weeds at bay. This will ensure a delicious crop that will last until the first of the winter frosts.
Recommended autumn varieties:
‘Autumn Bliss’ - A good heavy cropper
‘September’ - For excellent flavour
‘Heritage’ and ‘Zeva’ - Old varieties with good flavour
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Raspberry Jam Recipe
One of the best ways to enjoy raspberries and preserve their excellent flavour is to make jam, which is simpler than you may think. The secret to making a good jam is not to rush the whole process.
4 lb or 1.8 kg washed raspberries
4 lb or 1.8 kg sugar
Knob of butter
1. Place the fruit in a large heavy-bottomed pan and simmer very gently on the hob to allow the juices to really flow, stirring only now and again. This will take approximately 20 minutes.
2. Take the pan off the heat and add sugar and stir gently until it is all dissolved.
3. Add a knob of butter. This will help to reduce the scum that may form on the top of your jam as it is cooking.
4. Place the pan back on a high heat and boil rapidly for about 30 minutes. Be careful not to burn the jam at this stage or allow it to take on a dark brown colour. Keep checking the back of a spoon to make sure that all the sugar granules have dissolved.
5. After 30 minutes make your first test by placing a small amount of the mixture on a saucer. For a good set, the jam should wrinkle after a few minutes. This is its setting point.
6. Once setting point has been reached, remove the pan from the heat and with a slotted spoon, remove any scum from the surface.
7. Leave to stand for 15 minutes and then pour your jam into clean and oven-warmed glass jam jars. These must be quite warm, as the hot jam may crack cold glass.
8. Cover with greaseproof discs and lids.
See also the Helping Hands workshop:
How to grow and prune raspberries