How to create an easy raspberry trellis for autumn-fruiting raspberries, and tips for alternative designs depending on planting style and raspberry type.
When I took on a new plot at the allotment (community garden), it already had a raspberry patch. A previous tenant had created it, and I’d admired it for years as I walked past on my way to my own growing space. In spring, lime-green leaves and new canes would shoot up from the ground, and by late summer, they’d be dripping with yellow and red berries. The plants didn’t have a raspberry trellis supporting them, though, and it was something that could have helped them. More than once, I had to walk over canes knocked down by the wind.
Eventually, the plot became available, and I took it on since it was in a better position at the top of the field. There wasn’t much on the land other than overgrown weeds, but those raspberries were still there. Though they’d been pretty good at supporting themselves, the garden is in an exposed place, and when summer storms whip through, the raspberry patch can be left flattened. To take care of the plants better and increase productivity, I decided to build a raspberry trellis.
How a Raspberry Trellis Works
Though some raspberries are considered self-supporting, most grow five-foot-tall canes that benefit from supports. Supports in the form of raspberry trellises made of wood or metal stakes with wire or twine run between to give the plants something to lean against. In calm weather, the structures gently hold the raspberries in place. In windy weather, they stop the plants from being whipped to the ground.
The second way that a raspberry trellis works is to help differentiate first-year wood (primocanes) from second-year wood (floricanes). Knowing the difference, and separating them, is necessary if you grow summer-fruiting raspberry varieties.
The idea is that you tie the floricanes onto wire supports at the sides of the raspberry trellis. That allows the fresh new primocanes to grow up through the middle. At the end of the season, you prune the spent floricanes to the ground, then pull the primocanes to the wires and tie them in for the next year. It’s a smart system that supports the canes through winter snow and weather too.
The type of raspberry trellis that you build is dependent on the type of raspberry you grow and how you have it planted. Though most people tend to think of all raspberries as red, there are black, purple, and yellow varieties too. You’ll also find that some of them are summer-fruiting varieties and others are autumn-fruiting. The time of the year that each crop may be a little different, but the most significant difference is how they grow and produce berries.
Summer-fruiting varieties produce fruit on second-year canes, called floricanes. Primocanes are what raspberry canes are called in their first year of life. They get the new name of floricanes the next year as they’re preparing to bear fruit. If you accidentally prune the primocanes of your summer-fruiting raspberries, then you won’t have a crop the following year.
Traditional Raspberry Trellis Design
For summer-fruiting raspberries, it’s best to use a traditional raspberry trellis design. These allow you to tie the floricanes in and help with harvesting, pruning, and keeping the plants tidy and healthy. A T-Frame is probably the most common trellis for summer-fruiting raspberries. They’re made by sinking sturdy posts into the ground, then fixing two horizontals to it. The top plank (or bar) is the broadest and forms the top part of the T. The second plank, which is shorter, is placed lower on the upright post. You can easily make them with pressure-treated wood, but you can sometimes purchase them ready-made out of either wood or iron.
Once you have them, dig the t-posts into the ground 20-30’ apart. You then string wire from the outer edges of both of the horizontal pieces. In all, that makes four wires that connect one t-post to the next. The topmost horizontal provides the wire to tie floricanes to. The wires that connect the shorter horizontals from one set-up to the next creates a space for the primocanes to grow through.
If you grow autumn-fruiting raspberries, as I do, knowing the difference between primocanes and floricanes isn’t as important. That’s because you can prune all of the canes down to the ground each winter since the biggest crop of berries forms on first-year canes.
That means that tying specific canes in doesn’t pertain to autumn-fruiting raspberries, and you can grow them as an informal patch. It’s best to keep the patch relatively small, though, and I’d say no more than three to four feet wide. It isn’t easy to reach in and pick berries from wider raspberry patches, and these wilder plantings can also be less productive.
Easy Raspberry Trellis for a Raspberry Patch
I grow autumn-fruiting raspberries because I inherited them with the plot. They’re easy to grow for the beginner, and maintenance includes mulching them once a year with compost and pruning the canes to the ground in winter. If you leave the canes growing for a second year, they will produce an early crop lower down on the canes. I tend not to keep them around, though, since the harvests aren’t as big as the ones I can expect from new wood.
My design for an easy raspberry trellis reflects this. It’s a frame that I’ve built to fit the existing raspberry patch and is one that I could easily dig up and move if need be. Together, the H-shaped wooden frames and wire supports create an area for the canes to grow through. However, I don’t tie the raspberry canes to it. It’s for support during the growing season, and in winter, I can easily reach through and cut all of the growth down.
Raspberry Trellis Dimensions
The instructions below will help you build the same size raspberry trellis that I have in my garden. It’s formed of four h-shaped braces that are six feet tall and just under 3.5 feet wide. I’ve sunk them into the ground two feet, so they only come to four feet tall once installed. They’re placed four feet from each other and strung together with steel wire.
I built my raspberry trellis to fit my existing patch of autumn-fruiting raspberries. That means that your structure may well end up being narrower than mine because your raspberry patch may be a different width. It may also be longer or shorter than mine. If you’re planting a new raspberry bed, it’s best to keep your frame (and bed) to 24-48” wide.
DIY Raspberry Trellis
- Hand saw
- Electric drill/driver
- Wire cutters
- Spirit level
- 8 Lengths of 2x2" lumber cut 6’ long
- 4 lengths of 2x2" lumber, 3’ long
- 50 meters galvanized steel wire 1.2mm gauge, 164 feet
- 50-60 eyelet screws
- 8 3" galvanized steel screws
- Using the handsaw, or a jigsaw if you prefer, cut your lumber into the lengths needed. I used 2x2” rough-cut untreated lumber, but yours could be different. Use wood that’s a bit thicker or thinner if required, and if you choose pressure-treated lumber, it will last much longer than untreated.
- Fix two of the 6’ lengths together with a 3’ piece to create the letter H. I placed the horizontal piece precisely in the middle. It can be a little tricky doing this on your own, and I’d recommend measuring where you plan on putting the screws then drilling pilot holes and partially drilling in the screws. Lie it on the ground, then screw it into one end of the horizontal piece. Attach the second 6’ piece to the other end.
- Repeat until you have all of the H-braces you need.
- Dig the H-braces into the ground along your raspberry bed, spacing them four feet apart. You could put them a little closer even, but I’d not recommend any further apart. I sunk mine in about 18” but would say that two feet deep is even better. I'd also advise using a spirit level to make sure that the tops of your frames are all level with each other.
- Next, attach wires connecting the wooden structures. The best design is with three rows of wires staggered down the verticals at one foot from the top, three feet from the top, and one foot above ground level.
- To attach the wires, measure where the wires need to attach, making sure that the point on the next frame is level with the first. Drill a pilot hole into the wood and twist in an eyelet screw. Do the same on the next frame, then connect them with a piece of galvanized wire. Continue connecting all sides of the braces all the way around.
- Repeat to create three rows of wire along the long sides of the raspberry bed. You will also need to add a wire between the two verticals on each h-brace. One 12” from the top, and another at 12” from the ground. The horizontal wooden plank provides support for the raspberry canes in the middle.
- Allow the primocanes to grow up and through the structure. You can leave them as is, but if you’d like to tie them to the wires with string, go for it. If you're interested in seeing how this structure looks after a year, watch the video below.
More Vegetable Garden Supports and Ideas
Raspberries aren’t the only crop that benefits from DIY trellises and supports. For further inspiration and instructions, check out these other ideas from Lovely Greens: