My question is whether or not it’s ok to prune my plants during the winter. Or if I should wait until spring or if I should wait until next fall ? I realize most of the pruning ( my raspberry bushes especially) should have been done in the fall but winter came unexpectedly early and now I’m not sure what to do about pruning. thanks for the help!
Thank you for writing: the topic, and science, of pruning plants embraces a very broad spectrum of perennials, including trees, shrubs, vines, and in your case, raspberry bushes.
To better understand raspberries, and hence their pruning needs, we quote from the cultural advisory of the ‘Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’:
“The root system of raspberries and blackberries is perennial, but each shoot is biennial. Each shoot only survives for 2 years. During the first year a shoot reaches its maximum height (and is called a “cane”). In the second year, it produces fruit and dies soon afterwards. Shoots may arise from 2 places – from buds at the base of the old canes and from buds on roots. Red raspberries and blackberries produce shoots or “suckers” from both places and will usually fill in a row very quickly. Purple and black raspberries do not produce suckers, so shoots occur in groups or “hills” instead of being scattered throughout the row.”
To address your pruning question: the canes from which you last picked berries were 2 years old, and now spent. Yes, you could prune these out late winter/early spring, before the plants send up new spring canes, to avoid damaging tender growth. The purpose of thinning out old growth is two-fold: removal of dead branches to leave living canes more sunlight and space to grow; secondly, good air circulation in and around your plants will be less likely to create an hospitable home for blight, mildew, or creature pests.
Please read a prior reply from Toronto Master Gardeners, to a question similar to yours re growing berries.
Also, if you wish to read the complete OMAFRA Fact Sheet, here is the link to: Raspberries + Blackberries.