Monday, March 31, 2014

'Niwot' fall bearing black raspberry released

Niwot black raspberry (US PPAF) - Photo by Pete Tallman
There is good news for Front Range small fruit lovers this year. Black raspberries (note we are not talking blackberries, a different crop) have not been recommended for this area before now. Recommendations have been to only grow red and yellow raspberries because of cold hardiness issues with black raspberries.

Longmont amateur plant breeder, Pete Tallman, has released the first fall bearing black raspberry recommended for the Front Range. Niwot has at least zone 5 hardiness and possibly greater.

Why is this a big deal? Now we can grow black raspberries that will fruit on first year canes in the fall. Before now the black raspberries available fruited on second year canes (summer types) and those canes were not hardy enough to reliably survive into the second year here. With Niwot, you can grow and harvest all in one growing season, cut canes to the ground in late winter and repeat.

Niwot was selected to be self-fruitful (no second variety required for pollination) and have good production of large fruit with small seeds. Fruit ripen in late August to September. Unfortunately the plant does have thorns.

There is very limited 2014 availability from Henry Field's Nursery that is selling the plant under the name 'Sweet Repeat'. Plants of Niwot won't be widely available until 2015 from Nourse Farms, Inc.


  1. Don't discount the summer crop after overwintering the canes, so take some thought before mowing down the canes in the spring. Summer crop looks pretty robust. My unproven impression is that the plants are happier if allowed to also do a summer crop. --Pete Tallman, Longmont (near Niwot)

    1. Pete's entirely right that the canes of fall type raspberries that bear a fall crop the first year have the potential to live on for two years. Cold hardy types that survive winter will bear a crop in the summer of the second year further down the canes. You can treat a row of plants as annuals (cutting them down in winter) after harvesting the fall crop, and a second row as biennials leaving the canes for two years reaping a summer crop. This extends the period you can enjoy fruit over more months. The third season switch treatment of your rows cutting the two year canes to the ground in winter and letting the one year canes stand for the second year. This will continue to give you both a summer and a fall crop, just on different rows. Keep records so you can remember which row to cut down in a particular year if you have trouble telling the difference between first and second year canes.

  2. I obtained a few of the niwot plants last spring from Fields. they have grown tremendously with canes now up to 6-8' in length. They did not produce any fruit this fall on these primocanes. Also I've notices that several of the long drooping canes upon touching the soil have set root (I know tip layering).

    My questions are:
    1 ) should these canes be pruned back to say maybe 3-4' in length as is done with red raspberries?
    2) should these primocanes be supported or trellised/

  3. Any pruning should be delayed until at least December to allow for movement of stored food to the lower part of the cane and the crown for winter. You can prune off the ends of the canes to 3 or 4 feet if you want as the buds for next year's fruit crop are borne on the lower part of the cane. Pruning may prevent cane breakage if you live in an area with heavy winter snow. For similar reasons, trellising is useful for preventing breakage from snow and high winds, especially with varieties that develop the long canes that you mention.

  4. I found the fall fruit on Niwot to have very poor flavor (first year) despite the plants growing very well. Do you think the lack of flavor is due to cold, or just the nature of the primocane crop. I'm wondering if getting the primocanes to fruit earlier by not tip pruning will improve flavor. I want to be able to mow them in the fall, rather than hand pruning and trellising to save the canes for a summer crop.

  5. I also found the flavor disappointingly similar to deisel fuel...I'm sorry to didnt have a black raspberry flavor...which happen to be my favorite berry of all...the plants are extremely vigorous and productive...such a shame..i will keep them and see if the summer berries taste any better...but I think I will stick with jewel...they are delicious