Introduction to Pruning Blueberry Bushes:
There are a growing number of home gardeners out there who have decided to grow blueberry bushes in their gardens so they can have fresh, ripe blueberries in their own backyard. Who can really blame them either, with the cost of fresh fruit at the local grocery store getting higher and higher? While blueberry bushes are not that difficult to grow, they do need pruned if you would like to get the most yield possible from your plants.
Once you have established your blueberry bushes, growing them is much the same as many other types of vegetable garden plants. You need to keep their growing area weed free, you will need to fertilize them during the growing season, you will need to maintain control over insects and diseases, and you will need to learn how to properly prune blueberry bushes to ensure you get the best harvest possible. Here in this article we hope to give you a greater understanding of not only pruning blueberry bushes, but also why you should.
Why You Should Start Pruning Blueberry Bushes:
There are many gardeners out there who typically do not prune any of their plants, choosing rather to let them grow in their own way and accepting whatever results comes out of that. While there is nothing wrong with that, you also are not getting the most that you could be out of your crops. For a lot of plants pruning is more for visual purposes than anything else. If you are just growing flowers to look at, pruning may not be high up on your list of priorities.
We have all been there. No one really likes pruning because it's not the glorious part of gardening, it's simply work that gets very little, if any, fanfare. If you are growing fruits and vegetables however, the logic behind pruning changes a bit. You are growing food to eat, and no matter what you are going o have to invest some of your time into making that a reality. Why would you not want to get the biggest harvest that you can from your plants? A little bit of maintenance work really goes a long way.
Pruning Blueberry Bushes the Right Way:
There is an awful lot of information out there on pruning blueberry bushes and some of it is very contradicting. Pruning a blueberry bush is not terribly different from pruning a rose bush believe it or not. The goal is to train the bush to promote a proper structure, as well as setting the conditions for healthy growing. You are essentially looking for 3 key elements, shape, size, and productivity. For the first 2 or 3 years, pruning is very important in the development of your blueberry bushes. After that, a little yearly maintenance is all that is required.
Here are a few tips to properly pruning blueberry bushes:
1. First remove any canes that are broken or look diseased.
2. If you have any canes that are older than 6 years, consider removing most of these next unless they are vital to the structure of the plant.
3. Try to limit yourself to removing no more than 3 of the mature canes each year to give the bush a chance to regrow new buds on existing canes.
4. Cut back any branches that are touching one another; each cane should be independent of one another.
5. Leave yourself only 2 to 3 main canes that will act as an anchor for the plant.
6. The bush should be narrow at the base and have an open center to allow sunlight and air flow to penetrate the bush.
Tools for Pruning Blueberry Bushes:
The tools you need to properly prune a blueberry bush you most likely already have in your tool shed. A good set of loppers will be needed to cut through the thicker, more mature canes, while a nice hand pruner will work for the smaller jobs. In some cases you may need to have a handsaw nearby for some of the tougher wood.
There is not much difference in pruning requirements from one variety to another as the same basic plant structure is desirable. If you have left your blueberry bushes go for several years without pruning, you may find you have your work cut out for you. Follow the steps outlined above to rejuvenate your bushes. Be careful not to remove too many mature canes at one time. Your best bet is to remove 2 to 3 canes from the center of the bush to open up the center a bit, then remove any dead or diseased wood. After a few years of pruning blueberry bushes, your berries will come back well.
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