Pruning Blueberry Bushes
April is a great month to get the family out into the landscape. There are all the obvious things to do like rake the leaves you missed in October, pick up fallen branches & cut any perennials back to the ground. But the pruning of shrubs is not quite as obvious of a chore. Many kinds of shrubs can be pruned at this time of the year but our native blueberries thrive with regular pruning. Pruning is one of those subjects that often can cause a state of paralysis to even the most seasoned gardener. But when it comes to blueberries, fear not. It is so simple that even your child can do it (providing you tell her her goat can stay near by).
Just follow the 4 steps below:
1)Get the proper pruning tools. If you have shrubs of any kind you need the following (see image left to right): a folding saw, lopper and hand pruner. All of these I purchased locally in Conway at the family owned and operated Oesco. http://www.oescoinc.com/ The long handled loppers are good for kids. Fingers are away from blades and the long handles give them the leverage to cut sizeable branches.
The image below shows a blueberry bush that has not been pruned for 5 years. It has dozens of branches that are too old to produce much in the way of quality fruit. The interior is cluttered with deadwood and the canopy is filled with branches rubbing against one another.
2) Remove any dead, dying or diseased branches.
3) Remove 1/3 of the oldest branches. Cut the stems at the base as low as possible. Your children can keep up with the brush pulling to clear you an area to work in and to see your progress.
4) Repeat next year.
The bush should now be: a) narrow at base, b) open in the center, and c) free of vegetative clutter
If you do this to your blueberry bushes every year or so you will find them producing at least twice as much berries then they did in the past.