We are pruning blueberries

If we didn’t love pruning, it would be hard to go down to the field and wallow on the snow and the wet ground.  But pruning is interesting, not something to do by rote.  There are visual choices for the artist in you.  There are structural choices for the farmer who wants plenty of good-size berries.  There are practical choices for easy access for the people who mow, and who weed, and who pick.  I like the challenges of shaping something that does not stay exactly the way you arrange it.  It grows with or against your touch.  In summer, you see it respond.


Reka Blueberry bush before pruning this week.

Today I want to work on the Reka bushes.  They grow fast and can throw out throngs of berries on one branch that force it to flop, undignified, to the ground.

I was glad to put on bulky winter clothes topped with rain pants, because the temperature hovered just above freezing, and a steady breeze kept the snow from melting.

How to start?  Look from the top to see what’s crowding the center.  Look from several sides to see what is crossing and bent.  Look to see what has too many short old branches.  Look for the fat flower buds that are waiting for spring to transform them to berries.  Each bud represents a cluster of berries.  Then look into the future.  Which stems are strong and straight enough to support the berries they will hold?

Reka after pruning.

Reka blueberry after pruning on March 5, 2013.

Once you have seen all this, then start removing stems you know will not grow well: the small, crowded and dead stems; the lower branches that will get little light and those that grow horizontally.  Take as much as one-third of the growth.

Here is the same Reka after Tuesday’s pruning.

I will look for it this summer, to see what it does.

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2 Responses to We are pruning blueberries

  1. Sayre Matthew says:

    I love your explanations and visual examples on pruning. I fondly remember you teaching me how to prune a small X-mas tree, explaining paitently how to look at it in order to shape it for the future.

  2. Administrator says:

    Thanks, Sayre, for reminding me of the Christmas tree.
    It’s interesting that pruning a Christmas tree is almost the opposite of pruning for berry production. For great berries, you want lots of light and air to penetrate to the center. Have you been pruning Christmas trees lately?

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