Oscar and I have been waiting for a beautiful day to prune our blueberries, and today was the day! We have three large Rabbiteye blueberry bushes that were not pruned last year. Oscar was recovering from a heart attack in September 2015, and then again from having lung surgery two months later. I had carpel tunnel surgery on one hand in February 2016, and surgery on the other hand and shoulder a month later. That put a major crimp on all of our gardening chores last spring.
Because of the lack of pruning, last year’s berries were abundant, but exceptionally small. We generally prune each year, and the berries that are produced are much larger.
This year, the plants were in dire need of pruning. They were extremely bushy and overgrown, making pruning difficult. We began the task by removing all the runners and other intrusive growth from beneath the plants.
Next, we removed some of the older canes, either by digging them up completely, or by shearing each one off at its base. Many limbs had crisscrossed and were tangled. The next step was to remove an extensive amount of interior growth, especially in the instances where limbs crisscrossed or rubbed together, to allow sunshine to penetrate and air to circulate within the plant.
All three of the plants had grown too tall for the easy harvesting of berries. Therefore, the last portion of the pruning job was to shorten the height of each bush. We did that by making our cuts at the top of each cane just above a growth bud.
Because pruning encourages new growth, all three plants should be more productive this year, and we’re looking forward to a harvest of plump, juicy berries. Remember, try to prune your blueberry plants by the end of February, and no later than early March.
Carol (Bonnie) Link is an Etowah County Master Gardener and an experienced garden writer. Her weekly column is designed to help and encourage others in their gardening endeavors. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.