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Why I don't prune my blueberries

 
gardener
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Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
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Blueberry blossoms are such a beautiful site in the spring!

Blueberries bloom on the tips of last year's growth, so if you prune off the tips of your bushes, you will be pruning off a lot of potential blueberries.

Here's a recent video of one of my blueberry bushes that hasn't been pruned.



My blueberry bushes have had just slight minor pruning of dead branches and they have been thriving and producing tons of blueberries!

If your plants have naturally healthy soil, they will grow more vigorously and can support a lot of fruit!

The native pollinators love blueberry blossoms too and have been busy at work!

Have you tried growing blueberries naturally without pruning them?
 
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Hi Steve, thanks for the tip!  I planted two blueberry bushes about 18 months ago. Unfortunately, a dozer operator got one of them despite me pointing out their location before he started. Anyway, my question is, do I need another bush to pollinate, or are they self-pollinators?
 
Steve Thorn
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Artie Scott wrote:Hi Steve, thanks for the tip!



Glad it was helpful!

I planted two blueberry bushes about 18 months ago. Unfortunately, a dozer operator got one of them despite me pointing out their location before he started. Anyway, my question is, do I need another bush to pollinate, or are they self-pollinators?



If you've got highbush blueberries, they are generally more self fertile, and you could probably get away with having just one plant.

Rabbiteye blueberries are generally a little less self fertile, but some varieties can still be somewhat self fertile, so you may could still get away with having just one still.

Having another variety should help increase fruit set and have larger fruit, but as long as the variety you planted is at least a little self fertile, you should be able to enjoy some berries!
 
Artie Scott
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That’s very helpful, thanks Steve!  I will plan to put in another soon then, sounds like they will both be more productive that way. And maybe I can take a cutting to propagate more.
 
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Overall it is always best to have more than one of any berry bush and more than one species. I currently have two bushes of a high bush and two of a low bush and I plan to end up the blueberry patch with 3 varieties and 4 plants of each as a minimum.
But that is because I love blueberries to eat in many ways including cobblers and pies, cakes,  bread, oatmeal topping, cereal topping, ice cream, etc.
 
Steve Thorn
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Artie Scott wrote:That’s very helpful, thanks Steve!  I will plan to put in another soon then, sounds like they will both be more productive that way. And maybe I can take a cutting to propagate more.



That sounds great Artie! I'd like to try taking some cuttings this year too.

I've had a lot of success taking side shoots from blueberries too, which start forming usually around year 3 or 4. It doesn't produce as many plants as with cuttings, but it's super fast and easy, and they already have a small root system established!

 
Artie Scott
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Great video, Steve, thanks for that!  And thank you Bryant, I agree, no such thing as too many blueberries. I now have the excuse I need to plant more, and more varieties.
 
Steve Thorn
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This small and young blueberry bush has not been pruned and is producing lots of berries already and is most likely ahead of most blueberry bushes in our area.

The bottom of the plant is not pruned either, and the bottom branch is sending up a new vigorous shoot that will help increase fruit production in the future!

It is mulched with shredded Fall leaves, and I leave most "weeds" to grow unless they threaten overtaking the blueberry bush.

If you want to stay up to date on all the videos, hover over the picture on the top left of the video and click subscribe or you can also click this link to susbribe to my YouTube channel and see all the videos when they come out! https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCrRCqBr9G8JObD-cxQG8s5A

 
Steve Thorn
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Keep more fruit buds and get more blueberries!

Here's a video I made of some of my unpruned blueberry bushes with tons of fruit buds that will soon be blueberries!

 
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One thing led to another working on my blueberry patch yesterday which happens at our place.  A few drain lines fed by the gutter system are clogged shut and useless.  Luckily as a budding Permie I'm sure to find some good ideas on rain barrel construction.

On the subject at hand, how many seasons are you pinching buds on transplants to establish strong root systems, if at all?  

Also, I want to benefit from a mix of varieties.  I'm in Knoxville so rabbiteye varieties are suited to the area.  Do I need a mix of varieties within rabbiteyes or does mixing varieties mean I need a variety of lowbush, northern highbush, southern highbush, rabbiteye and half-high?

Jason
 
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Rabbit eye blueberries will not make it in Central Wisconsin. I have 6 bushes of different varieties, all in a row from oriented NW to SE to maximize pollination, even though my bees, bumble bees & other insects do most of the work. They are planted in a ditch since we have about 35' of sand before we hit bedrock, and this ditch is getting all of the rainwater from the east plane of our house. That's a lot of water, but with so much sand, you gotta do what you gotta do. It is very rare that we have standing water, which blueberries don't like, even though their feet should be damp.
As for multiplying blueberries, the easiest and best method I have done is layering: Select one of these young shoots that is full of life and growing tall. While it is still flexible. [July/August around here], bend it down to the ground so you will still have 3-4" sticking out and bury the stem, deep, like 3-4" if you have enough stem to work with.. [I have sand, here, so I like to put a shovelful of peat/ sphagnum moss but if you have good loose soil, you may not have to]. This way, the daughter will root well, in acid soil, which you might not have if you make a cutting and plant it farther away. My soil's PH is 6.5, so not acid enough for blueberries.
Try to have the buried part at least 6" from the mother plant so you won't disturb mama when you harvest your new plant. Since that branch will be buried, tie a colorful ribbon between the plant and the burial site. In this way, you will be able to separate momma from her daughter without damaging either. Place a heavy brick on top of the burial site and another a few inches away, outward but under the daughter plant to force it upwards. This way, the young shoot can make an elbow and still look skyward.
[Some folks injure the stem at the burial site to encourage root growth. I have not found this necessary: It is extra work and I fear to introduce pathogens in the plant].
The following spring it should have enough roots to harvest the daughter plant: Clip the stem you buried as close to momma as you can. [This way, you won't get your clippers in the dirt and dull them. Also, you will be harvesting more of the 'umbilical' cord, which you will also bury with the whole plant: This part of the stem will *also* grow roots later, for a much stronger plant. You can plant the daughter deeper than originally: The stem will root all along whatever you bury.
When you harvest the plant, dig around gently in case you don't see enough roots to support your new plant. If you don't, keep the 'umbilical' stem buried until it does. It is more important to have enough roots for the top growth. If you have to transplant in the fall, so be it. It won't hurt.

A variation is to bury momma under a pile of dirt with only a couple of inches showing. That is a lot of dirt to pile up on the whole plant! You will get a lot more plants, but you risk injuring momma  when you retrieve all her offsprings and you will not get berries from her this year.
 
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Other than broken branches I don't prune. My wife had me bury a big reclaimed bath tub for her ducks. I dug a trench and put corrugated 4 inch French drain pipe under my run of blueberries. Whenever she drains the tub my plants get irrigated. I mulch my rows and paths with all the ponderosa pine needles that appear after winter. Blueberries are so easy to propagate with cuttings I love them. However propagation by layering gives me a bigger start than a cutting.
 
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I have done the root exposure method with my gojis.  It works well...  Or rather my chickens have.  I have gotten new plants with roots very easily.  However gojis have to be the easiest thing to propagate from cuttings.  I will have to check my blueberries to see if I have any new starts on the uncovered roots.  Who knew my birds bad habits could be useful!
 
Steve Thorn
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Jason Freeman wrote:On the subject at hand, how many seasons are you pinching buds on transplants to establish strong root systems, if at all?



I haven't had to pinch any buds yet.

I did an experiment where I pruned some back shorter and left some tall. The tall unpruned transplants actually did a lot better which surprised me. They even have a few fruit buds already.

Also, I want to benefit from a mix of varieties.  I'm in Knoxville so rabbiteye varieties are suited to the area.  Do I need a mix of varieties within rabbiteyes or does mixing varieties mean I need a variety of lowbush, northern highbush, southern highbush, rabbiteye and half-high?



Just mixing rabbiteyes is fine. I think I have about six different rabbiteye varieties growing and have really good pollination. I also have an area with four bushes all of the same variety kind of by themselves, and have still gotten good pollination.

I've added some southern highbush recently, so it should be interesting to see how they do. Hope you get some tasty blueberries soon Jason!
 
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It is necessary for me to prune in order for me to get them under netting. The birds will eat them all! Putting up the netting is one my least favorite things to do!

If you don’t have that to deal with I agree with letting them grow at least until you have to pick with a ladder,
 
Artie Scott
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Steve, I never did get any more blueberries going last year, but my one lonely blueberry plant managed to hang on despite utter neglect. What can I say, it was a busy year last year!

Anyway, got two new blueberry plants in the ground today - better late than never!   I seem to have a lot more time this year - the silver lining to corona virus I suppose.
5B919357-3262-438A-9A49-2C9BE71ABC02.jpeg
Blueberry Bushes
Blueberry Bushes
 
Steve Thorn
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Looks good Artie!
 
Jason Freeman
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First for me with blueberries and a layering no till approach.  
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20200326_135408.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20200326_135408.jpg]
 
Jason Freeman
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I liked it so much I started the garden with the layers!
Must have generated good karma.  The new neighbors three down turned all their moving boxes into a huge garden box. I'm excited to meet and share.
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Mine off and running
Mine off and running
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