I have a few different blueberries (2 Northern Highbush [coming into their 4th year], one Jersey [coming into 3 years old], and one Blueray[coming into 3 years old]) and I'm wondering about what I should be doing to maintain them. I started researching pruning and came across some of the following info but am curious if anyone has experience which they can lend:
For at least the first two to three years following planting, blueberries should not be allowed to bear fruit. Early fruiting can stunt plants, resulting in substantial yield reductions for several years. Fruit buds should be removed prior to bloom. On blueberries, fruit buds are found on the terminal 2 to 3 inches of the previous year’s growth. Fruit buds are rounder, plumper and larger than vegetative buds on the basal parts of shoots (Diagram 2). Pruning off the terminal portions of shoots will eliminate fruit buds.
- I'm supposed to be pruning off the flower buds then and not allowing them to flower then?
- Even with the pic provided, I'm not sure I'll tell the difference between Fruit buds (large, plump and located on the terminal 2 to 3 inches of shoots) and Leaf buds (small, pointed and located on the basal part of shoots
After the third year, a mature cultivated blueberry plant has 15-18 canes which originate from the crown. Pruning controls the crop to increase fruit quality. When the bushes are mature after several years, remove older central canes and prune inward pointing laterals back to the main cane. Prune when dormant in late winter or early spring. Fall pruning is not recommended, because the new shoots could be killed by a cold winter. If necessary, thin out the dormant fruit buds to get fewer but larger berries.
- Having not pruned them before, this sounds difficult to implement with efficacy - "prune inward pointing laterals back to the main cane" - "what?" is my reaction.
I've grown blueberries for over 12 years now, and so I have some experience with them. After transplanting a blueberry plant, I always gently pinch off all of the the thick, plump flower buds on the branchtips with my fingertips. I also prune off any dead or spindly canes from the base as well. I use a commercial organic fertilizer blend called "acid mix", then I mulch heavily with Doug-fir chips. The plants put a lot of energy into growing new canes the first summer. Normally, I don't bother to pinch the flowers the following winter. Instead, I just prune off any dead or spindly branches, apply more acid mix and more mulch. By the third year after planting, the bushes are covered with flowers and fruit. If a cane stops producing flower buds and the bark turns gray, I prune it at the base in the winter. This is a simplified version of my blueberry strategy, but I hope this will help. Good luck!
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