About 5 years ago, after extensive research, I bought 3 blueberry varieties that complemented and pollinated each other, so that I had blueberries for almost the entire growing season. I was told it would be easy.
Oh, how pitiful my wilting and tiny blueberry bushes were a year after I planted them in my alkaline, hard clay soil in Pennsylvania. And forget about fruit – 1 berry per bush if I was lucky. It turned out that the soil in my area was exactly the opposite of what a blueberry bush needs: well-drained, strongly acidic, loamy soil.
After 2 years I wanted to free her from her – and mine – misery. But instead I gave him one last shot and put the blueberries in a raised garden bed so I could control the soil conditions. I loaded the floor in the garden bed with peat moss. I regularly added elemental sulfur and compost for two years. Now the soil is almost where it needs to be at pH 5 (but I want to bring it to 4). Oh, and the plants look great and are producing small berries for the first time.
Pruning blueberries is essential for your health
To get a big harvest of blueberries every year, you also have to prune the shrubs every winter. Not spring or autumn, but in winter when the plant is at rest. Pruning is a bit difficult at the beginning, but the following video from the University of Maine clearly explains how to prune blueberries and why.
The idea is to cut out the weak fruit wood so that the bush does not try to bear too much fruit. Without pruning, your fruit size is very small and ripens rather late. It also makes the plant more susceptible to disease because so much bush shadows itself. The idea, just like pruning fruit trees, is to open the plant to light and air so that it heats up faster, performs photosynthesis more efficiently and dries faster after rain.
- The goal of pruning blueberries is to prune older, less productive sticks and leave the newer sticks.
- Blueberry fruits on 1 year old shoots – you can see the swollen buds on the top of the sticks. The swollen buds are the fruit buds that break in spring and produce flowers and fruits. Always cut out the smaller sticks with few fruit buds and vegetative buds as they don’t produce much fruit.
- Every winter, trim the old, gray sticks, which are often covered with lichen. They grow from the base and should be removed with pruning shears near the ground as they shade new growth. There should not be any sticks on the blueberry bush that are older than 6 years.
- When pruning the top of the plant, leave the strong shoots and cut out the weak shoots (small branch size). In fact, due to their small size, they can be broken off by hand.
- The goal is to trim 50-75% of the blueberry bush. That may sound too aggressive, but it is not. In fact, the aggressive cut results in a much more productive bush with larger, sweeter blueberries.