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Pruning Blueberries for Bigger Fruit

Dear Bay Gardener

I have a few blueberry bushes that are about seven years old that have produced nicely but are getting a little scraggly. I have been trimming runners and eliminating water shoots, but I’m not certain of the best time to prune the large bushes for renewal growth. Instinct tells me that pruning in late summer or early fall would give them a chance for growth once the weather cools, but I would love to have your expert advice. I always read your column in Bay Weekly.

–Kay L. Parris, kayparris@earthlink.net

A    Stop pruning out the water shoots. They should be replacing the older stems. Prune blueberries in mid- to late-March. They should be pruned back severely. Depending on the cultivars you are growing, either yellow stem or reddish stems, remove all spindly and twiggy stems, leaving only three to five strong yellow or reddish stems per branch. Remove all branches below the belt line and those higher than you can reach standing on the ground. Renew the oldest stems with those strong water shoots.

The oldest stem on your blueberry plants should not be older than five or six years. Vigorous stems make for bigger berries and larger clusters of berries.
I am an old blueberry grower from New Hampshire, and I enjoy teaching people how to prune if you would like to come and watch me prune my blueberry plants in March.