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Pruning 101: Blueberry Bushes

A pair of pruning shears cut the limb of a berry bush.
Keeping blueberry bushes pruned is essential to their growth and productivity. Learn how to prune them and you'll be flush with blueberries this summer!

Many gardeners are growing blueberry bushes in their lawns and landscapes. These are great additions to your yard, because they are not only beautiful but also provide fresh fruit!

Now is a perfect time to learn some techniques for pruning your blueberry bushes. We'll learn about when to prune, the different aged branches and how to prune to get the best production.

If your blueberry bushes are less than five years old, just remove the dead and broken branches and you’ll be on your way. If they are older, then you want to prune them to rejuvenate them.

Take a look at your plant and notice the mix of young and old branches. The young branches have smooth-looking bark that are yellow or red-colored, the middle-aged branches are gray and the older branches are gray and the bark is peeling.

Once you’ve identified the older branches and stems, look at the tops where the buds are. From there, seek out the flower buds. Those are the bigger buds on the branches themselves.

If you have old stems on the blueberry bush with very few flower buds, those are the ones to target and remove. Pruning these now will encourage some new growth on the same stem as the season progresses.

Also, take out any twiggy growth towards the center of the blueberry bush to open up the plant for better airflow. Creating better air circulation can also help ward off leaf and fruit diseases.

Taking these steps this time of year will ensure your blueberry bushes will grow even better this spring and summer!

Q: I know you've talked about it before but now that it's time to do it, I need a refresher. How do I prune my ever-expanding red twig dogwood bush so it doesn't take over my perennial garden? — Tom, in So Burlington

Dogwoods are beautiful on young canes, or branches. Usually, the first few years they are lovely in your landscape, then after three or four years, red-twig dogwoods and yellow-twig dogwoods tend to turn brown or gray.

You can rejuvenate them by pruning them back to two or three feet off the ground and you’ll see lots of new growth! By the fall and winter, you’ll have stimulated the plant to grow new, beautiful red stems again and they will look lovely against the winter snows.

Q: Your advice this fall was to leave garden litter and omit deadheading plants that have seeds. Now that snow has receded and the tips of shoots are visible should we be cleaning up by removing litter and cutting down dried plant stalks? — Lois, in Cambridgeport

Wait until daytime temperatures are consistently in the 50s. When the weather warms for days at a time, that’s the signal for all those beneficial insects and pollinators that have been overwintering in the leaf layers and plants in your garden. They will have moved out from their winter nests and then you can clean up and remove leaves and yard litter!

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All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a messageor get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

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Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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