Baking blueberry pies this summer begins with pruning blueberry bushes now.
If you're short on patience and long on longing for berry pies, then plant berry bushes in your lawn or landscape. These are quick to mature as opposed to a fruit tree, which may take a number of years to produce apples or pears.
At this point in Vermont's winter, these fruit-bearing shrubs might be in need of a good pandemic haircut.
Blueberry bushes and brambles - those are all types of raspberries and blackberries - are, luckily, the easiest shrubs to grow.
Often, within a year or two of planting, both types of fruit-bearing bushes will provide you with plenty of fruit!
Blueberries and brambles are also great landscape plants. Birds love them and they continue to look nice in the landscape, boasting beautiful fall foliage color. With proper care, they can provide you with an abundance of berries for decades.
The first five years or so after planting berry and bramble bushes are fairly carefree in terms of pruning. You really needn't prune them unless some branches or canes are rubbing against each other.
By year six or seven after planting, you might notice your blueberry bushes have some older branches or canes.
You'll be able to identify the older canes by their gray and peeling bark. These branches may also not leaf out or fruit very well.
Take a walk out to your blueberry bushes to look closer at the older canes and notice the buds on the tops of each. If the buds are large and full, you'll know these buds will flower and eventually grow into blueberries.
If you notice some of those older branches have very few or no flower buds on them, prune those back now to either the trunk or down to the ground.
Don't go whole hog on removal, though. Plan your pruning and leave a few older canes on the bush.
For blueberry bushes to grow and produce fruit, you want to have several branches of different ages coming out of the ground.
The blueberry bush is healthiest and most productive when it has a multi-generational representation of canes on it.
To get that, aim for a mix of young canes - those are the ones with red bark - and middle-aged and older canes with gray and peeling bark.
Care for brambles, (think red raspberries and blackberries), is a bit different, though you can make it easy on yourself.
After the bramble bushes fruit in summer, remove the dead growth or the dead canes then.
A week or two after fruiting in the summer, you'll see that the bramble canes begin to die back naturally. These are the canes you can remove.
Certain varieties of brambles, like everbearing raspberries produce fall crops. So, with this variety, after it's produced its fall crop, mow the whole thing down. You won't get a summer crop next year, but you will get a bigger fall crop the next year.
Raspberry bushes can get overcrowded, so keep an eye out for that. If you see a lot of small, spindly shoots that are spaced closer than six or eight inches apart, remove some of those. This will give the bramble bed a bit more growing space.
Fruiting bushes like blackberries and black raspberries produce berries along long canes. For these, you can do "tip pruning," that is, cutting them back a little bit so they'll form side branches that will produce more fruit.
Q: The leaves on my philodendron turn brown at the tip. How can I prevent that? And when my plant gets dusty, what's a safe way to clean the leaves? - Karen, in Georgia
Common house plants like philodendrons, pathos and spider plants tend to develop brown tips on the leaves.
The cause can be due to a host of different things. You might need to go through a sort of checklist to determine the reason.
Mostly though, brown leaf tips is due to uneven watering. If you let your plants dry out too too much and then you give them too much water, that pattern of drying the soil out then flooding it can cause brown tips to form.
Try to keep your watering a little bit more even and see if that helps.
Another cause could be the water itself. If you have a municipal water supply, you might not want to use the tap water. Try watering your houseplants with either distilled water or, if you are using the tap water, let it sit out overnight.
Leaving the water sit out for a bit helps some chemicals like chlorine to evaporate and makes it better for your plants.
And repotting is always a good idea! Every few years, give your houseplants fresh soil because over time, potting soil will compact.
One more great practice to keep your houseplants healthy is to give them a shower! Once a month, place the plants in the tub and give them a shower.
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