Regular pruning will not only ensure the plant's vigor and productivity, but also assists in insect and disease control. The objective of pruning young blueberry plants differs from the mature ones.
When and how often should pruning be carried out?
Blueberry plants should be pruned on an annual basis, right from the time they have been planted. As soon as the blueberry plant is one year old, pruning must be carried out. Further, regular pruning must be carried out every year there on.
These canes will mature and even become non-productive at the same time. So, after skipping a year, when you get back to pruning you will find all similar and non-productive canes, and you will have to remove them all, thus resulting in removal of the entire bush. Hence, regular annual pruning must be carried out.
Which is the appropriate time of the year to carry out pruning?
The most appropriate time of the year to prune blueberry plants is in early spring. Often blueberry growers are found pruning in winter, however, it is better to carry out pruning in early spring.
The reason behind this is that in early spring, you can identify all the canes that were injured during the winter and can have them removed. Besides, by spring all the carbohydrates produced in autumn would have been transported to the roots for storage, thereby minimizing the loss to the plant.
Young plants: The motive behind pruning young blueberry plants is to enhance vegetative growth and not fruit production. Early fruiting results in stunted blueberry plants and low fruit production. Therefore, make sure you remove all the fruit buds found at the terminal 2-3 inches of the plant.
Flower buds are large and plump, whereas vegetative buds are thin and pointed. When the plant is 3 years old, you need to discard all weak and twisted canes. If you find that the previous year resulted in growth of many canes, remove the new canes, except two healthy ones at the crown. Continue a similar pruning till the plant reaches eight years of age.
Mature Plants: Mature plants (8 years) require more selective pruning so as to maintain a particular shape and size. Calculated cuts have to be made and removal of few mature canes has to be done, thereby obtaining a balance between the older branches heading towards non-productivity and young canes heading towards production.
Removal of mature canes will result in lesser number of fruits borne, however, the fruits produced overall will be larger and of good quality. Also remember to remove all the injured canes.
Don't use tools that are not razor-sharp, and also ensure your pruning equipment is sterile. Non-sterile equipment could result in diseased plants. Another point to remember while pruning is that for best results, push the branch away from the blade.
How to revive neglected blueberry plants?
If you have neglected your blueberry plants for a number of years and now wish to rejuvenate them, there is still hope for the plants. Even though pruning plants that have been neglected for years is quite cumbersome, it can be achieved.
While pruning them remember a few points.
- Remember to discard all weak, injured, and diseased branches.
- Remove all the branches that are touching and crossing other branches.
- Remove lower growth in order to prevent fruits from being formed near the ground.
- For every 6 young canes, remove 2 older ones.
- Make sure that enough air and sunlight reaches the central portion of the plant.
- Prune the poorly maintained and over-sized plant to a desired shape.
- Make sure the crown and the middle portion of the plant is loosely-knit as compared to the base.
- The plant should be narrow at the base, open in the center and free of vegetative congestion.