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Blueberry pruning is a must for proper care of this horticultural crop. The measure mainly boils down to thinning the thickening branches and removing weak and diseased shoots. It is one of the most effective ways to influence the growth and yield of blueberries.
Should you prune blueberries in spring or fall?
Blueberry is a sun-loving branchy shrub, reaching a height of no more than 1 m in natural conditions. Nowadays, more than 25 varieties of garden blueberries have been bred, among which there are low and tall (up to 2.2 m) crops that are unpretentious and practically not affected by diseases and pests. Fruiting of the plant increases with age. But high-quality fruits with high taste characteristics are produced only by bushes on which strong, healthy last year's shoots are developed.
The necessary characteristics of the plant can be obtained only with special care. An important and obligatory stage is spring or autumn pruning of blueberries, especially tall ones. In the course of a haircut, old, diseased branches thickening the bush are removed. Without this procedure, the yield of the plant falls, it runs wild, grows overgrown with weak shoots, the crown becomes clogged with dry shoots, which serve as a source of disease.
Types of trimming
Pruning is a powerful method of influencing the growth processes and productivity of any plant. Therefore, depending on the purpose and the desired result, the type of plant trimming and the timing of the procedure are chosen.
Types of blueberry bush pruning:
- Formative. This type of blueberry pruning is usually done in the spring to shape or maintain the correct crown shape. Thanks to this procedure, the bush is provided with the necessary illumination and decorativeness, and the risk of disease is reduced. In the first years of life, a strong skeleton is created for the shrub, which can support the weight of the crop. Then adjust the size and shape of the crown. If a young bush has a crown that exceeds an earthen lump in volume, then the roots will not have time to form normally before transplanting into the ground. The plant will not take root well after planting. Therefore, excess shoots are removed, and by reducing the crown, the development of the root system is activated.
Advice! It is recommended to start modeling blueberry bushes from an early age, while the seedling is still in the container. It is a mistake to start pruning in the 3rd year, especially in the 6th-7th years.
- Sanitary. Sanitary pruning solves the problem of preventing and treating plant diseases, preserving its health. Broken, dry, infected shoots are removed from blueberries.
Important! Cut branches that are affected by diseases or pests must be burned to prevent the spread of infection.
- Anti-aging. The purpose of anti-aging pruning is to stimulate the growth and fruiting of older specimens over 10 years old. An indicator that the plant needs this procedure is a decrease in shoot growth, weak flowering, the formation of a large number of ovaries that crumble, as well as a low quality of fruits.
Advice! When warning signs appear, garden blueberries can be pruned for rejuvenation without waiting for ten years.
With the industrial cultivation of this culture, up to 10 fruiting shoots are left on the shrub and 3 - 4 one-year-olds are left for replacement. In household plots, the crowns of the bushes are denser, with a large number of berries, but small in size.
How to prune blueberries
The principles of blueberry pruning are based on the specific characteristics of the plant:
- the adult shrub contains shoots of different ages;
- fruits are formed on lateral branches of shoots older than two years of age;
- the yield of 4 - 5-year-old branches is lower than that of young ones;
- annually the bush renews itself, throwing out replacement shoots;
- young branches have bright and smooth bark without second-order branches, and branches 2 - 3 years old are stiff and branched;
- on the oldest branches, the lateral fruiting processes are short, small berries are formed on them;
- on productive branches, fruiting shoots are long, fruitful;
- berries are usually not tied up to a height of 30 - 40 cm above the ground.
Blueberry pruning can be done:
- in spring - before the beginning of the active phase of the growing season, until the movement of juices began (in areas with a warm climate - mid-March, in cold zones - April-early May);
- in the fall - after leaf fall, but no later than a month before frost; in warmer regions, blueberries can be pruned in winter.
Attention! Autumn pruning serves to prevent freezing of fruiting blueberry branches. To do this, their young unripe tops are shortened to protect the entire branch from frost. In spring, pruning of garden blueberries is aimed at thinning the crown and rejuvenating before fruiting.
Preparation of tools and materials
To trim branches of different thickness and strength, use:
- secateurs - for thin growth, up to 1.5 cm in diameter;
- lopper - for branches from 1.5 to 2 cm in diameter, placed in the depth of the crown;
- garden hacksaw - for powerful old stiff outgrowths.
You also need to prepare disinfectants - for pest control and bags or bags - for cleaning branches.
How to properly prune blueberries
In addition to the general principles based on the types of pruning, the varietal characteristics of blueberries should be taken into account:
- in fast-growing varieties (Blue, Patriot), long shoots are cut off, which bend to the ground;
- in spreading bushes (Sunrise, Dixie), the base is thoroughly cleaned of small branches and shoots;
- tall plants (River, Eliot) are pruned significantly, activating their growth;
- in non-spreading varieties (Colins, Jersey), too branched shoots are shortened;
- high-yielding varieties (Blugold, Blukrop) with very dense bushes need to thin out the crown.
Attention! The side branches of blueberries are cut only "on a stump", not "on a ring". Cutting "to the ring" will lead to their death.
Rejuvenating garden blueberry pruning
At the age of 5 - 6 years, the productivity of the blueberry bush decreases. Branches of this age begin to resemble a herringbone: their tops are overgrown with a large number of small and short side shoots, on which berries develop poorly. They are cut according to certain rules:
- If strong vertical branches extend from the middle part of the old branch, then it is transferred to one of them, shortened by a cut above the branch.
- If there are no strong growths, the branch is cut off completely at the very base and a young replacement shoot is left to replace.
- If the goal of the gardener is to get large berries, all shoots that are older than 5 years are cut from the bush. If you want to increase the number of fruits, branches are left up to 6 - 7 years.
- 5 - 6 annual, the most powerful shoots are kept on the bush.
- Rejuvenating pruning is required for blueberries 15 years old or more.
You can see in detail how to properly prune garden blueberries for rejuvenation from the video:
With proper care and timely anti-aging pruning, growth processes and high fruiting of blueberries can be activated for 30 years or more.
Advice! If the shrub does not have good growth, it is dry, severely neglected, it is pruned to zero, and the root system is provided with sufficient and constant moisture. Thus, you can get a new blueberry bush next summer.
Thinning blueberry bushes
A healthy, well-groomed bush consists of 10 - 15 main branches, and a neglected blueberry can have more than 20. Such specimens, as well as formed and fruiting plants of 3 - 4 years of age, cultivate:
- horizontal shoots are removed to the place of growth of the first powerful vertical branch;
- cut off the processes of the second order that grow downward or into the crown;
- remove branches damaged by frost, pests, diseases;
- get rid of bushy low shoots and branches of the second order on fruiting trunks below knee level.
The diagram illustrates this step in pruning garden blueberries.
Sanitary pruning of blueberries
If sick, damaged, frostbitten branches appear on a garden blueberry bush, then they are removed without waiting for spring or autumn. Sanitary pruning is carried out throughout the season.
When cutting off the damaged part of the shoot, you should capture at least 2 cm of a healthy area, because the disease or fungus could penetrate the wood tissue. After pruning, the plant must be treated with a fungicide (from fungi) or an insecticide (from insects). The cut offshoots are burned.
Advice! Before sanitary pruning of garden blueberries, tools are disinfected with an alcohol solution, chlorhexidine or potassium permanganate. This is done both before starting work and before processing each new bush.
Pruning schemes for garden blueberries, depending on the season
Spring is a good time to prune blueberries in order to rejuvenate the shrub and shape its crown. After winter you need:
- Examine the bush.
- Remove all dead shoots. You may not even need a pruner for this. The dry ends of the branches break off easily.
- Thin the plant to ensure air circulation and create the necessary illumination for the ripening of berries. To do this, you need to cut off those branches in the middle of the bush on which there are no new shoots or their growth was up to 5 cm. They are cut under the base, stimulating the growth of zero shoots.
- Pay attention to branches without fruit buds. There is no point in keeping them. They will not give a good harvest, because about a handful of berries appear from each fruit bud.
- Trim off long, bare processes. Fruit buds are formed only at their tips, and such a branch will pull on the juices of the plant, competing with fruiting shoots.
The main features of blueberry pruning in spring are demonstrated in the video:
The purpose of pruning blueberries in the fall is to prepare the plant for wintering. Those parts of the shoots that were damaged over the summer, affected by diseases or insects, injured by rain or hail, must be cut off. Otherwise, in winter, they will be the first to freeze, which can lead to the death of the entire branch. Thus, for novice gardeners, pruning blueberries in the fall is easier to carry out according to the rules of a sanitary procedure.
Blueberries actively bear fruit on the branches of the second year. Therefore, after their function is completed, the branches are removed to stimulate the regrowth of young shoots. It is also better to solve this problem in the fall.
The nuances of autumn pruning of garden blueberries are discussed in the video:
Caring for blueberries after pruning
Pruning garden blueberries will give the desired result in the form of a high and high-quality yield, if the culture is provided with the care necessary to restore it:
- Large sections with a diameter of more than 2 cm are treated with garden varnish or a special preparation, for example, "RanNet".
- To prevent diseases in spring and autumn, the bush and the ground around it are sprayed with urea.
- They introduce growth stimulants, which not only promote the regrowth of new shoots, but also increase resistance to diseases.
- They monitor the condition of the mulch, making sure that it does not thicken and rot. If necessary, it is changed in whole or in part.
- All unusable materials, cut off infected branches, rotten mulch are burned to prevent the spread of infections.
Blueberry pruning lays the foundation for high productivity and health. It is carried out in the fall or spring during the dormant period of the plant. An important requirement: it is necessary to trim the crop regularly, annually, without allowing it to thicken.