Extension Cultivates Series of Home Garden Workshops
Q: When and how do I prune blueberry bushes?
A: Blueberries can be a great plant to have in the home garden. Not only are blueberries great for their tasty fruit during the summer months, but they make a nice hedge or screen in the landscape. Besides fruit in the summer, blueberries have attractive white or pink flowers in the spring and wonderful red to yellow foliage in the fall. Now that we are in late winter with spring just around the corner, it is time to be pruning blueberry bushes before new growth starts.
When pruning blueberry bushes, you should prune to where the bush is narrow at the base and open in the center. While pruning, remember to take a step back occasionally to make visual observations of the plant to keep from getting carried away while pruning. Most of the smaller stem and canes can be pruned with hand pruners, while for your larger sized stems you will need to use a pair of loppers or a pruning saw.
Of course the main objective when pruning blueberry bushes is to increase fruit production. The first step that should be taken when you begin pruning is to take out any dead canes. These canes are not producing any fruit and provide a great location for pest to enter into the plant. Dead or dying stems will be light gray in color, while healthy, living stems will be brown in color.
Over time blueberry bushes will form many root suckers, which are stems that come out of the ground from the roots. On mature bushes, many of these root suckers will be away from the center of the bush. You want to prune out these root suckers, especially the ones that are a fair distance away from the base of the plant. It is okay and maybe even desirable to keep a few root suckers that have came up within the base of the bushes. The root suckers within the base of the plant will be new growth that will replace older canes over time.
The center of the blueberry bush should be thinned to allow for sunlight and good air circulation through the plant. Remove canes that are preventing the center of the bush from being open in order to open up the center of the shrub. Along with thinning the bush, be sure to prune out any stems that are touching or crossing each other.
You want to prune out any shoots that you would think would touch the ground when loaded with fruit in the summer. Do not be concerned about removing too many fruit buds when pruning. Pruning will be helpful in thinning out some fruit buds so that you will have larger fruit and the canes will be able to withstand the weight of the fruit.
Care and pruning of blueberries is common questions we get into our office. To provide more explanation on how to grow blueberries, Wayne County Cooperative Extension will be holding a Growing Blueberry Workshop on Friday, March 6th from 9 a.m. to noon at the Wayne Center (208 W. Chestnut Street, Goldsboro). A presentation will be provided along with handouts on growing blueberries for participants to take home. The workshop is free and open to the public. Registration is required by calling Wayne County Cooperative Extension Office at 919-731-1520.
• Visit our website at https://wayne.ces.ncsu.edu/. Click on “Lawn & Garden” on left side of webpage.
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Upcoming Wayne County Extension Gardening Programs:
• Wayne County Gardening – Spring Workshop Series. The Wayne County Extension Office will be offering workshops featuring popular gardening topics. Workshops consist of a presentation, question and answer session, and handouts to take home. All workshops are free and open to the public. Registration is required for all workshops by calling the Wayne Co. Extension Office at 919-731-1520.
- Growing Blueberries Workshop – Friday, March 6th, 9 a.m. to noon at Wayne County Extension Office, 208 W. Chestnut Street, Goldsboro Learn how you can grow fresh blueberries in your own garden. In this workshop, we will cover site & variety selection, pruning and fertilization so you can successfully grow blueberries.
- Home Orchard Care Workshop – Friday, March 13th, 9 a.m. to noon at Wayne County Extension Office, 208 W. Chestnut Street, Goldsboro. In this workshop, learn how to start and care for fruit and nut trees in your back yard. We will cover site & variety selection, pruning, fertilization and pest management for pecans, figs, apples/pears and peaches.
- Home Vegetable Gardening Workshop – Friday, March 20th, 9 a.m. to noon at Wayne County Extension Office, 208 W. Chestnut Street, Goldsboro. Nothing is more rewarding than to raise and harvest fresh vegetables from your own backyard garden. This workshop will cover how to plant and start a vegetable garden along with how to care for it through out the season. No matter the size of your vegetable garden, this workshop is for you!
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North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Wayne County Center
P. O. Box 68
Goldsboro, NC 27533