Fresh Berries from the Garden!

Pruning Blueberry Bushes

Here you can see a blueberry bush that has not been pruned for 5 years! It has dozens of branches that are too old to produce much in the way of quality fruit. The interior is cluttered with deadwood and the canopy is filled with branches rubbing against one another.

April is a great month to get the family outdoors and getting their landscape ready for the spring. Families can rake the leaves missed in October, pick up fallen branches, cut perennials back… But the pruning of shrubs is not quite as obvious of a spring chore. While many varieties of shrubs can be pruned at this time of the year, our native blueberries will thrive with regular pruning. Pruning is one of those subjects that often can cause a state of paralysis to even the most seasoned gardener. But when it comes to blueberries, fear not. It is so simple that even your child can do it (providing you tell her that her goat can stay near by)…

Just follow these 4 steps:

  1. Get the proper pruning tools. If you have shrubs of any kind you need the following (see image here, left to right): a folding saw, lopper and hand pruner. All of these I purchased locally in Conway at the family owned and operated Oesco. The long handled loppers are good for kids. Fingers are away from blades and the long handles give them the leverage to cut sizeable branches.
  2. Remove any dead, dying or diseased branches.
  3. Remove 1/3 of the oldest branches. Cut the stems at the base as low as possible. Your children can keep up with the brush pulling to clear you an area to work in and to see your progress.
  4. Repeat next year.

Your blueberry bush should now be: a) narrow at base, b) open in the center, and c) free of vegetative clutter


Jim McSweeney

Jim is a certified arborist, certified horticulturist, licensed pesticide applicator (needed for the application of organic pesticides in MA) & a professional landscape designer with over 15 years experience.  He is also the owner of Hilltown Tree & Garden LLC.  Jim is on the faculty at the New England Wildflower Society, teaching courses on a diverse range of topics.  He lives and works in Zone 5 (Chesterfield, MA) with his family. Once a month here on Hilltown Families you will find timely gardening tips, from a pro in the field, that can be easily used by both avid and novice gardeners, specific to Western MA.

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