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Pruning blueberries is not as difficult as pruning other shrubs or fruit trees. In the first few years you can even let them grow completely in peace. At best, flowers or fruits can be removed so that the plant puts its energy into strong growth. Later, blueberries are pruned to increase the yield and prevent the bushes from aging.

Cut blueberries

growth

cultivated blueberry

Forest blueberries always remain small in growth because they are shrubs close to the ground. The cultivated blueberry grows differently. Their wild ancestors did not come from our forests, but from North America. Some varieties even grow up to 3 m high. In the garden, they should remain smaller for safe and convenient harvesting. That is why they are cut into shape at the right time according to the instructions. However, treating them like an ornamental shrub does not help for a good and safe yield. If too much is cut, too much new wood forms at many starting points and the plant becomes too dense.

forest blueberry

There are also plants of the local forest blueberry to buy from the gardener. These remain small and do not exceed 40 cm in height. These shrubs hardly ever need to be pruned and they mostly reproduce on their own if the soil suits them. A cut is only necessary if the stock is getting out of hand or is too old. Forest blueberry fruits are smaller but more aromatic than cultivated blueberries. Even a cut does not ensure the growth of larger berries. While in the case of cultivated blueberries, the fruit size and quality can be improved through a rejuvenation pruning.

Forest bilberry, Vaccinium myrtillus

differentiate shoots

Blueberries form both new shoots on the ground and shoots on old wood. Fruits form on young shoots that are two to three years old. Older wood only produces a few fruits, which remain small and are no longer of such good quality. You can tell the shoots apart by their bark.

Identify young shoots

  • Color greenish to reddish
  • thin diameter
  • smooth, cool bark
  • not yet lignified
  • very flexible

Identify old shoots

  • Color brownish, gray
  • thicker diameter
  • solid, woody, cracked and rough bark
  • lignified, no longer so flexible

If the flower clusters and fruit are removed in the first few years, the plant will develop more strong shoots and grow larger and stronger. Older plants tend not to form new shoots. That's why they will lazy and bear only a few blueberries. The right measure is then the rejuvenation cut according to the instructions.

cutting tool

In order to avoid diseases and injuries, it is essential to pay attention to the right cutting tool. Use standard secateurs and a small pruning saw for older wood. Make sure that any tool is very sharp to avoid tearing out branches and twigs. The then larger wounds could more easily penetrate germs. It is also important to clean the tool regularly or, ideally, to disinfect it. This also prevents the spread of diseases.

Necessary tool for cutting the blueberry:

  • Secateurs with bypass or anvil mechanism
  • small pruning saw without a telescopic handle
  • Tool for sharpening secateurs
  • Disinfectant, for example spirit
pruning saw

To cut

When and how you prune the blueberry depends on the age of the plant. However, there are a few basic editing rules:

  • choose the right time
  • use correct tool
  • do not leave any branch stumps
  • Do not cut or tear off branches and twigs
  • do not damage the bark
  • Keep cut surfaces small
  • Disinfect tools when changing to a new plant
  • Wound sealant is not necessary

Young blueberry

You should plant the newly bought blueberries in the place intended for them, water them regularly and fertilize them if necessary. You don't have to cut them when planting. How things will continue in the next few years depends on how old the plant is when it is planted. A very young blueberry is allowed to grow in peace. It forms a light crown without training measures. If you want to support shoot growth, you should remove flowers and fruits regularly for about 3 years.

It is not necessary to cut young blueberries every year. It is enough to observe the plants and always remove old wood when it is no longer so good.
Only when the plant is fully grown is it worth pruning it annually. As a result, the plant becomes more willing to bloom again, drives out new shoots and has a higher yield. In addition, the shrub is thinned out in such a way that light and air can penetrate inside. The plant needs light for the growth of flowers and fruits. Air ensures quick drying after rain. This prevents fungal infestation.

Older blueberry bushes

If the blueberry is older when planted, preferably more than 5 years, it already bears many flowers and fruits and has older wood. After the first harvest you should cut them for the first time. The right time is either in autumn or in winter when there is no frost. Blueberries are hardy, but if you cut them in frost, cut shoots can freeze back.

Rejuvenate overgrown shrubs

If, for example, an old orchard is taken over, in which old, neglected berry bushes also grow, blueberries can also be found among them. After all, blueberries can live for 30 years. Old bushes bear only a few berries, which are small and have little aroma. In addition, they form poorly new shoots. In order to encourage the shrub to grow again, it helps to cut back the shrubs vigorously. You should completely remove especially very old wood. Cut it away close to the ground with a pruning saw. You should also remove all shoots that are too thin and long.

Pruning rules for old shrubs:

  • only rejuvenate strong old plants
  • vigorous pruning leads to vigorous new growth
  • weak pruning leads to weak new growth
  • Thin out the crown vigorously
  • Leave scaffolding made of old leading branches
  • gradually rejuvenate the plant over several growing seasons
  • Cut back old leading branches to younger, outward-growing branches
  • the goal is 6 - 8 strong shoots per plant

Special cutting measures

It may be necessary to prune a blueberry plant for specific reasons. This includes damage after storms or snowfall and pest infestation or diseases.

damage

If blueberry bushes show major damage from storms or broken snow, you should remove all damaged branches and twigs. All frozen shoots are also cut off. While the usual pruning rules still apply, it doesn't matter what the plant looks like after pruning. A healthy blueberry can also tolerate being cut back to 30 cm. It drives out again from old wood and the root system.

diseases and pests

Even if disease or pests are evident, it is necessary to remove all the infected wood, regardless of the shape of the plant. In the case of fungal diseases, cut back into healthy wood. Here it is particularly important to disinfect the cutting tool in order not to spread pathogens in the garden.
In the event of pest infestation, remove the relevant areas. These include shoots with severe aphid infestation or twigs that have been spun by caterpillars. The more pests you remove by pruning, the less damage there is to the rest of the plant.

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