[music] David Handley: I’m David Handley with the
University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Today we’re going to learn how to prune blueberry
bushes. When we talk about a blueberry bush — and
this is a well-established one here, it’s about 10 years old — we’re looking for a
bush that consists of six to 12 canes. These are the big shoots that come up from the ground
and support the branches and shoots that are going to give us fruit. Each time we come
in here, we’re going to prune out a couple of older canes, leave some new canes to replace
them. Then we’re going to move up into the top of
the bush and talk about the shoots. Blueberry’s fruit on one-year-old shoots, if we can grab
a tem here, I’ll show you that. This is last year’s growth that you see here. This is where
the fruit buds are born. In fact, if you look at one of the shoots,
we can see that. At the tip, there are some swollen buds that we see here, tear-dropped
shaped buds. Again, we can see one here. Then lower down, we have smaller, pointed
buds that you see here. The swollen buds are the fruit buds. Each one will break next spring
and there will be a cluster of six or eight flowers on there. The smaller, pointed buds,
when they break, they’ll give us vegetative shoots, which will be our fruitwood next year. So we want to preserve a good balance of these
nice, long, healthy shoots from last year. What we don’t really need are these smaller,
weaker shoots that you see here. They only support one or two fruit buds. You can see,
they have very few vegetative buds. When we get up into the bush, we’re going to eliminate
these. So let’s take a look at this bush. We can
see we’ve got a couple of older canes here. We know they’re older because they’re very
thick at the bottom and they’ve got all of this old lichen forming on them. We’re going
to remove a couple of these older canes every year on a well-established bush like this.
We’ll take those right at the ground with the loppers, just cut those right out. The other thing I don’t like about this one
was it was very low and it was sticking out into the aisle. So I’m not going to harvest
much fruit on that and that’s going to tend to get in my way. That one we’ll take out,
and I’ve got another old one here that’s not doing much. We’ll take that out. It’s also
being very badly shaded. Now, when we cut out these canes, we cut them
as close to the ground as we can. Now, if we look in here, you can see I’ve got a new
cane coming up from the ground. This is the one, I’m opening this up to replace that old
cane with this nice, new cane on here. This will start branching out next year and giving
me good fruiting wood The bottom line is there shouldn’t be any
canes that are older than six years old. You can tell which ones are the oldest by the
thickness of them at the base and all of the weak wood that they tend to produce. As the
canes get older, they tend to produce weaker wood. Your best rooting canes are the ones that
are three to six years old. So every year we take out one that’s six years or older.
We leave a new cane to fill its place. Then we can put the loppers down, move up into
the top of the plant and take a look at the shoots. What we’re looking for are these nice, strong
shoots that were developed last year. What we want to get rid of are these weaker shoots
that you see here. So if I have a branch attached to a cane,
like this one that’s producing nothing but weak shoots, I can take out the whole branch
and not really be feeling as though I am losing anything. But what I am leaving is this branch
on that same cane that has stronger shoots on it. Now, when I get up into a branch like this,
you can see that I’ve got several strong shoots here that look pretty good, but lower down,
I’ve got some weaker shoots. These can be clipped right off, just to leave those stronger
ones on there. In fact, if you don’t have the inclination
to clip them, you can actually strip them right off. They’re not very strong; they’ll
pop right off of there. You can actually get into the bush and strip those off. What I’m going to do is get to work here.
I’m going to cut out these weak branches that either have no good fruiting wood on them
or the shoots are very weak. And I’m gong to leave ones like this that have some very
strong shoots on them. But where there’s weak shoots on these, I’ll cut them off. So I’ll
get to work here. The bottom line here is that you’re cutting
off a lot of weak fruiting wood. If I left that weak fruiting wood on there, what would
happen is the bush would be trying to support way too many fruit. As a result of that, my fruit size would be
very small. It would tend to ripen rather late. And it would be more susceptible to
disease problems, because I’m letting this bush start to shade itself out with all this
weak grow. A part of the pruning process, when I prune
out all of that weak wood, is I’m opening up the bush so more light is getting down
in there. So the plant can feed itself better with photosynthesis, but also so it is drying
out quicker and I’m not seeing any more disease issues. If we’re doing a good job of pruning, and
actually do the math and count the buds that are here, you should be taking out about 50
to 75 percent of the pruning potential of that bush. That sounds like an awful lot,
but if you take that much out, you’re opening up that bush a lot. In the end, you’re going
to have a bush that’s going to last a long time, probably longer than you are, and produce
very high-quality fruit. Here we are at the end of the pruning session,
and this didn’t really take me any more than 10 minutes. If it’s taken you more than 10
minutes, you’re thinking way too hard. All we had to do was, as I said, take out
a couple of the older canes. You can see I cut those close to the ground, a couple of
new canes to replace them. Then up into the top of the plant, any branches that aren’t
supporting good, healthy shoots like this come right out. We don’t need those weak branches.
Then the strong branches that have these good shoots, we leave them and just peel back any
weak shoots like this that remain. In the end, we have a bush that’s nice and
open, consists of our six to 12 canes. Plenty of light can get down here and support these
fruit buds. We’ll have a good crop on this, not only this year, but we’re setting this
bush up for new shoot growth, which will give us a good crop for next year as well. [music]