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How and When to Prune Blueberry Bushes

Q. Several of our blueberry bushes petered out last year even though they produced bucketloads of fruit in past years. What could be wrong?

A. If a late frost didn't kill the buds, the bushes may be suffering from too much bounty and too little pruning. If growing in the type of environment they love — acid soil, not too competition from weeds, full sun — blueberry bushes are very prolific berry producers. And ironically, it's their high productivity that wears them out. Canes that are more than seven years old become less productive. To keep them producing well, blueberry bushes need to be pruned every year.

  • If your bushes have never been trimmed, be careful not to go overboard the first year: Remove no more than two or three of the oldest canes (more than seven years old).

  • Remove any diseased or broken wood, plus crossing branches. You want the bush to have a narrow base and a wide, open top that allows sunlight and air in.

  • The best time to prune blueberry bushes is late winter while they're still dormant.

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