Proper pruning promotes easy picking on blueberry bushes

Johnny Morgan  |  2/18/2019 4:45:42 PM

(02/15/19) HAMMOND, La. — Blueberry growers were shown the proper way to prune a blueberry bush at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station on Feb. 12.

AgCenter horticulture agent Mary Helen Ferguson explained the reasoning behind pruning blueberry bushes and demonstrated the tools and techniques needed.

“You don’t have to prune your bushes,” she said. “But once a bush gets too tall to harvest with ease, it is OK to shape it for easier picking.”

The goal is more personal than a requirement for fruit production, she said.

Ferguson told the group that timing is important. Now is a good time to prune, but the drawback is the new growth will not produce berries this year.

“So it is best to prune your bushes soon after the harvest in July,” she said.

There are two ways to restore an old, overgrown blueberry bush.

“One, you can take out all the canes down to about a foot, but you’ll lose a season of production,” she said. “Second, you can take out one-third of the older canes each year for three years.”

After the third year, you will basically have a new plant, she said. “The key is to never have a permanent trunk on a blueberry plant.”

Growers can cut the plant back to about 1 foot below the height they want it to be, immediately after harvest. Once this is done, the new growth will set fruit for the following year.

Growers in Louisiana grow a lot of rabbiteye blueberries because they don’t have many problems with soil conditions, insects and disease.

Ferguson said there are new varieties of blueberries from Georgia and North Carolina.

It’s best to plant more than one variety because cross-pollination is required.

“Right now is a good time to set out blueberries and is also a good time to fertilize established blueberry plants,” she said.

A major insect of blueberries is the spotted wing drosophila, which was first found in the United States about 10 years ago.

Growing blueberries is not very challenging, she said. But drainage and pH are two of the most important factors that growers need to be aware of when starting plants.

Mary Helen Ferguson shows the equipment needed to prune a blueberry bush

LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Mary Helen Ferguson shows the proper way to prune a blueberry bush at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station on Feb. 12. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Mary Helen Ferguson

LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Mary Helen Ferguson shows the equipment needed to prune a blueberry bush at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station on Feb. 12. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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