Blueberries

Spring arrived yesterday to a morning temperature of 18 degrees. Somehow I was hoping for a little more. So, Mother Nature gifted me with a good old-fashioned snow storm this morning. 🙂

I’ve had blueberries on my mind lately. Last Monday, I went to a workshop on growing small fruits – strawberries, grapes, raspberries and blueberries.

On a very cold, blustery Saturday morning, I went to an organic blueberry fruit pruning workshop. About thirty of us spent two hours walking Tuckaway Farm’s fields especially in awe of their 500 organic blueberry plants.

We have two high bush blueberry plants that came with the property, and I have four low bushes I put in. The high bushes produced an abundance of blueberries for years until the area got too shaded. Early last fall, I moved them into full sun where I can also reach them with a hose.

Now that I have sun and water checked off, they needed to be pruned. Except for trimming out dead branches, I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it because when you look at the branches they all have buds. I listened last Monday and heard that each bush should have six main branches. Six? I probably had 20 on each.

At the pruning workshop, I watched Chuck Cox the owner of Tuckaway Farm, cut each bush back to six. The guy next to me was in pain. He said he could see blueberry pies on the ground. We all had a chuckle, but you could hear murmurs going through the crowd as he kept pruning each bush.

Did they really have to be pruned that severely? Yes, good sunlight and air circulation result in fewer pests and a vigorous, healthy bush with an abundant berry crop.

Sunday morning dawned cold but sunny, and I knew it was now or never to trim those plants. I headed out with my tools (pruners, loppers, and small saw) and got down to business. I left eight instead of six (I just couldn’t cut those last two), but what an improvement. (The photos are challenging with the brown stems against the brownish green grass.)

BerryCollage

Next, I’m on to researching organic fertilizer and then netting because if I get berries I’m not planning on sharing even one with the birds. I had to give up growing strawberries because the chipmunks and squirrels ate them all, but the blueberries are all mine. 🙂

Do you grow blueberries? If you need information, here is a link to our UNH Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet.

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Tuckaway Farm, Lee, NH – Four generations of the Cox family reside on 250 acres along the Oyster River. They have farmed organically for over 50 years growing a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, and livestock. When possible, they use draft horse power. About ten years ago, they established a bio-diesel production and educational facility on the farm. It is also home to the Wentworth Hunt Club, one of ten recognized New England fox hunting clubs..

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About Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread

Master Gardener who enjoys gardening, quilting, photography, and traveling.
This entry was posted in Fruit Gardening, Gardening and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to Blueberries

  1. KerryCan says:

    This is pretty cool! I, too, would’ve had trouble pruning the bushes back that much–I guess you have to be cruel to be kind, where blueberries are concerned.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jnana Hodson says:

    After reading your adventure, looks like I’m going to have to venture out to check our four plants and maybe do some pruning today … once it stops snowing. (Gee, with this weather, maybe Chuck will fire up the sauna tonight and invite the guys over.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Can you believe this snowstorm? For March it is not unusual, but when everything is budded out and plants are coming up, it is really going to wreck havoc with nature. I’ve read about pruning blueberry plants, but watching someone actually do it was eye opening and encouraging. It was a hard thing to do, but I’m anxious to see what the results are now. I think a trip to a sauna would be enjoyable in today’s weather. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dan Antion says:

    I always find it hard to prune anything that looks healthy. I know it’s the right thing to do, but it’s so hard. Good job – learn how, then do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nancy says:

    First off how brave you are! Secondly… I will be over for blueberry cobbler!
    Neat post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Joyce says:

    I’m someone who has a hard time picking off impatiens blossoms to beef up each plant; I’d have a horrible time pruning blueberry buds! I’m sure you’ll be rewarded this summer, though, for following through on “survival of the fittest.” You have the best of maple sugar, lobster and blueberries in your part of the country. No wonder you won’t leave despite the brutal winters!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. joey says:

    I don’t grow blueberries (yet.) I do have blackberries and raspberries in the back 40. I spend most of the summer waiting for them to ripen! When the blackberries start fruiting, it’s a struggle to get them into the house, because so many of them seem to leap right into my mouth!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, I would have to keep reminding myself- sunlight and air circulation, sunlight and air circulation as I cut off the branches. I made the last of our 2015 tomatoes into spaghetti sauce last night so am now looking forward even more to this year’s planting of eerything.. I was able to put chives that are growing now into turkey meatballs so that was a start. I cut a lot of daffodils to bring in also before today’s storm. It is almost over here with 4-5″ but the snow is heavy and slushy. It will melt soon as temperatures rise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your comment because I couldn’t even bring myself to wear my headphones as I usually do. I knew I had to concentrate or I wouldn’t be able to do it. 🙂 I have one more bag of tomatoes in the freezer and still have several bags of berries. But I’m ready for a new season, of course, when it stops snowing. 🙂 We’ve probably got about the same amount and will go out and clean it up in a little while.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Laurie Graves says:

    Sigh, here comes the snow. Good luck with those blueberries.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. LOVE that blueberry pies on the ground comment that you mentioned in the post…it just cracked me up 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t grow blueberries, but I appreciate those who do and support them as much as possible. 🙂 Spring’s arrival here wasn’t hot, but we certainly didn’t have any snow and today the sun’s out. I think more severe pruning would work wonders for some people I know.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Peter S says:

    We’re about to start growing blueberries at my son’s school. My wife and I volunteered to take care of them, we’re learning a lot so far.

    Like

  12. Lorrie says:

    We do grow blueberries and just this weekend we planted four more bushes. Our goal is blueberry self-sufficiency. We eat them almost every morning with granola and yogurt, and use them in cobblers and desserts, too. I’ve pruned ours, but not quite so drastically. It’s hard to cut off that healthy growth. But….it must be done.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. We have a wonderful local blueberry farm where I will support their efforts in pruning. These look like they will flourish in the warm spring days ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Eliza Waters says:

    We have half a dozen wild bushes at the edge of our property that I’ve never touched, but your post makes me reconsider that. The bluejays usually decimate our crop and I’ve never bothered to net them. I usually end up heading up to one of the two organic u-pick farms nearby and get what I need from them. Win/win. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  15. germac4 says:

    Our neighbours have a blueberry bush that could well take over her garden and ours …but I do so love blueberry jam!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love blueberry anything. 🙂 This gentleman’s original field of blueberry plants was 35 years old and still producing. When you think about what we all spend at the grocery store, and this plant can keep producing fruit for that long, I say plant more blueberry bushes. 🙂

      Like

  16. pagedogs says:

    We inherited two high bush blueberries and I have more on the way for springl planting (along with black berries, black raspberries, strawberries, and haskaps). Love my berries. I went to an apple pruning workshop two weeks ago, in which they let us loose in the orchard. There were two distinct categories attending: (1) those who personally felt every cut as a painful wound, cringing while they snipped tiny little bits here and there; and (2) the happy pruners, cutting and sawing with abandon. I’m in the second category. I love to prune and view it almost as a work of art, a marvelous decluttering of a living sculpture. I always feel like the plant breathes a sigh of relief afterwards–sort of like when we shed our winter clothes. Aaaahhhhh.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Leah says:

    We can’t grow blueberries where we live in Manitoba’s interlake region. The soil is very alkaline. This is such a disappointment for a northern girl like me; I used to pick wild blueberries with my mom and nana (I didn’t enjoy the berry picking as a kid, but I sure liked the eating and the pies that mom would make).

    Fortunately, the people at the fruit program at the University of Saskatchewan have worked with haskaps (native to Siberia) which are happy with our soil and bitterly cold winters. The oblong berries are fairly similar to blueberries. I have 5 baby plants in my yard, and this year I hope to get to the fruit before the birds (the biggest challenge in growing them!).

    Like

    • Thank you for providing an opportunity for me to learn something new. I was not familiar with haskaps, but they look just like a blueberry except longer – more bang for your buck. Here’s hoping you get the majority of the fruit and the birds can go shopping somewhere else. 🙂

      Like

      • Leah says:

        Oh, I could talk gardening all day! Ha ha. They aren’t quite as sweet as blueberries, but you’ve got to go with what will grow, right? I can’t be bothered fighting nature and amending soil every year.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. pbmgarden says:

    Hope those extra two branches appreciate the sacrifice you made in keeping them and reward you heartily with berries.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Bill says:

    I find pruning anything to be painful. Even though I know how important it is, it just doesn’t feel right. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Ogee says:

    Six? Oh no. We’re in trouble. As they are already in bloom this year (sorry!) I’ll note it for next year. Thanks for the info.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thanks for making my mouth water for blueberries! I hope you have many delicious blueberries this year! Did you know that the state of Georgia has been increasing it’s blueberry production for several years and one day the state may grow more blueberries than peaches?

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Blueberries!!A daily staple at our dinner table, because I find you can put them anything and it is an absolute superfood!! My dad taught me pruning many years ago and he always said after you are done you should be able to throw a hat true the bush or tree…it really works I must say ;o)

    Liked by 1 person

  23. It’s easy to hold back from pruning as hard as you should. Sometimes I feel like I’m hurting the plant, though I do generally enjoy pruning. We used to drive out to UPick farms in Michigan in July to pick blueberries, then come home and make blueberry jam and pies.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. joannesisco says:

    Thanks for the info. I had no idea they needed to be so aggressively trimmed. I planted 2 small blueberry bushes 2 years ago. I’ll need to check how many branches they have …. as soon as our recent snowfall is gone.

    I read the information sheet, but it didn’t seem to give any hints as to which 6 branches to keep. Is it as simple as selecting the 6 most prominent?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now, you’ve arrived at the hard part. 🙂 There is no definitive answer about which ones to keep except for you to attempt to keep the most healthy ones. It’s hard work, and I know that is why I put it off so long. 🙂 After watching Mr. Cox, I looked at a branch to see how many healthy offshoots there were, and I started by cutting back the obvious ones. Then I just kept going taking out the least desirable ones. I went out yesterday and looked at them and could not believe there were a couple of little shoots coming up already. I almost did a happy dance. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • joannesisco says:

        hahahaha!! I thought I was the only one who did happy dances when a plant thrives 🙂
        I’m really a terrible gardener so I get extraordinarily excited when something actually grows well 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  25. reocochran says:

    I bet many people didn’t know to prune their blueberry bushes, Judy. I would enjoy gardening meetings as long as I could go visit those who are working on them, observing their progress. Ha ha ha! 😀
    Happy Spring and enjoy a fun filled Easter!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Grandma Kc says:

    Good job! I sure wish I had blueberries – I would pick them fresh each morning and put them in my yogurt. And maybe a few pies!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Do they grow blueberries in your part of the Country? Seems like mostly in colder states – Maine and Michigan. They are done here by the time we hit the middle of the summer. Yes, they are delicious fresh. 🙂

      Like

      • Grandma Kc says:

        I think most of the blueberries we get are from Oregon. I will tell you I have had many Michigan blueberries and these things they sell here are maybe a quarter of the size!

        Liked by 1 person

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