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Continuing the Magical, Mystical Blueberry (De)Tour

Updated on December 11, 2016

Be sure to read safety tip below!!

Avoid a serious mistake some hikers and naturalists might make.

What Will 2017 Bring?

Over the previous two years I have spent some time in the garden learning things I never had time to learn before. Among these was how to prune bushes and manipulating blooms and yields.

I have had the most difficulty with blueberries. In my research, I had found a great deal of conflicting information on when to prune, how to root cuttings and how to increase yields. I discussed some of this in a previous post, which you may want to check out before moving on from here.

Midterm Results from Summer Pruning.

My research was mixed as to when to prune a blueberry bush. Some sources said pre-autumn and some said winter. The winter pruning advocates said the existing bush needed nutrients from the ground in the fall months.

The first time I pruned in 2016, it was late winter. I got lots of new growth, and the old branches loaded up. But the new ones, even those that had grown quite large, didn’t fruit at all.

So I had to regroup. In early summer I decided to do a combination of radical pruning in some areas and just light trimming in others. I also did the pruning immediately after I harvested the berries. So far, my results are mixed but promising.

Always use clean, sharp tools when pruning your fruit and flower shrubs and trees.

Note the difference in pruning.  The left bush has filled out a bit since last harvest.  I suspect all the shoots on the bush now will yield something.  But anything that breaks out in the spring will not yield. My finger (upper left) will not yield.
Note the difference in pruning. The left bush has filled out a bit since last harvest. I suspect all the shoots on the bush now will yield something. But anything that breaks out in the spring will not yield. My finger (upper left) will not yield. | Source

Note the bush on the left in the photo. I didn't attack it last year. and it has still bushed up nicely. I believe it will kick out a lot of berries in 2017.

A closer look at the less pruned bush.  Note all the leaves, even the new growth fro this year are turning red.  I am guessing this is a good sign.
A closer look at the less pruned bush. Note all the leaves, even the new growth fro this year are turning red. I am guessing this is a good sign. | Source

I use these constantly to clear away brush and prune trees.

The Wild Stuff

I continue to find wild blueberry plans on my property. They don’t fruit as well as the cultivated variety. They are a bit spindly and at the moment choked by surrounding growth. I am gradually clearing and area around the plants to try to get more sunlight on them. And I will prune them after next growing season.

Everywhere you see red leaves here is a wild blueberry bush.
Everywhere you see red leaves here is a wild blueberry bush. | Source
Note the tangle of undergrowth choking the blueberry bushes.  I need to find time to clear this away to allow the plants to thrive.
Note the tangle of undergrowth choking the blueberry bushes. I need to find time to clear this away to allow the plants to thrive. | Source

Very Important Safety Tip!

People have been known to mistake nightshade for wild blueberries. Strains of this plant grow just about anywhere. This is dangerous. A few nightshade berries will make you sick. A lot will kill you.

Note the green, leafy collar.  Most, but not all nightshade have these.  It is easy to see how you might confuse them with edible fruit.
Note the green, leafy collar. Most, but not all nightshade have these. It is easy to see how you might confuse them with edible fruit. | Source

It is easy to mistake the two berries because wild blueberries are dark when ripe and very shiny, like nightshade. Cultivated blueberries, for the most part, are a dry matte blue. They look almost dusty.

Still to Come

My hope for 2017 is to get a moderate yield from everything, with the possible exception of the rather bare cultivated bush (in the pictures above). Then with a careful application of pruning shears and lopping shears, get the plants to really bush up the following year.

So far, I am cautiously concluding that early pruning is the way to go. New growth has a chance to go through the fall with the rest of the plant and has a full seasonal cycle before the berries come into season. We’ll see.

I am not a gardener. But the more I dabble in the yard, the more curious I become and the more I learn. Hopefully this series, and more to come next year, will inspire you to venture out and see what the earth would like to teach you. If you watch and listen you will see a whole new world on even the tiniest spot of ground.

I will, of course update progress through growing season next spring and yields in early summer. Maybe Herself will come up with more cool recipes for me to test for you.

The things I do for my readers!

Audrey Hunt has a great article on the nutritional value of blueberries. It can be found here.

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