By: Gisella Weissbach-Licht| Garden Services Manager, CANP, AOLCP, UCONN MG
Berries in your Garden?
It is time to prune them while they are dormant, the latest by the middle of March. Yearly pruning increases your harvest and keeps the plants happy and healthy.
Pruning Guidelines for small fruit bearing shrubs
Blueberries, Currants, Gooseberries, Elderberries, etc.
Start with the dead and diseased branches and then move on to the branches that rub against each other. Rubbing injures the branches and the resulting lesions will provide an opening for bacteria, fungi and pests. Then cut out all branches that grow towards the center of the bush to avoid that rubbing branches develop. This technique also allows for more airflow and light to enter the center. In the case of blueberries remove all branches thicker than an inch as they will not produce only a limited amount for fruit and discourage the plant from growing new branches from the bottom up.
Because negative results from a lack of pruning do not show up immediately, sometimes bushes will go un pruned for years. So, if you are just now inspired to prune your bushes, keep in mind that the past “neglect” cannot be fixed in just one season.
Thus, be careful not to get carried away … the rule is don’t remove more than one third of the shrub in one season (unless dead, diseased, damaged or weak).
Pruning Guidelines for Brambles or Caneberries
Raspberries and Blackberries
Brambles are now called caneberries. It is most important to understand that the root system and crown of these plants live for a long time, while the canes themselves are “biennials”, i.e. living for two years only. In the first year the canes simply produce leaves and no fruit, in the second year they produce fruit and then die back. However, be aware that there are some varieties that bear berries in the fall of their first year. After the harvest prune the canes that bore the fruit to the ground.
While the plants are still dormant, apply the same principles as for bushy fruit bearers, i.e. remove all dead, diseased and damaged canes as well as weak and low growing canes. In addition, prune the healthy lateral canes back to about 12-18 inches on blackberries and about 8-10 inches for raspberries. Also leave only about 4-6 canes per foot.
There are lots of plant-specific pruning and growing instructions (including videos) on the internet. Look for the ones that end with “edu” as they are created by University Departments and are typically based on solid evidence. Here is some reading material (note that we have included one article from the UK, as currants and gooseberries are from Europe and Asia):
polk.extension.wisc.edu › files › 2014/02 › Blueberry-Pruning-Rejuv…
Call in the professionals
If all of this sounds a bit to complicated for you, or you would like to get your fruiting shrubs and canes off to a healthy start this season, we would be happy to come in and do the pruning for you. Call or email us here and we can set up a no obligation consultation.
Come check out our Garden center for all of your home pruning must haves. Pruners, loppers, gloves and more. New Spring hours next week!