With the planting season just around the corner, it’s easy to get distracted by the needs of the thousands of annual plants we grow. However, late March and early April is an important time to pay attention to our perennials. Our herbs come out of dormancy and get their color back, while buds begin to form on our blueberry bushes. This is the perfect time to clean up any dead plant matter and leaves crowding our perennial herb and flower beds as well as prune our blueberries and raspberries.
Pruning blueberries every year improves overall yields as well as the health of the plant. If not pruned annually, they may become dense with weak, twiggy branches and will produce smaller fruit. We usually prune our blueberries in March or early April, when the harsh weather of winter has passed but there is little chance of us accidentally damaging any buds before they fully form. We focus on removing dead or damaged wood as well as any older canes that are crowding the center of the bush. Older canes become less productive as they age, so pruning helps to make room for new growth as well to redirect the plants’ energy into growing younger, more productive canes.
Once we are finished pruning the blueberries, we turn our attention to the raspberries. There are two ways to prune our fall-bearing varieties. The first method allows the plants to bear fruit in both the summer and fall, but it requires significant pruning after the summer harvest as well as in the spring. This method isn’t ideal for us at Stearns because late summer is a very busy time at the farm. The second method, which is the one we choose, is much less time consuming. We prune all the canes down to the ground in early April and then trellis the new canes several times as they grow to their full height. Though this approach shortens the fruiting season slightly, the plants produce more fruit overall during late summer and early fall while keeping the work manageable for our small staff.
As I spend time with the blueberries and raspberries, I find that I am already dreaming of berry season. But why rush it? The daffodils are emerging along the wooden fence by the parking lot, and crocuses have begun to bloom throughout the woods behind the CSA pick up tent. I want to enjoy them, too. Springtime is a great reminder that there are so many wonderful things worth waiting for.
Until next time,