By Vern Grubinger

Blueberries are a popular backyard fruit. Once established, they will provide lots of delicious, healthy berries for many decades with proper care.

 To succeed with blueberries, plant winter-hardy varieties and maintain soil pH between 4.5 and 5.5. Mulch every few years with several inches of wood chips or sawdust. Apply a non-nitrate source of nitrogen fertilizer in early spring, irrigate as needed and use netting to exclude birds. 

What’s also important, and frequently overlooked, is annual pruning. Late winter to early spring is a good time to prune. 

Pruning is essential to maintain the vigor and yield of blueberry bushes. It promotes larger fruit, shapes the bush so it is easier to harvest and helps avoid insect and disease problems.

 Pruning may be overlooked because the benefits are in the future. You don’t see them quickly. Another reason is that bushes with lots of leaves and quite a few berries may seem just fine, but without a well-pruned blueberry bush for comparison, it’s hard to see the benefits of pruning.

 Early in life, blueberries don’t need much pruning. In years one and two, remove all flower buds by rubbing them off or cutting off the shoot tips. This directs the plant’s energy into cane growth. 

Starting in year three, remove all twiggy or low-growing canes, and leave only two or three of the strongest, well-spaced new canes produced the previous year. In subsequent years, continue to remove all but two or three of the newest canes produced, leaving only upright, strong canes with space between them. 

Different varieties produce different numbers of canes each year, so they vary in how much pruning they require. When a 

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