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Your guide to Chesaeake Country's freshest produce and more!

Prune Blueberries Plants

Cut before month’s end so you have plenty of fruit to pick later

If you want your high-bush blueberry plants to produce the giant fruit photographed and described in nursery catalogs, then you have to prune them severely. If the plants are not pruned yearly, before April, you’ll get clusters of small berries that are a chore to pick.
    Don’t believe the myth that pruning lowers harvest yields. Research has proven time and again that pruning does not affect the yield but does vastly improve quality. You’ll harvest more fruit because you’ll likely harvest all of it.

Managing Magnolia

I have a magnolia tree that is now more of a bush. The middle part is considerably taller. Can I top it off? If so, when?
–Debbie Fischel

Our native magnolia is generally grown as a small tree. It can be grown as a shrub by cutting it down at the base and allowing new stems to grow. If it is currently growing as a shrub, yes, you can cut back the top, but you are likely to get brush-like growth.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com.
All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

Gardening Through the Seasons

Fans of The Bay Gardener will want the bond volume of his wisdom close at hand. Gardening Through the Seasons, compiled by the Annapolis Horticulture Society, is on sale for $20 at Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian and at Grauel’s Office Supplies in Deale. For direct orders — frgouin@erols.com — add $6 postage. The Bay Gardener will inscribe your book and send it by return mail.

    Unless blueberry plants are growing vigorously, they tend to produce many thin, twiggy branches loaded with flower buds, which are just now becoming visible. Flower buds can be distinguished from vegetative buds because they tend to be plump and slightly rounded at the tip. Vegetative buds tend to be elongated and pointed at the tip.
    A vigorously growing blueberry plant also tends to produce strong vigorous sprouts from its base. These sprouts have few branches, and their tips are typically covered with flower buds. These flower buds will produce large fruit. If your blueberry plants are only producing thin twiggy branches, you need to have the soil tested to determine the causes of poor growth.
    When pruning blueberries, remove many of those small twiggy branches by wiping them from the main stem ith your hands, heavily gloved in leather. Wrap your fingers around each stem and wipe the branches clean. This technique is best done in cold weather when the wood is brittle.
    Next, using a sharp pair of pruning shears, remove most of the lateral branches, leaving only single, unbranched stems of lighter colored wood, yellow-green to brownish-red. The tips of these stems are covered with flower buds. By pruning away all the weaker twigs and stems, you will be concentrating the plant’s energy into those fruiting stems.
    Prune away large stems of twiggy branches rising near the ground. This will stimulate the growth of vigorous new stems from the base. They will produce quality fruit next year.
    Finally, remove all side branches from the ground up to three feet, which is the height you’re most likely to pick from. There’s no sense in growing low berries you’ll never harvest.