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We’ve had a lot of people ask us if we plan to have a blueberry U-pick this year and, sadly, the answer is no. Similar to many deciduous fruit trees, blueberries can enter into an alternate bearing cycle where they fruit heavily one year and very lightly the next. Unfortunately, we are in an “off” year and there is very little fruit out there. The good news is that the plants look fantastic. They loved the heavy winter rainfall we received and put on lots of new growth. And since blueberries only fruit on wood that is at least a year old, we should have plenty of fruit next year.
As with any new agricultural endeavor, there has been a steep learning curve with the blueberries. One of the ways growers of deciduous fruit trees can balance out this alternate bearing cycle is by heavily thinning the fruit when it is still in its early stages. This allows the trees to keep putting some of their energy into growing vegetatively instead of expending it all on a very heavy crop of fruit. Since it is impractical to thin blueberries—they are much too small and numerous—you can accomplish the same thing with selective pruning. Blueberries will start to set fruit on wood that is in its second year, but that same wood will continue to produce fruit for years to come. If you don’t prune at all, the plant becomes choked with older wood and will expend almost all of its energy on producing fruit.
The trick is to prune off enough of the older wood so that the plants have energy to put into producing new canes for future production while at the same time producing a decent crop of fruit for the current year. After a very heavy fruit set last season, the plants were overdue for a heavy pruning, and that’s what we did. We will take a hit in the pocketbook, but in the long run I feel the plants will be better off. It’s a balancing act for sure, and one that we are still trying to get the knack of, but going into the future we hope to avoid down years like the one we are going through.
On the other berry front, as you know the strawberries came in very late this year but they are finally picking up steam. Please keep an eye out in the newsletter for at least one strawberry u-pick in July!
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