Pruning, Tying, and Spreading

| 4/5/2017 11:51:00 AM

Tags: fruit trees, fruit shrubs, Jennifer Quinn, Scott County, VA,

Jennifer QuinnWith the early onset of spring, the first thing I’ve had to think about is care of my fruit trees and shrubs. I knew I’d need to prune the elderberries and blackberries, so I had that on my schedule for March. Ideally, that would have been done while the shrubs were still dormant, but with the unseasonably warm weather everything took me by surprise and started leafing out early! Still, I managed to get to them while the leaves were tiny, so I figured better late than never.

I read that elderberries should be hard-pruned in the third year. That’s something I had overlooked until now, with the bushes in their fourth year and not yet pruned. I’m not sure exactly what hard pruning means, but I figured I should be fairly ruthless. There was a lot of dead wood to be trimmed off, and I knew I should get rid of those tall, straight stems in the middle that didn’t have any side branches on them. Then there were all the little branches that were crossed or too close together. I’m amazed what a time-consuming chore this can be — scrutinizing the shrub from all sides and deciding what to keep and what to cut.

I had to spread the work out over two days but finally had all five elderberries done, and I must say they look a whole lot better. Here’s the biggest one after pruning:

Pruned elderberry

Then there were the blackberries. These, I understood, should be thinned by removing the weaker canes, and the remaining ones should be cut back to no more than seven feet. Having done that, I needed to tie them to the ropes and wires since they were falling all over and lying on top of each other. Here’s the result:

Blackberries tied

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!