Vermont Vegetable and Berry News - March 15, 2005
Compiled by Vern Grubinger
University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967 ext.13

PRUNING HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRIES (adapted from Univ. of Maine Extension)

Blueberry bushes should be pruned when they are fully dormant, during late winter or early spring (January–March).  Pruning every year is recommended to maintain high yields of good quality fruit. The type of pruning depends on the age of the plant. For the first two years after planting, simply remove any dead branches and all weak, spindly growth. With bushes established three years or more, continue to remove weak growth, as well as low-growing or diseased canes.

In older plantings, prune out all canes that are over six years old (these are usually the thickest canes, which are gray in color with peeling bark). Blueberry canes tend to be less productive once they get more than six years old and their removal favors growth of younger, more productive canes. Cut the old canes back to ground level unless new cane growth has been sparse; in which case, leave a four- to eight-inch stub above the ground. New canes may sprout from these stubs.

Thin the remaining canes, leaving those with the most vigorous shoot growth (long, thick branches with good fruit buds). Leave six to seven vigorous two- to five-year-old canes and two or three one-year-old canes per bush. A mature blueberry plant should have six to ten healthy canes varying in age from one to six years old. Remove any weak fruiting branches on the remaining canes, especially those under six inches in length. Most fruit is produced on vigorous one-year-old shoots on healthy two- to five-year-old canes. The fruit buds on these shoots are large and teardrop-shaped. Each bud will produce a cluster of five to eight flowers. The shoots also have smaller, pointed buds that will produce leaves.

PRUNING RED RASPBERRIES (adapted from Iowa State Univ. Extension)

To obtain maximum yields, raspberries must be pruned properly. The plant's roots and crown are perennial, while the stems or canes are biennial. A red raspberry plant may survive and produce fruit for many years. However, the individual canes live only two growing seasons and then die. The shoots of summer-bearing red raspberries are strictly vegetative during the first growing season. The following year, these same canes flower, produce fruit, and then die.

The growth and fruiting characteristics of fall-bearing red raspberries differ slightly from other varieties. Fall-bearing varieties naturally produce two crops. The first crop is produced in late summer or early fall at the tips of the current season's growth. The following year, the lower portions of the same canes produce a summer crop. After the second crop, the canes die.

For summer-bearing varieties, in March or early April remove all weak, diseased, and damaged canes at ground level. Leave the most vigorous canes, those approximately 1/4 inch in diameter when measured 30 inches from the ground. When finished, remaining canes should be spaced about 6 inches apart. Also, prune out the tips of the canes that have died because of winter injury. Cut them back to live tissue. If the canes have suffered little winter dieback, remove 1/4 of the total cane length.

Fall-bearing red raspberries can be pruned to promote either one or two crops on the canes. For a single harvest in the fall, prune all canes back to ground level in early spring. Doing so eliminates the summer crop, but often allows the fall crop to mature one to two weeks earlier. While there is only one crop per year, total crop yield is larger utilizing the one crop system versus the two crop system.  Note that in Vermont, much of the potential fall crop is often lost to September frost, so a two crop system should be considered for these varieties. In that case, remove all weak, diseased, and damaged canes in March or early April, but leave the most vigorous canes. Prune out the tips of the canes that fruited the previous season. The lower part of the canes will produce the summer crop.

Whatever cultivars or pruning method you select for your red raspberries, the row width will need to be maintained since the plants sucker profusely. Narrow the rows back to a 1 to 2 foot width using a rototiller, heavy discs or other implement.


If you haven’t signed on for 2005, please do so. This group works hard to serve the interests of the industry in Vermont. Every year it partners with Extension to organize educational meetings around the state. The Board of Directors have also planned several great marketing events, such as Vermont Public Radio spots, and last year they worked with Vermont Public Television and the Agency of Agriculture to feature local fruits in cooking shows and gift baskets. The Association provides funding to relevant UVM research projects in the Plant and Soil Science Department, and Association members are eligible to apply for funding for research projects on their own farms. This year Hank Bissell did a great job with his grant on a project that figured out how to use early sweet corn growth stages to predict when to schedule plantings to get a consistent supply of corn during harvest (ask me for a copy of the report). The Board, under David Marchant’s leadership, has also been active in meeting with the legislature’s agriculture committees to inform them of the needs of growers.

For just $35 a year your membership supports these efforts, and more. Members receive a copy of the New England Extension Vegetable or Small Fruit Management Guide, or if they prefer, a SARE book on Building Soils, Cover Crops, or Mechanical Weed Control. In addition, members get a hard-copy subscription to Agriview, and a subscription to American Vegetable Grower magazine. Send your check payable to VV&BGA to: Doug Johnstone, P.O. Box 701, Springfield VT 05156.


I write a monthly column on vegetable and berry issues in Farming magazine, as well as a monthly column on organic farming in Growing magazine. Subscriptions to either of these publications are free of charge from Moose River Publishing. Write them at P.O. Box 449, St. Johnsbury VT 05819. Or call 800-422-7147. And, if you already subscribe, feel free to send me suggestions, complaints, or column ideas!

May 4, 2005
Old Dorm Lounge, Vermont Technical College, Randolph Center.

This event has been organized by University of Vermont Extension to provide an overview of a range of innovative practices that can enhance energy self-sufficiency and profitability of farms in Vermont.

8:30    Registration, Coffee and Muffins

9:00    Energy Issues in Vermont Agriculture: Use, Cost, and Opportunities.  Heather Darby (livestock) and Vern Grubinger (horticulture), UVM Extension

9:30    Making Bio-Diesel for Greenhouse Furnace Fuel from Vegetable Oil: Heating greenhouses with waste oil instead of purchased fuel.
   Richard Wiswall, Cate Farm, Plainfield

10:00   Converting Home heating Oil Furnaces to either Waste Motor Oil or Waste Vegetable Oil: A full explanation of Parts and Tools for a Do-it-yourself project.
   Jesse Parris, Alternative Energy Educator- from the Yahoo Altfuelfurnace forum

10:30   Break

11:00    Growing and Harvesting Willow for Biomass Energy on the Farm :Field research into the methods, benefits, and costs for farmers.
    Tim Volk, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

11:30   Small-Scale Manure Digesters: Potential for On-Farm Heat and Energy.
   Guy Roberts, Intervale Innovation Center, Burlington

12:00   Lunch - catered

1:00    Manure Digesters for Energy - What's Happening on Vermont Farms?
   Dan Scruton, VT Agency of Agriculture and Onan or Mary Whitcomb, Williston

1:30    Adapting a Used Wind Power System to Supplement our Farm's Electric Supply.
   Jack Lazor, Butterworks Farm, Westfield

2:00   Off-The-Grid, Small-Scale, Wind System for Farm Electricity: Cost and Benefits.
   Ken Smith, Merck Farm and Forest Center, Rupert

3:00    Solar Power at Lazy Lady Farm: A system that provides all our electricity.
    Lani Fondillier, Westfield

3:30    Discussion

$30 pre-registration per person includes lunch.
Send check made to 'UVM Extension' along with name(s), phone and e-mail address to: Farm Energy Forum, UVM Extension, 11 University Way, Brattleboro VT 05301-3669.

At-the-door registration will be $40.

For more information or to request special accommodations call: (802) 257-7967 ext. 13, or E-mail: , or call (802) 524-6501 ext. 206 or E-mail: