Blueberries come back strongly after severe pruning

With good management, including pruning, fertilizing and watering, blueberry bushes will produce bountiful crops each year. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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With good management, including pruning, fertilizing and watering, blueberry bushes will produce bountiful crops each year. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Q: Last year, I was forced to drastically cut down my two blueberry bushes. Now they are mostly vertical canes growing from the 3-inch-high base. What do I do to bring them back to productive life? Robin Shoemaker, email

A: Big blueberry growers sometimes find they have a large plot covered with old, unproductive 8-foot-tall bushes. They then simply hitch a big mower to their tractor, cut the blueberry bushes down to 4 inches high and let them recover with new growth. Your situation is like theirs but on a smaller scale. I would remove all but four of the new canes on each bush then cut those that are left at heights that vary from 12 to 24 inches. This will give you a blueberry plant with limbs at many levels to pick from.

Q: My house came with a Bradford pear in front by the sidewalk. The leaves make a big mess, so I topped it severely because I was told that it will grow back new limbs. Will I kill it if I top it each year? Human Mozafar, email

A: You probably won’t kill it if you remove around 50% of the high branches each year. It will be weakened, but I’ve never seen a Bradford pear killed outright by pruning. What will happen is that one of the lower branches will increase in diameter each year. Finally, it will tear away from the trunk. Hopefully, it won’t hit your car. When this limb splits off, the weight on the trunk from other limbs will be unbalanced and they will fall, too. You will have a big mess to clean up and a trunk about 5 feet tall. When spring next arrives, the trunk will sprout new growth. The tree will not be dead, but you will wish with all your might that you had replaced the tree soon after you moved in.

Q: Have you used Captain Jack’s Dead Weed Brew? I believe it’s relatively new on the market but hear it works pretty good for an organic weed killer. Nancy Reid Wallace, email

A: I had not heard of it until now. Thanks for introducing me! One of the ingredients in CJDWB is caprylic acid. This is also sold in health food stores to treat a variety of body ailments. I don’t believe it is harmful. Capric acid, the other active ingredient, is found naturally in coconut and palm kernel oils as well as in the milk of various mammals. Acids, whether organic or inorganic, dissolve the outer cell layer of a leaf or stem to which they are applied. The plant then dries out and dies quickly. I predict this organic herbicide will perform well.

Email Walter at georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his occasional garden comments on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener, for his latest tips.