Blueberries are the perfect fruit for small yards. They are a small bush and adapt easily to container-culture, allowing you to harvest healthy crops of fresh fruit even if you have only a few plants on your patio. Not only are they delicious, but blueberries are high in anti-oxidants that help prevent cancer and heart disease.
We grow two varieties of blueberry; Southern highbush (Vaccinium ashei X corymbosum) and Rabbiteye (Vaccinim ashei). Southern highbush varieties do offer several important advantages such as being thinner skinned and the fact that they ripen 1 to 3 weeks earlier than the earliest ripening rabbiteye cultivars. The blueberries from southern highbush are as large as and often larger than rabbiteye blueberries which make it more desirable for fresh and processing markets. The plants are less vigorous, and plants do not become as tall as rabbiteyes (6-20' height) they are usually lower yielding, and are more vulnerable to diseases and insects. The low chilling requirement of the southern highbush promotes very early flowering and much greater danger of late spring frosts damage.
Rabbiteye cultivars, as a group, are easier to grow than southern highbush. They are more drought tolerant and less susceptible to Phytophthora root rot. They flower later in the spring making them less susceptible to late winter/early spring freezes. They require less organic matter and less mulching and are generally more vigorous. Rabbiteye fruit has a slightly tougher skin and slightly larger seed than southern highbush fruit. Their fruit usually stores better than southern highbush fruit. Rabbiteyes require cross-pollination from another rabbiteye cultivar(s). The harvest season for rabbiteye blueberries extends from May to July, depending on the cultivar. Rabbiteyes are best adapted to areas of Florida north of Ocala.
We specialize in the new varieties of blueberries bred by the University of Florida that have made blueberries an important commercial crop in the Southeast. New low-chill cultivars can be grown as far south as southern Florida. These very early crops are the first to market in the spring and bring very high prices, as much as $5-10.00/lb (highest for Organically grown fruit). You can grow these same cultivars successfully in your backyard. Like apples and peaches, blueberries require chilling to produce fruit, so you should plant varieties that match the chilling for your location. The best method for choosing blueberry varieties is to choose ones that are within about 100 chill hours of the averages for your area
Blueberries grow best in highly acidic soils. In soils with higher pH, they should be fertilized with Nitrogen Sulfate and mulched with pine bark or pine needles to increase soil acidity. Never use mushroom compost or manure.
A standard spacing for rabbiteye blueberries is 5 to 6
feet between plants in a row and 11 to 12 feet between
Standard spacing for highbush blueberries is 4 feet between plants in a row and 10 feet between rows is suggested. If developing individual specimen plants give plants a 25 to 40 feet area each.
Pruning at planting. Remove low, twiggy growth entirely
and tip remaining shoots to remove all the flower buds. About 1/2 to 1/3 of the
plant top should be removed in this process Mulch 4 inches deep with pine
needles or pine bark after planting.
Irrigate with sprinklers or otherwise water regularly if
rainfall is insufficient.
Tree Form: Bush
Pollination: Plant 3 varieties for best production with chill hours that match your plant zone.
Bears: May-June after 1 year
Light requirements: Full sun
Soil type: Well-drained pH 4.5-5.5
Pruning: Routine pruning of blueberries is unnecessary until plants are 3 years old. Cut any leggy growth so the plant will bush up. Make all cuts flush with the limb or the next largest branch. Remove dead, damaged or diseased limbs.
Fertilization: Light frequent fertilizing is best. Fertilize for zones 8-9 three times each year in late February, late May, an late July/early August. Do not fertilize after August. Make sure your fertilizer contains iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, molybdenum, copper and boron.
Hardiness Zone: 6-10 (select the right varieties for your Zone)