Growing blueberries in the edible landscape

Published: Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 09:24 AM.

Blueberries are native to Eastern North America.  They are one of the few crop plants that originated here.  The rabbiteye blueberry occurs mostly in certain river valleys in Northern Florida and Southeastern Georgia.  The high bush blueberry is native in the eastern third of the United States and Southeastern Canada.  Florida is rich in other native species.  The woods and swamps of Florida are populated with at least eight wild blueberry species.  No area of the state lacks wild blueberries, except where soil pH is above 6.0.

Two types of blueberries are grown in Florida; Southern highbush and rabbiteye.  The earliest ripening southern highbush varieties ripen about 4 to 6 weeks earlier than the earliest rabbiteye varieties grown at the same location.

Some rabbiteye varieties recommended for our area are:  Alice blue, Beckyblue, Climax, Bonita, Brightwell, Chaucer and Tifblue.  Some recommended Southern Highbush varieties are: Blue Crisp, Gulf Coast, Jewel, Sharpblue, Santa Fe, Star and Misty.

Blueberries need a fairly acid soil a pH range of 4 to 5 suggested.  Blueberries (grown on alkaline or deep sands will be poorly.  If you need to lower the soil pH before planting, mix in some acid peat moss.

Blueberries have a shallow, fibrous root system.  So, plants should be placed in the ground about an inch deeper than they were growing in the nursery.  Rabbiteye blueberries grow poorly in soils with excessive drainage.  But they won’t tolerate too much moisture for long periods of time, either. 

Blueberries are very sensitive to fertilizers.  During the first growing season, no mineral fertilizer should be added at all.  In the second season, apply about two ounces of acid fertilizer per plant.  Blueberries can use the same fertilizer you give to your camellias and azaleas, but be careful not to overdo it.  Excessive amounts of fertilizer will kill the plants.

Before planting blueberries, you should cultivate the soil by plowing or roto tilling to a depth of at least six inches.  Dig a hole large enough so that the roots won’t be crowded.  Pack the soil around the roots, and water thoroughly.  Keep in mind that newly set plants need a good water supply.

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