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Blueberries for North Florida

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Blueberries may be a good addition to your landscape for the New Year. They are native, the plants are somewhat ornamental, the fruit is good for you, they provide food for some interesting birds and they are easy to grow. Peter Andersen, UF/IFAS Extension Fruit Crops Specialist, provides the following on blueberries for North Florida in today’s article.

NICEVILLE, FlaBlueberries may be a good addition to your landscape for the New Year. They are native, the plants are somewhat ornamental, the fruit is good for you, they provide food for some interesting birds and they are easy to grow.

Peter Andersen, UF/IFAS Extension Fruit Crops Specialist, provides the following on blueberries for North Florida in today’s article.

The rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei) is native to north Florida. It is resistant to most insect and disease pests. The main requirement for successful production is that the soil pH must be below 6.0, although the best soils for blueberries have a pH from 4.5 to 5.5.

The application of elemental sulfur before planting is the best method to reduce soil pH, if needed. The ideal soil is a well-drained sandy loam. Pine bark, mixed into the soil and/or used as a mulch, often enhances blueberry production by increasing organic matter, reducing soil pH, helping with weed control and conserving moisture.

  • Eye M.D. of Niceville

Recommended cultivars for north Florida include early ripening (ripen mid-May through early June) and mid to late-ripening cultivars (ripen early June to mid-July). The earlier ripening cultivars usually bloom before late-ripening cultivars and are therefore more susceptible to spring frosts.

It’s best to plant at least two cultivars for cross-pollination. The best early ripening cultivars in north Florida include Beckyblue, Bonita and Climax. The best mid to late-ripening cultivars for north Florida include Brightwell, Powderblue, Premier and Tifblue. Characteristics of each cultivar are summarized below.

Beckyblue has high vigor but is prone to frost damage in north Florida. Berries have a good color are medium to large in size and have a good firmness.

Bonita has moderate vigor. Berry characteristics are similar to Beckyblue.

  • Eye M.D. of Niceville

Climax has moderate vigor but blooms just after Beckyblue and Bonita. Berries ripen at about the same time thus facilitating harvesting. Climax Fruit are moderately sized.

Brightwell is an excellent blueberry cultivar with a mid-ripening period. It has high vigor and yields. Fruit are moderate in size with good flavor. Berry ripening is just after Bonita.

Powderblue has moderate to high vigor with a moderately high yield potential. It is late-ripening and ripens with Tifblue, although fruit quality is slightly better.

Premier has high vigor and high yields and produces a mid-season berry. Berries are slightly larger than average in size with good color and flavor.

Tifblue is late-ripening with high vigor and yields but some berries may crack if a dry period is followed by rainfall.

More information on growing blueberries is available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG359 or through the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County.

Larry Williams is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida. Contact Larry at 689-5850 or email lwilliams@myokaloosa.com.

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