Rabbiteye Blueberries - Early Bud Swell

shazaam(NC 7B)December 27, 2013

I'm seeing bud swell (separating scales and even a few flowers beginning to emerge) in nearly all of my rabbiteye blueberries -- Tifblue, Brightwell, Ochlockonee, Bluebelle, Centurion, and more. Some are up to 200-250 hours away from meeting their chill requirements, and it's going to be at least two months before they'll be safe from a hard freeze. We did have a couple of warm spells earlier this month that might have thrown them off, but I still don't understand the chill hours discrepancy. In previous years, I haven't paid close attention to the amount of time between bud swell and full bloom, but, for the bushes that I've had the longest, none have ever bloomed before late February to early March. Even then it's sometimes a challenge to protect them from late cold snaps. Does anyone have any insight into what's going on? Have I just failed to notice that buds routinely swell two months in advance?

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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Join the club......I even have a peach tree blooming.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 7:50PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

Wow. So far, I'm not seeing any signs that other fruits are waking up, but that's worrisome. Is anyone else in the southeast having similar problems?

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 8:33PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Here is one of the peaches.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 9:07PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

What's the usual bloom time for peaches in your area, bamboo?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 9:24AM
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rayrose(8)

I've got O'neal SHB blues in bloom also.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 11:17AM
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cousinfloyd

I'd say my blueberries all look plenty normal for this time of year.

I'm surprised that any plants would be breaking dormancy early this winter. It seems like we (extrapolating however far one can from my western Piedmont NC location) have had a very average winter so far, maybe even slightly on the cold side. Definitely seems extra wet the last month after a very dry fall.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 11:25AM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

I was hoping to hear from you, cousinfloyd, since we're in the same region. Late fall and early winter here haven't seemed all that unusual to me, so I'm puzzled about what cues my plants are responding to other than the prolonged warm spells earlier this month. Still, there's no way that most of my rabbiteyes have accumulated enough chill hours at this point.

My O'Neal appears to be staying quiet, rayrose, but I do have a Southmoon that's also showing hints of swelling buds. Would you say that you've accumulated the 400 or so chill hours that O'Neal is supposed to require? My guess is that we're somewhere in the 400 to 450 range here (20 miles north of Charlotte). Where in SC are you?

This post was edited by shazaam on Sat, Dec 28, 13 at 11:49

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 11:39AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Floyd,

Your winter may have been cold but Florida has been spared that chill and it has been very warm even by our standards, 85 today in fact.

Shazzam,

The normal bloom time for our peaches and blueberries is late February, March 1 is about our frost free date.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 2:20PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

I've solved part of the mystery, I think -- my blueberries probably have met their chilling requirement by now. My guess is that the standard method for calculating chill requirements is to use the below 45 model. By contrast, I'd been looking at the number yielded by the 32-45 model. The former puts my total at about 669 and the latter at 471.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 4:12PM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

I got one Farthling with few blooms no surprise warm as some days have been. Self pruning big help very seldom do I remove fruit.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 7:00PM
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blueboy1977(TX9A/B)

Sad to say but I just got rid of the last of my two Rabbiteyes:(. The past few years I usually had a few blooms on my Rabbiteyes Jan-Feb. If you notice the blooms are probably on very skinny wood. I found that to be normal in my Rabbiteyes and SHB. The more mature wood will hold its fruit buds till normal bloom time especially on Rabbiteyes. Plus when it does get cold again I always noticed it really slows down the bud swell and flowers. No worries as most Rabbiteyes over produce any way so what few if any happen to form they will probably get froze off any way. Just less to prune in my opinion. On SHB it's usually skinny wood that flowers early along with vigorous unpruned shoots. Every thing your seeing seems pretty normal to me.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 9:55PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

"Sad to say but I just got rid of the last of my two Rabbiteyes:(."

What made you decide to give them up? Just happier with your southern highbush varieties?

"Every thing your seeing seems pretty normal to me."

That's reassuring -- thanks! A lot of my rabbiteyes are going into their first winter, so I don't have any history with them. Those that are older were under a frost blanket last winter, and I didn't check in on them until mid February or so (at which point some were beginning to extend flower clusters). I'm definitely going to keep a close on them this winter. There are no significant warm-ups in the 10 day forecast, and I hope January stays cool. I've picked up quite a few new rabbiteyes and shb over last year or two, but now I'm thinking that, for insurance purposes, it might not be a bad idea to swap a few out for some higher chill nhb varieties.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 9:34AM
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blueboy1977(TX9A/B)

Well the best answer as to why I got rid of them is Im moving to a smaller back yard and something had to go. On the other hand I have become very fond of SHB. I really did enjoy Brightwell! After Im situated in my new home and there is a couple empty holes along the fence I will have another Brightwell along with a companion for pollinization. I also thinned the herd on my SHB. Im now down to 13 SHB with only the best of the best for my location according to my taste buds. 6 varieties.

If I were in your location I would definatly get some NHB if nothing else just to trial. Another SHB that I would try if I were in alittle more northern location is Legacy. Its suppost to be one of the best tasting blueberries from what Ive read. For me the two best are Sweetcrisp and Snowchaser. Sweetcrisp has it all. Snowchaser was a little mushy/watery but the flavor here in my location was hands down the best. Strong and robust. I have 3 of those now and 4 Sweetcrisp so they make up over half. Also held on to Springhigh, Jewel, Emerald and Sunshine Blue.

So how many blues are you up too now? How many different varieties? Which were your favorites this past spring?

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 10:02AM
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rayrose(8)

I'm in Columbia, and we've had wild temperature swings from week to week, 30-40's followed by 60-70's. I planted the O"neals in November and they've stayed fully leafed the whole time and have kept the same blooms for almost a month, but it's on thin new growth. The other SHB's that I recently planted were heavily pruned, when I got them. They have stayed dormant, as have my rabbit eyes. We've had a very early winter and a lot colder than last year.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 10:05AM
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blueboy1977(TX9A/B)

I agree Ray, I checked the chill hour accumulaiton last week and Im already past the number of chill we had all last winter. Not all SHB will drop all there leafs either so dont let that fool you. I have several varieties that hold leafs all winter long. They will just change to a beautiful burgandy red, purlple, yellow and orange. In my opinion, they are one of the most cool looking plants from season to season there is. There ornimental value never really gets mentioned with these plants.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 10:29AM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

"So how many blues are you up too now? How many different varieties? Which were your favorites this past spring?"

At present, I have 7 northern highbush, 6 southern highbush, 17 rabbiteyes, one half high, and one low bush hybrid. I wouldn't mind replacing six of the seven northern highbush with better cultivars -- four are Duke, which I find a bit bland, and two are Bluecrop, which had a real problem with anthracnose during our very wet spring and summer. I'm thinking about picking up three or four new varieties this winter, and, even though I'm supposed to be focusing on norther highbush, Legacy is definitely on the list. I should have ordered one sooner, because, as you mentioned, it seems to get a lot of praise.

Even though it's really pushing it for my climate, I did pick up a Sweetcrisp last summer, and I should have the opportunity to sample a few berries this spring. I have it tucked away under a frost blanket, but I probably need to check on it. I have a feeling it's going to bloom way too early and will need some protection. Your comments on Snowchaser almost swayed me, as well, but I decided to pass on it because it's such an early bloomer.

Your description of our fall and winter thus far matches up perfectly with my own recollection, Ray. It got cold earlier than I expected -- we often make it into November before the first frost and freeze, but I lost my tomatoes in October this year, as well as some figs that weren't quite ready to pick.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 11:30AM
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mmckey2(8b)

I know I am digging up an old thread, but did your blueberries produce well this year after having bloomed last winter? I ask because I was out looking at mine today, and one of my plants (brightwell) has a few blooms on it. I am worried about how well it will produce after this.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2014 at 7:01PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Lots of BB bloom some in fall. But it's usually such a small percentage that it doesn't affect next yrs crop. It's just as likely to help since many BB overset unless pruned or thinned.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2014 at 7:11PM
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mmckey2(8b)

Thanks for giving me peace of mind fruitnut!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2014 at 12:26PM
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