Feeling those blues.

Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, FJanuary 14, 2013

While I work on my Florida-Friendly/Native garden beds, I have a lovely wife who keeps saying, "Ooh, what if we had this?" or "Do you think you could grow me some...?" Often times I do my research and come back with an answer and more often than not it's not a very positive answer. One of the things she absolutely LOVES is berries of all sorts. I currently have raspberries and blackberries growing in containers for her. But what I'm looking at adding for her is blueberries.

I know that in general blueberries tend to do quite well in Florida, but I imagine it is much like most 'crop' plants in that it all depends on what variety you plant. Currently at my local Sam's Club they have a $16 special where you get 4 plants of two varieties (I'm guessing male/female of both types). They are both Rabbiteye varieties, with one being the Climax variety and the name of the other one escaping me at the moment. I almost purchased them on impulse, but after making numerous other mistakes in the garden/yard, I wanted to do more checking. According to UoF, Rabbiteye sees a fair bit of success in north and central Florida, but they don't really recommend the variety for locales south of Ocala (which I am by about 30 minutes... so probably 'safe').

So I wanted to check with you folks on the forums who are in the central area of Florida. What varieties of blueberries do you grow and/or which ones do you have the most success with?

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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

I grow about 130 blueberry bushes...I really need to count them at some point but know it is over 130 lol. I do grow both rabbits and SHB (southern high bush). I much prefer the SHB. Far as varieties I could only pick 3 it would be Sweetcrisp by a mile followed by Windsor and Emeralds.

Will you grow them in ground or in pots? In either case I would plant them NOW!!! The blueberries do best planted in the late fall, winter up to about March 1. After that you really have to baby them. Planted in the winter the roots get established before the heat of spring and summer.

This post was edited by bamboo_rabbit on Mon, Jan 14, 13 at 13:20

    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 1:18PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Very likely these will be in-ground instead of potted like the raspberries and black berries.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 1:21PM
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TheTradition(9b)

A great thread on this topic is provided below. I planted Jewel, Emerald and Sharpblue last fall in a raised, pinebark and peat bed and so far, so good. I'm not so sure that rabbiteye varieties will do well where you are. Mine are southern highbush varieties, but I'll leave the rabbiteye recommendations to people who are more of an expert than me.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/flgard/msg1019560921772.html

    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 1:24PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Leekle,

The thread posted works. I will add Walmart sells pine fines, purple bag and it is just called pine mulch.

Most of our water is not very good for blueberries. It is high in bicarbonates which in time will raise the soil PH. Best you can do short of acidifying the water is to either just use rain water (best way) or mulch the heck out of those bushes so you rarely have to water them.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 4:56PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Yeah, I started reading through that link earlier. Lots of good info on it so far, but I have not seen anything about recommended varieties... yet. I am still reading it when I get the time to sit and read. My local wally-world tends to have the fines off and on, so I may have to keep checking on them... or I might get lucky and find them first time.

As for the water, I have a rainbarrel and use that for most of my watering, especially for the plants that I am trying to get to establish themselves and my citrus trees. It won't be too hard to add a couple of blueberry bushes to the Rainwater Exclusives club. Hopefully, come Spring-time I will have another two or three barrels set up to increase my holding capacity.

Thanks for all the information thus far.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 5:55PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Leekle,

The Walmart on 466 in the Villages always has the fines.

The citrus trees like our high bicarbonate water.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2013 at 6:48PM
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dclegg_gw

We are close to you, in The VIllages. We planted sunshine blue and they are doing good, if the birds would leave them alone. If you want to take a look at our, please e-mail me and we can set up a time. deborahkharper@gmail.com

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 9:54AM
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dclegg_gw

I also have a question about blueberries. My husband said it is time to trim the berries. Well maybe with "Normal" winter weather, but since it has been so warm is this the right time? If not, when do you think? Thanks

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 9:57AM
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TheTradition(9b)

Yes, you're supposed to prune blueberry bushes now, while they're dormant.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/hil/hil-201-b.html

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 11:05AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Dormant? Mine are no longer dormant...I WISH they were still dormant. If you are talking small scrubby growth yes you can trim it now. Young plants should not be trimmed at all really. If your plants are waking up don't bother to prune now just prune right after harvest.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 12:52PM
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TheTradition(9b)

LOL, my Jewel and Emerald bushes are just starting to wake up. The other one is blooming like crazy... Faster than I can rub the blooms off!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 1:23PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Yep....and if they are pushing leaves you might as well start fertilizing. The dice have been rolled....up to the weather now.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 7:42PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Well, I did it. I went to the Marion Market today to pick up a cheap pair of sunglasses and some bird food. Turned out I was an hour early for the bird guy so I wandered around the market, looking at the various things up for sale and trying to stay in the sunlight. I 'stumbled' upon a guy completely on the other side of the market who had 6-8 Emerald Blueberries of decent size (about 3ft tall) and look to be already forming berries. I wasn't there to buy a shrub, but I got one anyways. So now that one foot is in the pool, I need to find another SHB variety to plant with it for the cross-pollination. It's a good thing I picked up a couple bags of fines yesterday morning.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 3:04PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Okay, I'm looking over other varieties of Blueberry shrubs, trying to find a good companion variety for the Emerald. I have found a few sites that have graphs showing when each variety blooms. Do I want to keep the chill hours fairly close as well? Jewel and Jubilee seem to have similar seasons, but the Jubilee requires twice the amount of chill hours whereas the Jewel requires 50 less. I really don't have the room to plant three varieties... well... I do, but it would mean getting rid of other plants, beds, etc. So, since this is more for my wife and kids than myself, I'm keeping it at a 'minimum'.

Also, I am not planning on putting the bushes right next to each other. They will be within eye-shot of each other, about 20-30 ft or so, but not right on top of each other as I see some people do. I imagine this could affect over-all crop yield, but it should still work, correct? (As an aside, I have recently been reading on Bee Houses for solitary bees and I am planning on building one and setting it up in this same area of the yard, so perhaps having a source of bees so close to the the area might make up for the greater distance?)

Also, also, this area that they're going to be in doesn't get much in the way of morning sun. Rather it starts getting sun from around 1000-1100 and it lasts until sundown. During winter, while the sun is in the south, the area gets filtered sunlight that shines through the screens of my lanai from about 0700 to 0830. This will likely change as summer comes and the sun starts tracking more to the north at sunrise, at which time I believe they will be in a fair bit of shade in the morning hours. As I have read that blueberries love direct sunlight, I am thinking that while they might live in this area, they might not be at their best? Combining this with the distance between the bushes, I am wondering how much my crop yield is going to suffer? I really don't want to have to move them all the way to the west end of my yard as that is the only area that I have turf grass and where I walk the dogs. Anyone care to share some insight based on these two conditions?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 9:19AM
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loufloralcityz9

My bushes are loaded with green berries already and some are even starting to turn blue. They still have lots of flowers and the bumblebees have been busy every day on them. Today I was repairing the watering system and had to stop because the bees were getting so thick and even landing on me. The warm weather we had woke them all up very early this year.

The rabbit eye blueberry bushes are still dormant as they are a later variety.

Lou

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 8:04PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Yeah. I have been looking this Emerald SHB over today and I feel more confident saying it is fairly ladened with berries. So it will be one of the few fruit/berry producing plants that I have planted that we won't have to wait a year or two before getting to enjoy it. And by 'we' I mean my wife and kids might get to enjoy blueberry pancakes before very long. I will stick with banana myself. I am already working on Bamboo Rabbit's 'built-up' bed method described in the above link. I'm just worried about the light conditions and finding a good companion variety.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 8:40PM
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TheTradition(9b)

Jewel is an appropriate pollinator for Emerald.

Bee houses for solitary bees? What's that all about?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 12:37PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

It's part of a quiet movement, I guess, to supply homes for beneficial insects. Apparently there are quite a lot of 'solitary' bee species that don't build hives like Bumblebees and Honey Bees (social bees). Since they prefer to reside alone and not build a hive, they are not territorial or aggressive as hive builders tend to be.

The idea of a bee house is to drill holes in a thick block of wood of various sizes and depths. You hang it up under the eaves of your house on the east or south side of your house so that it receives sun but is protected from rain and cold winds. The solitary bees will use these holes to raise their young and also to overwinter. I had a piece of 4x4 scrap lumber laying around and I was just about to hang it up when I read in one article that you shouldn't use pressure treated lumber... which mine was. Along with solitary bees, some solitary wasps will also use the holes and much like the bees, they aren't quite as territorial as paper wasps and yellow jackets. So after some time of having a bee house in place, you could have a source of pollinators and insect control hanging under the eaves of your house.

The kicker, I guess, is that the solitary bees will only travel as far as they need to in order to get pollen. It is my impression that if you have a flower garden on the south side of your house near the bee house, then any northern beds might not get visited as much by the bees. For me, given the layout of my house, walls and yard, the same area that I have the blueberry bush (and the future one) is also the only really good spot I have to put up a bee house. So if I manage to attract any solitary bees to my area, they will likely leave the holes and hit the blueberry bushes first, since they should be the only things blooming in this area during the early part of the year. I will haveto be careful to 1) make sure that there is always something blooming in this area of my yard and 2) make sure they don't bloom at the same time as the blueberries so that they remain the prime target during that time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bee Houses

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 1:08PM
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TheTradition(9b)

Hmmm... I would think that wasps would quickly claim such a territory at my house and chase away any solitary mason bees. Paperwasps of various species, mud daubers, yellow jackets... I have them all.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 1:25PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Well, got my Jewel from the Master Gardener's Spring Garden Fair in Ocala. The guy that sold it to me about choked when I told him that I was putting coffee grounds around my Emerald (as per the suggestion I read here.) He then proceeded to give instructions that were fairly contrary to what BR has suggested with the only common ground being on the pine bark. However, he suggested limiting it to merely mulching with pine bark or straw(never said 'fines') and not amending the soil with it. He was apparently a fairly strong supporter of using chemical fertilizers almost exclusively. When I got around to putting the Jewel in the ground though, I went with BR's method. I'm more willing to put stock in the advice of someone who has a fairly strong reputation on the forums to uphold over a stall vendor. I mean no disrespect to the vendor, but there must be a reason people keep going back to BR for more blueberry advice.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 9:14PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

I appreciate the vote of confidence:) What did he want you to do put the plant directly in to our sand soil?

There are 1000's of commercial BB acres in Florida. They grow the plants the way the University of Florida suggests which is in pine bark fines. Some commercial growers use 30 gallon pots and grow the bushes that way but the half barrels are still filled with pine fines.

Use pine fines and make sure you irrigation water is the correct PH and BB are bullet proof.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 7:40AM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Yeah, he pretty much said to drop it in the ground, mulch with pine bark or needles and fertilize regularly. That was about it. He also said that since the bush was about 3ft tall and in a 3 gal pot that it really didn't need to have the berries and flowers removed, that the plant will be able to support both establishing itself and berry production at the same time... if I fertilize it properly and regularly.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 8:13AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

His advice is probably good for him as you would return in a year to buy another BB to replace the one that died:)

Removing the fruit the first year is not so clear cut. It is best for the plant to do so as a general rule. There are a lot of variables though. Take a sweetcrisp.....since it produces only a moderate amount of flowers it would be ok to not remove the flowers. An Emerald on the other hand that produces way too many flowers it would be an almost certain death sentence to not remove some flowers at least. Now if you put the plant in perfect soil and give it perfect water and perfect care would leaving some of the fruit load hurt the plant? No.....would it slow it's growth for next year? Almost certainly yes to some degree.

I do agree with him on chemical fertilizers. It is tough to use natural fertilizers with BB and still keep up the amount of growth I want. Because manures are alkaline they need to be avoided unless you are acidifying your water to counteract that alkalinity. Ammonium sulfate makes BB grow out of this world and is so cheap and easy to use.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 8:28AM
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jpin9a(9)

Is there a local nursery or supplier for the BB's? Would rather not go with Lowes or HD.. I am in Hernando County. Also would like raspberry/blackberry as well. Thanks in advance!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 9:46AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

I can't say enough good things about Bluestar nursey in Hawthorne. Yes it is a bit of a drive but the BB plants are like $3.50 and they have probably 20 varieties to chose from...they will also have your blackberry plants.

Raspberries are tough for us....there is an Australian type the name of which escapes me that will grow here. It's taste ..well it tastes like you are chewing newspaper:) There is also Mysore raspberry which is a black raspberry and they are thorny and I mean THORNY curved fishhook thorny. They are good tasting though, I grow them. They will be harder to find.......though Lowes does carry them now and then just don't believe the picture of the fruit on the tag as it shows they have a ripe red fruit which they do not.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 10:25AM
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jpin9a(9)

Appreciate it Bamboo - nothing closer? thats a 4 hour round trip for me...unless I can turn it into a road trip to the Museum of Natural History with the family..

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 10:59AM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

You could try contacting your Hernando County Extension Office, they should have a list of growers/nurseries in your area and might know which ones carry the berries you are looking for.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 11:06AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Jpin9a,

Sent you an email.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 3:05PM
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