Question for Central Florida blueberry experts

apapjimFebruary 7, 2012

I'm interested in growing some kind of fruit. My principle inpediments are: 1) Central Florida soil which needs everything but sand and nematodes; 2) Squirrels (the hawks and cats can't make a dent in them) I have to grow my tomatoes in containers in a chicken wire tomato house. How would blueberries fit into this equation?

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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

I have 125 blueberry plants and a lot of squirrels and they don't bother them at all. I share them with a few cardinals but that is about it.

Sand does not matter or nematodes because you can't grow the BB in the sand:) Mix pine fines and peat in any percentage you want, plant in that mix, in a 3-4 foot wide spot and the plants will thrive. Mulch them with sawdust, bark, leaves or most anything organic and they will be happy. Fertilize only with a fertilizer that is designed for acid loving plants and never give them any fertilizer that contains muriate of potash.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 9:53PM
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Perfect! I'll start scouting local nurserys for plants this week.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 11:18PM
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ibarbidahl(9 (tampa-ish))

It's the dang grows and Ravens 'round here that I have to share with. :-( Once they figured out I was using the pecan shells and leaving the bad pecans in there they started coming in and picking through... now they found my garden and won't leave

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 12:37PM
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I so hope others growing blueberries chime in here.

Terry and I have been busy putting in raised beds and other goodies in the back yard ever since Sylvia's garden party where we had the opportunity to meet some of you. We are wanting to put in three different types of blueberries and would love to know what has been successful for others.

One of the things we are finding as we search for blueberries is that some of the varieties available locally don't have the best reviews from some growers.

Any advice would be helpful.
Thanks - Kathy

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 10:23AM
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I'll second Kathy's post. Help with varities would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 12:04PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Varieties......I have 13 different types. My favorite to eat is Sweet Crisp. It is a newer variety but the taste and crisp texture are A+ The only down side is that while it is a fast and very vigorous growing bush it is not as productive.

For pounds per bush Emerald rules and quality is very good.

Ease of growing would be Sunshine Blue. You don't have to get the soil PH just right for this one. You do have to leave the berries on the plant for a week or so after they turn full blue.

Have to mention Southern belle also and Jewel, both are very good.

Try to avoid buying them at the big box stores. You can get plants that are 3 times the size for the same cost. Watch Craigs list or if you have a flea market with plant dealers ask them.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 12:53PM
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I grow my blueberries in the half blue barrels. I located a supply of plastic 55 gallon barrels for $10 each. I cut them in half and fill them with a mix of pine fines, peat-moss, & coffee grounds. I use pine straw as the top two to three inch thick layer to insulate the sun's heat from the soil mix. I have around 40 to 50 half barrels of different blueberry varieties.
Because I'm old... I cannot remember all the different names of the varieties, I can barely remember my own name. The easiest to grow is Sunshine Blue, the best producer is Emerald, the best tasting is Sweet Crisp.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 1:28PM
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Lou, you and Tom are obviously on the same page variety wise, but coffee grounds? What's that about?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 5:16PM
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The PH of coffee grounds are on the acid side of neutral and slow to break down. It makes a good granular filler for the air spaces between the pine bark fines and helps cut down the amount of granular peat moss I use in my blueberry soil mix.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 8:01AM
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Thank you all for your help here. Lowe's has Emerald available and I ordered online a Jewel and a Sweet Crisp. I already have a spot picked out for them in the garden.

Now I will be scouring gardenweb for everything I can learn about blueberries. Acid - they love sunshine and acidic soil, that is the depth of my knowledge thus far.

Hopefully we are on our way to harvesting blueberries.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 3:53PM
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contacted local large wholesale/retail nursery that has been in this location for over 30 years. asked owner about sweet crisp and was told it does not do well in north florida, too cold and humid. does better in texas.....even though developed by university of florida which is in, north florida, just down the road from me.

anyone in north florida have any luck with sweet crisp??

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 8:34PM
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If you will note the heading for this thread was a question asked of people in CENTRAL Florida growing blueberries and not North Florida. I'm located in zone 9A on the northern edge of Central Florida and my sweet crisps are doing well here. I realize you are asking your question to determine the northern range of growing sweet crisps but I didn't want your post about the wholesale/retail nursery to scare off people in Central Florida from trying to grow the sweet crisps in their back yards. The taste is worth the trial.


    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 8:52AM
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i did note that the thread pertained to central florida. not trying to cause any concerns about that location, just interested to know if any reader has experience in north florida with sweet crisp. guess a seperate thread would be better for that question.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 10:08AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


It is awful humid here and my sweet crisps don't care at all. They are quite resistant to leaf diseases compared to other types I have. The plants when dormant are very cold hardy so there is no way the north Florida cold would bother them. I know they are grown in the Carolinas. I am of the opinion your nursery owner was mistaken or confused.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 11:54AM
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thanks, i may see if i can find a couple to try.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 4:01PM
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Ok, back in July, I built a raised bed with untreated 2X12 pine boards, and filled that sucker up with about a 50/50 mix of spagnum peat and pine fines. Mixed in some azalea fertilizer I let that sit and ferment for three months. On Saturday, I planted two bushes (Emerald and a Jewel) and mulched with the Wal-Mart Pine Bark Mulch in the purple bag (not quite as small as the fines, but still pretty small). They seem happy -- no signs of transplant shock at all.

My question is, some sources say fertilize at planting, others say don't. I know you need to go easy on the fertilizer either way.

Some say cut the bushes back at planting, other don't.

Also, how frequently is irrigation required (assuming no rainfall)?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 10:54AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


Few things. The raised bed sounds great but you might want to put some 20 mule team borax around the outside perimeter or the termites will destroy your hard work.

The purple bags are what you want. The term pine "fines" is a bit misleading but the purple bagged stuff is the right size.

Don't fertilize. Even if fertilizing at planting was a good idea (which it isn't) we are too late in the year for fertilizer. Let the plants go until mid February to start the fertilizer. They will still grow some during the fall (roots). Fall is my favorite time to plant BB.

The roots determine how much you should cut them back but it is a good idea to cut them back at least some. It is a judgement call but it will remove the flower buds so no fruit this spring but that is a very good thing. Take 25% off the bush and it will reward you.

The water is a very tricky. BB need to be constantly moist.not soaking wet but moist. A good 4-6" layer of pine needles or ground up leaves will help keep them moist. It is best if you can use rain water. Our water in Florida is quite alkaline and has a high level of bicarbonates in it from our limerock aquifer. That water is bad for the bushes so you want to use as little water from the hose as possible. At first you are ok but as time goes by the bicarbonates build up in the soil and the PH will rise. So if you are not going to treat the water the best advice I can give is to only water when the plants need it but never let them get dry. Mulch is your best friend as it will allow you to water less.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 7:46AM
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Thank you, Bamboo Rabbit. That was very helpful.

I figured that when the boards rot I'd just rip them out and I'd still have a nice raised mound.

I was actually thinking about spreading a boron-based roach and ant killer around the perimeter because carpenter ants are attracted to the bed. But I didn't know if that was safe around food crops?

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 11:06AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Just use the will kill the termites and ants and is 100% safe. If you want to you can mix sugar and borax together in a 3-1 ration. Just boil the water and add the sugar and let it dissolve then add the borax. It is a very good ant and roach killer and they will never build an immunity to it. I like to soak wadded up paper towel pieces in it and put them by the ants.....they suck the liquid from the towels and carry it back to the queen and bye bye ants.

Also if you are a coffee drinker the plants will love the grounds. They are mildly acidic after you brew with them but they are great organics and will fill in the pore spaces in the mix. Fall is the absolute best time to plant......spring is ok but you want the plants settled in before the brutal heat starts and a fall planting gives them many months.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 1:16PM
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Hi. I'm new to the forum - but just to share, I think pine is a naturally (moderately) rot resistant wood and is resistant to pests. It probably would be fine for some time. I use pots or treated wood lined with plant cloth. I am currently growing 4 types of blueberries (sunshine blue, sweetcrisp, jewel, emerald) and experiencing some success.

The key is maintaining acidic, organic soil. My best results have been growing the berries in pots as you're able to maintain to control soil conditions and able to move plants to warm environment when the weather grows too cold - threatening flower blooms and your harvest!.

Best wishes.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2014 at 4:23PM
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