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Blueberry

Rabbiteye Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) [formerly V. ashei and V. virgatum]. We sell a pair of selectively bred cultivars of this native species, that were developed for agricultural usage: Powederblue and Brightwell. Rabbiteye blueberries require cross-pollination for good fruit set, so these matched varieties are sold as a pair. The other common Florida Blueberry type is Southern highbush. We chose rabbiteyes because they are easier to grow. Rabbiteye blueberries are a multi-stemmed shrub. They are larger than highbush, and should be spaced 5’ apart in rows 10’ apart.

Soil: Blueberries require strongly acid soil, with a pH between 4 and 5.5. Soil that is too basic can be acidified by the incorporation of granular sulfur. They also like high amounts of organic matter, though rabbiteyes are more forgiving of low organic matter. You should incorporate pine bark and peat into the soil where you will plant the blueberries (1/4-1/2 cubic foot of sphagnum peat per plant recommended), and then mulch 3” deep with pine bark in a 2’ radius, or a 4’ wide strip along the row. Also, avoid areas near broadleaf tree roots, though pines are ok. Fertilize lightly with a blueberry or azalea fertilizer. See the EDIS document referenced at the end for more detailed fertilization recommendations.
Water: Rabbiteyes are more tolerant of droughts, but irrigation is sometimes necessary during fruit ripening. Well water is too basic for blueberries so check your soil pH periodically, and apply sulfur as needed. If the soil is saturated during the growing season, within the top 18 inches, it will harm blueberry roots. This can be solved by building a bed high enough to keep the roots unsubmerged, and 4’ wide.
Sun: full
Cold: We selected late flowering varieties in order to reduce the change of crop loss to late frosts. Rabbiteyes need cold during the winter and should not be planted south of Ocala.
Pruning: Flowers and fruits should be removed for the first year or two, to encourage vegetative growth. Fruiting can weaken and kill young plants. Once the bush is 5 years old, remove 1/5 to ¼ of the large trunks each year to keep the bush young and productive. Do this in the winter before budswell.
Propagation: Cuttings can be rooted for mass production, but the easiest way is to dig suckers in the winter. Look for sprouts that are away from the main clump. These are produced by rhizomes that came from the clump and then turned 90degrees up to form a shoot. Cut the rhizome, and plant the L-shaped plant somewhere else. It will grow feeder roots later.
Pests: Blueberries are affected by many pests and diseases, but usually tolerate them. Phytophthora root rot is a leading killer of blueberries. It is encouraged by over irrigation and inadequate drainage. Rabbiteyes are less susceptible but not immune. Botrytis flower blight is encouraged by cloudy rainy weather during bloom. Rabbiteyes are more susceptible. Avoid overhead irrigation during bloom. Blueberry stem blight is not usually a problem for rabbiteyes, but can kill highbush especially if weakened by overproduction. Many insects can attack blueberries, such as flea beetles, various scale insects, cranberry fruitworms, caterpillars, root weevils, flower thrips, blueberry gall midge, bud mite, and blueberry maggot. For more information, see http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ig070, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in293, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in343, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in198, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in637. In addition, many bird species eat blueberries.

Harvesting, storage, and preparation: Rabbiteyes are less prone to overproduction than Highbush, which can actually fruit so heavily that it kills them, if you don’t thin the fruits. Pick the berries when they are ripe. They can be stored for a few weeks by refrigeration, after removing bad berries (do not wash). For longer storage, you can freeze and can (wash this time).

Additional information:  Read this http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg359

blueberrry

More photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/search/?q=Vaccinium%20corymbosum

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