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Blueberry

Q: I want to grow some blueberries but I am not sure what type is best.

A:  Two types of blueberries are grown in Florida ; southern highbush and rabbiteye. Rabbiteye blueberries grow best in regions north of Ocala . Cross pollination between, or among, varieties is needed for maximum production for both types of blueberries. Therefore, multiple varieties of rabbiteyes are needed to pollinate other rabbiteyes. On suitable blueberry soils in north and north central Florida , rabbiteye blueberries are more vigorous, longer lived, and easier to care for than most southern highbush varieties. Rabbiteyes are more drought tolerant and can grow satisfactorily in soils lower in organic matter. The soil pH should be around 4.5, which is very acidic.  I am currently growing mine in pine bark and having great success.  Southern highbush has a tendency to succumb to root rot and blight, I lost two trees to blight the first year I planted them.  Severe crop losses to spring freezes are not uncommon in north Florida , especially for early-season rabbiteyes which bloom before mid- to late-season rabbiteyes. For home gardeners and u-pick growers, late flowering varieties such as Powderblue and Brightwell usually produce abundant crops without freeze protection at most locations in northern Florida . Rabbiteye fruit is generally firmer than southern highbush however, berries of highbush and rabbiteye are enough alike that most consumers do not distinguish between the two. Early-season rabbiteye varieties are Austin , Beckyblue, Bonita, Climax, and Premier.  Mid-late season varieties are Brightwell, Chaucer, Powderblue and Tifblue.  If you plan to grow blueberries it would be advisable to have your soil tested by the University of Florida .  Stop by one of our offices and pick up a soil test kit. It cost only $7 and well worth the investment.  Callahan Extension office is 543350 U.S. Highway #1 , 904 530-6353 (on the fairgrounds) or the Yulee satellite office 86026 Pages Dairy Road, (904) 530-6350. Check out the University of Florida publications on blueberries for more information on selection and care http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/HS215 or http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg359