There is nothing more satisfying than growing your own food at home! One unique plant to try your hand at is blueberries. Brevard County 4-H is offering a new project for the 2020-2021 4-H year focused on raising blueberry plants.
If you’ve never grown blueberries before, check out these tips and tricks! They may help you successfully harvest your first (and second and third…) bunch of blueberries for pancakes, muffins, jam, or just for healthy and delicious snacking!
The information below is for southern highbush blueberry varieties, such as Jewel, Springhigh, Rabbiteye, and Emerald.
Sun Light & Weather
Sun Light: Plants prefer lots of sunlight. They need at least 4-5 hours of full sunlight each day.
Weather: Blueberry plants require 150-200 hours of temperatures below 45 F to fruit properly. The plants do not require any covering or protection from central Florida winter temperatures.
Winter Dormancy: Beginning in late fall through the winter, blueberry plants experience defoliation (the loss of leaves) as they become dormant for the winter. It is normal for your plants to be completely leafless throughout the winter.
Blueberry plants require regular, light watering. They do not do well with very moist soil. Frequent, light watering is better than a heavy soaking. When watering, do your best to keep the leaves dry.
Soil & Fertilization
Soil: Blueberries prefer a slightly acidic soil environment. Adding peat moss or pine bark to the soil will help with reaching the correct soil pH level.
Fertilization: Blueberry plants prefer a slow-release N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) fertilizer. A fertilizer blend of 14-14-14 can be used and is easy to find. Be sure to read the directions on the fertilizer you are using to determine how long its release period is. This will help you make sure you are fertilizing at the correct times throughout the year. Be sure to fertilize your plants in March to kick-start their growth. Do not fertilize your plants during the fall/winter dormant period.
Fruiting & Harvest
Plants will begin growing new leaves in early March, with flowers beginning to grow about a week later. By early May plants should have fruit that is ready to harvest.
Pests & Disease
Because of Florida’s hot and moist environment, blueberry plants are easily susceptible to rust leaf spot. This can be treated with a spray fungicide. Root rot is also common if blueberries are planted in soil that is not well draining or if plants are overwatered. Pests, such as insects and birds, can significantly decrease your blueberry harvest.
For more information on growing blueberries, check out the UF/IFAS Blueberry Gardener’s Guide.