When people start to grow their own fruit in Florida, blueberries are one of my first suggestions because caring for blueberries is not that difficult if you prepare properly. Here are some tips to have healthy bushes and plenty of fruit to add to your favorite drinks.
Blueberries need their soil to dry out between irrigation events so that issues like root rot do not occur. During fruit development, they may need extra water in March increasing into late spring to early summer. However, this will depend on your soil type and sometimes we get all we need from rainfall. A mature rabbiteye blueberry stand should require little extra irrigation except in times of drought.
Over-fertilization can kill blueberries so they do best with frequent, light applications. In the home garden it is recommended to use between 1 and 1.5 ounce of 12-4-8 fertilizer at planting and then again in April, June, August and October. In year three, increase this to 2 ounces and go to 3 ounces in year 3. Spread this over the evenly out over the root zone of the plant, out to about 4’. You can even find blueberry special fertilizers or use a camellia or azalea mix.
Blueberries should also be pruned at planting and managed to keep them in good form and healthy. Younger canes produce more fruit, so after 4-5 years take out around ¼ to 1/5 of the oldest canes each year to spur on new growth. This pruning usually occurs after harvest in the early summer.
For more information about caring for blueberries, see our great fact sheet: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/MG359 or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office. I also host a series of workshops within the Horticulture Happy Hour topic where we discuss gardening topics and then how to use your produce in your favorite beverages. Blueberries are covered in our “Something Sweet” class and available offerings in Clay County can be found at https://www.eventbrite.com/o/ufifas-extension-clay-county-9764382549 .
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