Southern highbush blueberries are hybrids of northern highbush varieties and other hardy members of the genus Vaccinium that are native to the south, such as sparkleberries and farkleberries. I promise, I'm not making those names up. Southern highbush blueberries are reported to have many advantages over the more persnickety rabbiteyes, such as requiring less acidity, being more flavorful, and being self-fertile. They also ripen earlier, which I hope will mean an extended blueberry harvest that lasts from March to May. When I first became interested in growing blueberries, rabbiteye varieties were all I could fined at the local nurseries and fruit tree sales, and southern highbush were very rare, so I planted rabbiteyes. Now southern highbush varieties seem to be making a comeback, and many varieties such as Jewel, Emerald, Misty, O’Neal,Sunshine, and Windsor are readily available from local sources.
So after buying southern highbush blueberries from Caldwell Nursery, JRN Nursery, and the Urban Harvest fruit tree sale. Interestingly, all the plants I had purchased earlier in the year never lost their leaves and were putting on flowers, while the plants I bought from Urban Harvest were completely dormant and bare. Perhaps they were produced farther north, or kept in cold storage. I decided to plant them in the neglected side yard where the blackberries used to be, near the rabbiteye bushes. In this location they get good sun until around 1 pm, and are shaded during the hottest part of the day.
I had cut several big limbs out of the pine tree in my front yard, and rather than tying them up to get hauled off with the garbage, I chopped them up with a chainsaw and laid them down as a thick weed-suppressing base. On top of this I laid out eight 30-gallon pots, which I filled with a 50/50 mixture of ProMix and pine bark nuggets, amended with a little bit of sulfur and MicroLife 6-2-4. After getting the mix good and wet, and allowing the peat to hydrate overnight, I planted the flollowing southern highbush blueberry varieties: Gulf Coast, Misty, Palmetto, Jewel, Sunshine, Windsor, and Emerald. I unintentionally planted two Emeralds, as I had forgotten I had already found one when I placed my Urban Harvest order. Oh well, too late now! With this expansion, we're now growing a total of16 blueberry bushes. All I need to do now is rig up another drip irrigation line from the 1,000-gallon rain tank, and we'll be on our way to months of homegrown, delicious, organic blueberries. I know two little boys that can't wait!