Secrets and Science of the Florida Blueberry

April is Blueberry Festival Time

We love our native plants, and Florida blueberries are natives! 

Celebrate Florida Blueberries

Early settlers gathered wild blueberries and gave them names: High Bush, Rabbit Eye, and Evergreen. In those days, it took a great deal of luck and a lot of patience to grow and gather enough blueberries for one pie!

Later generations learned (perhaps by trial and error) that to bear fruit the blueberry bush must have a few hours to “chill out” every season. When temperatures drop below 45° F and stay there long enough, a chilled blueberry bush will flower and leaf out in the spring — and if the bush is planted in full sun, its fruit quality will be high. Check out Florida’s chill hours.

Years ago, there was a blueberry farm located off Citrus Blvd, but unfortunately it’s no longer there. Still, we love our blueberries so much that the smart scientists at the University of Florida IFAS Extension keep a close eye on them for us. IFAS can report that production has steadily increased from about 1.5 million pounds in the early 1990s to over 25 million pounds in 2015 even with numerous and sometimes severe production problems.

Florida’s blueberry production will always be touch-and-go, unlike northern states such as Washington, who leads the nation with a production of over 96 million pounds a year, and Michigan with over 20,000 acres set aside just for growing blueberries.

Florida ranks #8, which is “up there” only because of the introduction of a new variety developed by our own University of Florida and named the ‘Southern Highbush’. Thanks, UF/IFAS for improving the science and production of the Florida blueberry!

April is Blueberry Festival Time in Florida; even though someone could pull a Covid-cancel at the last minute, many festivals are still on!

BLUEBERRY FESTIVALS

Mount Dora Blueberry Festival
April 24/25 in Donnelly Park
website

Find a Florida Blueberry Festival in 2021

THE BLUEBERRY GARDENER’S GUIDE

From UF/IFAS Extension, the Blueberry Gardener’s Guide provides home gardeners with basic information on growing blueberries in Florida. Download the PDF.

Interested in adding blueberry bushes to your landscape? Ask to speak to one of our horticulturists.

Please share this newsletter with anyone you know who loves blueberries, and please “Like Us” on Facebook.

How We Preserve Our Most Important Natural Resource – Water!

When it rains, it pours! This familiar phrase was first coined by Morton Salt in 1911 to sell their first free-flowing salt that promised not to clump on rainy days. The classic catch-phrase suggests that “one bad thing follows another” — like rain (or lack of it) in south Florida. 

South Florida’s tropical landscapes thrive with an average of 8.5 inches of rain in August, but need irrigation to survive the January drought of just 2.5 inches. 

Florida has a water problem! Our water-dependent ecosystems of springs, rivers, lakes and wetlands must survive these flood-to-drought situations and can only do so if we adopt landscape irrigation restrictions and increase our use of reclaimed water.

Green Cay Wetlands in Florida. Robin Mehdee/Flickr

According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce Florida’s population could increase to nearly 26 million by 2030, a number larger than the entire population of Australia. Practicing environmentally-friendly landscaping practices are vital to protect, conserve, and sustain our water needs for people and commerce.

This is why Jenkins Landscape is a major supporter of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) programs from the University of Florida IFAS Extension. FLL promotes nine basic landscape principles for water conservation:

  1. right plant, right place
  2. water efficiently
  3. fertilize appropriately
  4. mulch
  5. attract wildlife
  6. manage yard pests responsibly
  7. recycle
  8. reduce stormwater runoff
  9. protect the waterfront

We design, install and maintain low-impact landscapes according to FLL principles, but any homeowner or HOA can adopt these practices on their own. For example:

  • Prevent irrigation runoff when rainfall is plentiful using a zone approach for irrigation with a functioning automatic rainfall shutoff device for in-ground systems and a rain gauge to track rainfall amounts. 
  • During dry months, use low-flow irrigation methods with a soil moisture sensor in plant and flower beds. 
  • Use “smart clocks” on systems to save thousands of gallons of water annually.

Water conservation must be a top priority of all Floridians, especially with the new surge of incoming residents. FFL’s program for residential landscapes, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods, educates homeowners on how to design, install and maintain low-impact landscapes. 

All landscapes are not the same. Some have large areas of turf and smaller plant and flower beds; others have minimal turf grass areas and expansive shade and plant beds. Each landscape requires a specialized approach to water conservation.

Do you want to be part of the water-saving solution?

AVAILABLE RESOURCES

Visit the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for ideas and suggestions on what you can do to conserve our most important resource – water!

ASK A JENKINS EXPERT

Clients trust us to design, manage and maintain their yards, create healthy, beautiful landscapes and irrigation systems in ways that conserve Florida’s vital water resources. Call us (772) 546-2861 and ask to speak with a water conservation expert.

asterisk When it comes to using technology to practice water conservation, Jenkins personnel use a “smart watering” solution that enables our technicians to actually “show” you in graphic detail how much water and money you saved every month. Ask us about our newest Internet-connected water management solution!

Please share this newsletter with anyone you know that cares about water conservation and protection of Florida’s most important natural resource. 

The Joys of Zone 10a

This February, our northern neighbors anxiously gathered around Punxsutawney Phil hoping he’d see his shadow…he didn’t. So the country will resign itself to six more weeks of winter, except in southeast Florida: here, it’s springtime!

Recent social media selfies of Floridians in shorts complaining about the frigid temperatures should be about over — but we may be surprised. February is traditionally the coldest and driest month of the year with March following February’s example.

The majority of Martin County is in Zone 10a of the plant hardiness zones, giving us long growing seasons, mild dry winters, and hot wet summers.

The plant hardiness zone maps, officially called the USDA Hardiness Zone Map, divides North America into separate planting zones with each zone being 10 degrees warmer or colder than it’s neighboring zone. The first map was published in 1927 with 8 hardiness zones. Today, the US Department of Agriculture and the US National Arboretum work together using data from almost 15,000 weather stations.

Recently, we had some very cool temps in the 30s. There are many plants that can survive freezing temperatures for a couple of hours without experiencing cellular damage and if the temperatures quickly rise after a freeze.

A great way to protect plants from extreme weather, specifically cold here in Zone 10b is to create microclimates to reduce exposure to the potential damaging weather. These are areas with good wind protection; near ponds, between structures, among rock gardens, or even in courtyards and lanais. 

Over the next few weeks you may discover some cold damage on your turf, plants and palms. Signs of cold damage can be dark purple leaves, leaves turning yellow and dropping, or leaves turning brown. UF/IFAS offers information on how cold temperatures affect palms and how to treat them after a cold weather event.

According to the National Weather Service in Melbourne, it looks like the worst is behind us. Predictions are for a weak La Niña with below normal rainfall and storminess. It’s time to clean out the beds and prepare for another glorious landscape for the warm months of 2021. Oh, and did we mention… our landscape crews are experts at cleaning out beds, planting or moving trees, and sprucing up lawns and gardens!