These luscious "Florida 90" strawberries are grown
throughout the State of Florida, both for commercial
and home use. Photograph by Annette and Rudi Rada.
BULLETIN NO. 13 R JANUARY 1962
A Revision of
University of Florida
Agricultural Extension Service
WILLIAM G. MITCHELL
Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
STATE OF FLORIDA
Doyle Conner, Commissioner of Agriculture
BULLETIN NO. 13
R JANUARY 1962
Florida is not at present an important berry growing state.
With the exception of strawberries, no berries are being grown
commercially to any extent.
And yet, Florida has the potential to become an important
berry producing area. Wild blackberries, blueberries and straw-
berries grow here, so we know that berries can be grown. Ex-
perimental evidence points to the fact that berries could be
grown here commercially.
At least two varieties of blackberries do very well in Florida,
and others could be developed. Rabbiteye blueberries grow well
in the state, and a breeding program is now under way at the
Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations to produce other va-
rieties better adapted than present ones to Florida conditions.
Nurserymen have not awakened to the possibilities latent in
berry plant production. Ralph Sharpe of the Florida Station
points out that only two varieties of blackberries are now avail-
able to Florida growers. There is no source of the better rabbit-
eye varieties of blueberries except the Georgia Coastal Plain
Station at Tifton which bred these varieties.
Only the tropical black raspberry, the Mysore, can now be
grown in Florida, and it is suited only to South Florida. How-
ever, it is a source of parentage that could in time produce
raspberries that could be grown all over Florida.
Of course, strawberries are an important crop-but they are
grown chiefly in the Plant City and Starke areas.
This booklet is designed for those who may wish to develop
berry growing in Florida to greater commercial importance.
STRAWBERRIES - 5
Varieties ... 5
Florida Ninety -- 6
Soils .... ... --- 7
Maintaining Soil Organic Matter ------ 7
Setting Plants ---------- 8
Culture -- .. 12
Cultivation .. ..12
Irrigation .-- -- 13
Frost Protection ..----- 13
Picking and Packing ------ -13
Varieties __- 16
Culture ..-- ... -. 19
Cultivation - --20
Irrigation --- --------- 20
Mulching -------- 21
Home Garden Culture --- 21
Propagation -- -------- 22
Diseases and Insects -----. 23
RASPBERRIES --------- 23
Description ------ 24
Diseases and Pests ------- 31
Picking ---- - 32
Yield - - -- 33
Use as Food -------------- 33
BLACKBERRIES .....- ----- -...... --------------34
History ---- ..----- -------__ 35
Varieties -. ..-------------------.--- --- ----- -- 35
Propagation __-. .. ..---------- -- -36
Crop Production --------- 36
Planting -- -- .. .. ---- 36
Spacing .--...--------- -- --- ----- 37
Tillage ....--- -----37
Fertilizer .... ..----------------------- 37
Training and Pruning .-------- 37
Harvesting .......----------------------- 38
Life of Planting .. ------ -- 39
Diseases and Insects .--------- 39
MARKETING FLORIDA BERRIES ...- 40
Marketing Strawberries- ------- 40
Growing Berries in Florida
Strawberries are the only berry crop grown to any extent
commercially in Florida at this time. The success of commer-
cial production of strawberries in Florida is based on two facts.
(1) Fruit is produced during a period of the year when it is not
produced in any other area of the United States. (2) Straw-
berries provide growers an income during an off-period for most
Although most of this fruit is shipped to Northern markets,
local marketing of fruit in Florida is becoming more and more
important, due to the rapid increase in the population of the
Total acreage has fluctuated annually from a high of 11,000
acres in the early 30's to a low of 1,400 acres during the World
War II period. It has since levelled off to around 1,900 acres.
Most of this is now confined to Central Florida in Hillsborough
County, with smaller acreages in Polk and Hardee counties and
in the Northern area of the State in Bradford and Union coun-
ties. Considerable acreage has been developed in the lower East
Coast area to supply local markets. In fact, many cities and
towns in Florida are supplied with fruit from local fields. Road-
side stands and on-farm markets are becoming more popular.
For the past half-century the Missionary variety, a chance
seedling originating in Norfolk County, Virginia, about 1900,
has been the main commercial variety grown in Florida. The
characteristics which have made this variety desirable are pro-
duction of fruit starting during the short-day period of December
and continuing well into May. The yields are fairly high and
the fruit is of good size and quality, firm enough to withstand
long shipment. Plants produce a large number of runner plants
*Material in this section was slightly changed from Florida Extension Ex-
periment Stations Bulletin 160, Growing Strawberries in Florida, by A. N.
Brooks of the Strawberry Investigations Laboratory.
which are resistant to the common leafspot disease. However,
during the past 15 years virus infection has taken place in var-
ious nurseries supplying plants of the variety and yields of fruit
from Missionary have greatly decreased. At present virus-free
plants are again available from certain nurseries.
Over a long period of years, many other varieties of straw-
berry have been tested. But none were found equal to Mis-
sionary in early fruit production and total yields. Of the newer
varieties, only those in which Missionary appeared in the par-
entage showed any promise as to earliness and total yields.
At the Strawberry Laboratory in 1948 seed was saved from
Missionary in a field containing over 60 different hybrids. Thus
the seed-parent of any plants developing from this lot of seed
would be Missionary. The pollen-parent might be either Mis-
sionary or any one of the hybrids. During the fruiting season
1948-49 plants from 1,075 of these seed were tested as to plant
and fruit characteristics. Of this group, No. 90 showed great
No. 90 was thoroughly tested and during the season 1951-52,
the Strawberry Laboratory shipped 7,000 pints of fruit to
Northern markets through regular commercial channels, each
crate being marked "Special No. 90." This fruit was well re-
ceived on the Northern markets. Consequently, in March 1952,
No. 90 was released by the Florida Agricultural Experiment
Station as a new variety. Since the growers of Central Florida
knew it as No. 90 and it had appeared on Northern markets as
No. 90, the name given the new variety was "Florida Ninety."
During the season 1954-55, this variety made up 65% of the
acreage planted to strawberry in the Plant City area. It is
being grown successfully in other areas of Florida and north
as far as Charleston, South Carolina. Some plantings have also
been made in the lower Rio Grande valley in Texas and in the
northern end of Andros Island.
Florida Ninety plants are vigorous and runner plant produc-
tion high. The fruit is large, pointed and bright red inside as
well as out. Flavor is excellent. Although fruit production starts
7 to 10 days later than some Missionary, the total yields are
high-5,000-10,000 quarts per acre against 1,000-3,500 for
Under proper soil management and cultural practices, straw-
berries have been grown on several different types of soil in
Florida. Desirable soil characteristics are: (1) adequate or-
ganic matter and humus content to maintain good soil texture
and water-holding capacity, to prevent rapid leaching of plant
food and to increase the numbers and activities of the beneficial
soil organisms. (2) Drainage sufficient to maintain aeration of
the soil and prevent water-logging. (3) Sufficient fertility for
crop production, and (4) maintenance of soil reaction in the
correct pH range.
Soil Reaction.-Soil should not be too acid or too alkaline for
the best growth of strawberry. The correct range lies between
pH 5.5 and 6.0 for most soils in Florida. CHECK THE pH OF
STRAWBERRY LAND BEFORE IT IS BEDDED. Soil samples
should be taken and the pH of the soil determined several weeks
before the land is to be bedded. Thus, if it too acid, any lime-
bearing material needed to correct this condition can be broad-
cast and thoroughly disked into the soil.
None of the lime-bearing materials are of much value when
applied as a top-dressing to the surface of beds of plants trying
to grow in acid soil. The materials do not move down in the
soil to any great extent and hence should be mixed with the soil
before bedding so that plants roots will be benefited thereby.
Maintaining Soil Organic Matter
In Florida, plowing under cover crops is the chief method of
replenishing the soil with organic matter. Roots as well as top
growth are important in this respect. In many cases, a growth
of native plants is the summer cover crop. However, from the
standpoint of the control of weeds and root nematodes, it is
better to use some planted cover crop. Crops resistant to root-
knot nematodes are velvet beans, crotolaria, beggarweed and
hairy indigo. With velvet beans the seed can be drilled in rows
to fit the equipment to be used for cultivating the crop. This
cultivation prevents the growth of weeds which might enable
root-knot nematodes to survive. It also reduces the potential
weed population so that less hoeing is necessary on the following
strawberry crop. Sesbania is a 60-day cover crop which will ma-
terially check weed growth. It is about the only crop that can be
used on land subject to flooding during the summer. On the
other hand, it is a good host for root-knot nematodes and sting
nematodes, which even cause a stunting of the sesbania plants.
Sting nematodes are one of the most destructive root pests on
strawberry. Crabgrass also makes an excellent cover crop for
strawberry land, but it also harbors the sting nematode.
Cover crops should be disked down and double cut on the soil
surface and allowed to dry somewhat before being plowed under.
In some cases it has been found valuable to broadcast 1,000
pounds per acre of a 4-7-5 or 4-8-8 fertilizer on the cover crop
after it has been double cut and just before the last disking
prior to plowing under. This hastens the initial decomposition
of the crop residue, especially with crabgrass. Also, when the
land is bedded it will contain sufficient fertilized material so dis-
tributed in the soil as to give the newly set plants a quick, safe
If fertilizer is not broadcast as above it can be applied during
the bedding operation if it is placed so that roots will not be set
in the fertilizer and thus burn. For two-row beds the band of
fertilizer should be placed in the center of the bed and the plant
rows located 6 to 8 inches from either side of center. For single-
row beds, the fertilized bands should be approximately 6 inches
from center. If 4 bedding disks are used for the operation, the
fertilizer is applied in the furrows made by the front two disks.
This application of fertilizer should not exceed 400 to 600 pounds
per acre, depending upon the width of bed and types of soil,
using the lesser amount for light, sandy soils or wide beds and
the larger amount for heavier, loamy soils or narrow beds.
If there is any doubt that the fertilizer will be placed in
correct position in relation to plant roots, it is best to make
up the beds without any fertilizer and thus avoid the chances
of burning the roots of the freshly set plants.
Time of Setting.-For earliest fruit production, Missionary
plants should be set during the last week in September and
Florida Ninety plants should be set October 8 to 15. Even
though the two varieties may bloom at the same time, it takes
five to seven days longer from open blossom to ripe fruit on
Florida Ninety than on Missionary. Thus first picking for Mis-
sionary may be the first week in December and for Florida
Ninety the second or third week.
Single-row Beds.-These are used if hand hoeing is to be
kept to a minimum. Beds are laid out on 36" to 40" centers and
plants set 12" apart in the row. This requires 13,200-14,520
plants per acre.
Double-row Beds.-Such beds are really the ideal layout.
Place beds on 52" centers. Make rows 16" apart on the bed and
set plants 12" apart in the rows. Place plants alternate instead
of opposite each other in the two rows. This requires 20,260
plants per acre.
Triple-row Beds.-These are used to some extent in smaller
fields in the lower East Coast area.
Setting Plants.-Plant roots should always be protected from
drying out after the plants are removed from the nursery beds
and before being set in the field. In hand setting, drop the plants
not very far in advance of the setter.
Machine setting of strawberry plants is becoming more and
more popular. Many different types of equipment are being
used. The self-propelled, celery-type setter has been used to
a considerable extent but there is a tendency now toward the
use of setters pulled by tractors. Some have two persons feed-
ing plants to single-row setters, some are single-row setters
with one person feeding plants. Others set two rows on one
bed or two rows, each on two beds. One even sets three rows,
one each on three beds. By proper arrangements of the one-,
two- or three-row setters, double-row beds can be set by making
a round trip of the machine on the same bed or beds.
Depth of Setting.-For either hand setting or machine set-
ting, set strawberry plants so that the bud and crown are
entirely above ground, while the whole of the root system is
below ground. If you set them higher that this, the roots are
exposed, causing the plants to dry out; if you set them lower,
the buds will be covered with soil and will rot. Plants set too
high have to have soil raked up to them. Plants set too low have
to have soil raked away from them. Either is a tiresome and
Place roots straight down in the soil and pack the soil firmly
about their entire length. Trim extremely long roots before
setting, so that they fit, without doubling up, into the holes
prepared for them.
Source of Plants.-Florida-grown plants are best for Fall
setting because they can be obtained at the proper time-Sep-
tember and October. Northern-grown plants cannot be obtained
until November 1.
Florida nurseries are started in February each year. It has
been the practice to secure Northern-grown plants to set out
in these early spring nurseries. Plants come from nurseries
in Arkansas, Delaware, Maryland and Tennessee. Plants from
these sources start growth immediately after being set out.
They produce one short crop of fruit and then start forming
runners. Enough runner plants are made on these February-
set beds to set out on other beds May 15 to June 15. The runner
plants made during the summer and early fall on these latter
beds are used for fall setting. Multiplication of plants from
February to October is 30 to 1,200 fold.
In some cases, the spring nursery beds are not set until late
March and resulting runner plants are maintained on these
beds until removed for fall setting. Multiplication of plants under
this system is 20 to 60 fold.
Use of Florida-Grown Plants for Spring Nurseries.-During
the past three years the following method has been worked out:
Instead of using up all the plants for Fall setting, some are
saved and during the first week in December these plants are
removed from the nursery beds. These plants are thoroughly
cleaned and washed and all but five leaves are removed. They
are packed into tomato field boxes, the sides of which are lined
with paper and the bottom containing a layer of moist sphag-
num moss. Plants are placed in the crate in vertical position
with tops up. Plants fill the crate but are not packed too tightly
These plants are placed in cold storage for 60 days before being
set out in February. The ideal conditions of storage are 30-340
F. and 88-96% humidity. However, even an ice-storage room
at 25-340 F., where plants have frozen solid, has been found
When plants are refrigerated for 60 days and set out in
February, they produce runner plants just as quickly as do
those plants which come from the North at that time.
However, note that this is the only time of year that refriger-
ation of plants is of value. Refrigerated plants set out in May
and June do not survive as well as those not refrigerated.
Refrigeration of plants for Fall setting makes plants late in
producing fruit. Many runners are produced after setting.
Nursery Plants.-The rows of plants set for Spring nurseries
are usually given one application of 4-7-5 commercial fertilizer
(20 pounds per 1,000 plants) shortly after setting to give them
a good start. Broadcast some good organic material such as
castor pomace, tankage, etc., in the flat middles between beds
at the rate of 1,000 pounds per acre. Keep these flat middles
harrowed and as the runners are produced, work soil to the
sides of the beds. Thus, the runners will always have soft
soil in which to pin down. Gradually the beds are increased
in width and filled with plants until only a small water furrow
is left in the middle.
Don't over-fertilize nursery plants.
Fruiting Plants.-Fertilization prior to bedding of land or
at bedding time has been discussed. When such fertilizing is
done it will not be necessary to fertilize again until 4 weeks
If fertilizer was not applied before or during bedding, make the
first application after the set plants have become established
and after the beds have been hoed for the first time. On two-
row beds, make this application between the two rows-this is
the only time that fertilizer should be applied on top of the bed
between the rows. Make all following applications on the side.
On one-row beds all applications are made on the side.
Apply fertilizers at a rate of 20 pounds for each 1,000 plants.
In most cases, this will be 300-400 pounds per acre. Make ap-
plications at four- to six-week intervals so as to maintain a fairly
uniform level of fertility in the soil. Of course, moist soil is
necessary for fertilizer materials to dissolve and become available
to plants. Hence, do not make another application until the pre-
ceding application has become available to plants. Burning of
plants often takes place when too much fertilizer is present in
dry soil and a light shower of rain or light irrigation makes a
strong solution surrounding the roots.
For Florida Ninety fruit, it is imperative that the fertilizer
have twice as much potash as nitrogen. Use such formulas as
4-4-8, 4-6-8, 4-8-8 for all applications. If for any reason more
potash is necessary, side-dress with muriate of potash, using
100 pounds per acre. Apply potash evenly and, to avoid burning
of roots, do not exceed 100 pounds per acre. Do not use "hot
shots." If some top-dresser seems to be necessary, use nitrate
of potash not to exceed 100 pounds per acre.
Even Missionary fruit is better if higher potash fertilizers are
Time shallow cultivations to keep down heavy weed growth
and to prevent crusting of the soil. Deep cultivation is neither
necessary nor desirable. The manner of hoeing is important.
Up to fruiting time, a soil mulch should be maintained on the
bed and soil raked to the plants if necessary. However, during
the period of fruit production the tops of beds should be shaved
lightly to get rid of weeds. A dirt mulch at this time is not
desirable, as the fruit sinks easily into this loose soil during
rains and subsequently rots. Chemical weed control has been
tested in Florida, but as yet no chemical has been found safe
to use on strawberry.
Mulching is employed to keep fruit clean by preventing its
coming in direct contact with the soil. Pine straw and native
grass straw are the materials most commonly used. Shavings
are used to a limited extent in some areas. Mulching is prac-
ticed in the Starke-Lawtey area, in Manatee County and on the
East Coast. The fruit from mulched plants is comparatively
free of sand and washing is not necessary. Usually when plants
are not mulched, as is the case in the Plant City area, all fruit
must be washed before it is packed.
Application of mulch is usually delayed as long as possible to
permit continued cultivation and fertilization. The material
is commonly put on about the time the plants begin to bloom. It
may cover just the tops of the beds or tops and middles.
There are some disadvantages connected with mulching. Mulch
harbors insects, delays early fruiting due to lower soil tempera-
tures in mulched plots and makes weed control difficult. Frost
damage is usually more severe to plants in mulched areas.
At least 80 percent of the strawberry fields in Florida now
have some type of irrigation.
Overhead Irrigation.-This is the type most commonly used
in Central Florida and may be permanent installations or port-
able pipe. Various types of sprinklers or perforated pipe are
Surface or Flood Irrigation.-Water is run down the alleys
between beds. This method is not now used as much as formerly
because of the high labor cost and length of time required to
Seep Irrigation.-On the East Coast and in the South Central
area of the State this type of irrigation may be used. Deep
furrows or ditches are located at 30- to 50-foot intervals in
the field. These are filled with water and irrigation takes place
by a lateral movement of water through the soil.
The ideal program of irrigation and drainage is one which
will result in as uniform a supply of soil moisture as possible.
At present there is not much attempt being made to protect
blossoms and fruit from frost and freezing temperatures. Two
methods are still being used to a limited extent.
Paper Cover.-Paper of the proper width is applied to the
beds to cover the plants. Soil is used to weight down the edges
of the paper to prevent its being blown away. This protection
is of some value during frosts, but not during freezes. With
careful handling, paper can be used several times.
Overhead Irrigation with Fine Nozzles.-By this method irri-
gation is started before the temperature drops to 32 and is
continued until the temperature is again above 320 and all ice
has been melted from the plants.
Picking and Packing
Picking is done preferably early in morning when the fruit
is cool. The stems are pinched off in picking and ought not
to be more than 1/4" long, as longer stems interfere with proper
packing. Fruit must not be snatched from the plant nor should
a number of berries be held in the hands at one time. After
Picking Strawberries in Florida.
picking, it is important that fruit be carried to the packing shed
before long exposure to the sun. Close supervision of picking
generally pays dividends.
If berries are picked from unmulched plants it is commonly
necessary to wash the sand from the fruit. When the fruit is
washed before packing, frequent changing of the wash water
will result in less Rhizopus rot (leak) in transit. The berries
should be allowed to drain fairly dry before being packed, so
that the cups will not become wet and unsightly by the time they
reach the market. Well-packed fruit, in clean white cups, is more
attractive and commands a better price.
Nothing except firm, ripe, fair-sizer berries should be packed.
All imperfect, decayed, green or small (less than 3/ inches
through greatest diameter) fruit should be discarded.
Culls may be packed and sold as such but it would be better
for the strawberry industry if no culls were packed and only a
good grade of fruit marketed.
Pack the fruit firmly enough to prevent perceptible settling
in the cup before reaching destination. The top is crowned
slightly but not so much that the fruit is crushed by the divider
Oblong pint boxes in 36-pint crates have been the standard
containers. During recent years, a new 24-pint wire-
bound crate has been tested. It consists of two layers of 12 pints
each. The top layer is self-supporting and hence does not press
on the fruit below it. This results in less loss of fruit due to
crushed strawberries. The markets like the new crates for two
reasons-(1) because of the smaller size and (2) because fruit
arrives in better condition.
If a covered truck is not used for transporting the fruit from
the field to the shipping platform, the fruit should be covered
with a light-colored, preferably white, cloth. Air should be
allowed to circulate freely about the fruit during the trip. This
circulation will evaporate some of the water remaining on the
berries from washing and thus slightly lower the temperature.
Since Florida strawberries are sold as fancy fruit and as
a rule command a good price, it is the duty of every grower
to see that a quality pack of fruit is maintained. U. S. Grade
No. 1 should be observed in packing strawberries.
At present, there is very little blueberry growing on a com-
mercial scale in Florida. At one time, though, there was a
rather extensive planting in west Florida.
According to State Department of Agriculture Bulletin No.
33,** M. A. Sapp of Crestview took rabbiteye blueberries from
the woods and planted them in orchard formation some time
before the turn of the century. In 1929, there were 200 acres
planted to blueberries on the Sapp plantation. Others in the
Crestview area also planted blueberries, and at one time about
2,000 acres were growing.
The variety of blueberry that grows wild in the river valleys
and the edges of woods in northern Florida is the rabbiteye.
This blueberry can grow in locations with more upland con-
ditions than can the highbush blueberry. Besides, it requires
only a short rest period caused by chilling in winter. It is not
as sensitive to soil acidity and is far more heat and drought
resistant than the highbush.
Much of the fruit that has been shipped to market from the
South has come from unselected rabbiteye berries. This was
the case in the west Florida plantings mentioned above. Many
such bushes produce poor, gritty-fleshed berries, which lack
flavor. For this reason, the rabbiteye berry has had a poor repu-
tation in the markets.
New Rabbiteye Varieties.-Since 1940, the USDA and the
Georgia Coastal Plain Experiment Station have cooperated in
a large-scale breeding and selection program with the rabbiteye
blueberry. Their first step was to get better plants from seedling
plantations, mostly from the west Florida area.
Their initial crosses between two such superior seedlings-
Myers and Black Giant-resulted in the release, in 1950, of
two named varieties, Coastal and Calloway. These were the first
two named varieties of rabbiteye blueberries to come from con-
*Material for this section was drawn chiefly from USDA Farmers Bulletin
No. 1951, Blueberry Growing, by George M. Darbrow, J. B. Demaree, and
W. E. Tomlinson, Jr. Information on new rabbiteye berries-as well as
general information-came from Ralph H. Sharpe, associate horticulturist
of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations.
**Out of print.
A blueberry seedling being grown out at the Florida Agricultural Ex-
periment Stations. This seedling is the result of a natural cross between
high quality rabbiteye berries.
In November, 1955, the Coastal Plain Station released two
more new rabbiteye blueberries as a result of their breeding
program. These are Homebell and Tifblue. Homebell resulted
from the same cross as Calloway, while Tifblue is the result of
a cross between Ethel and Clara made in 1945.
The Coastal Plain Station says that the fruit of Homebell
ripens a few days later than Calloway. The berries are larger
than those of Calloway and firmer. In flavor, they equal Callo-
way, and have a good scar. The plant is vigorous, exceptionally
productive, and is easy to propagate. The Station recommends
it as a home garden and local market variety.
Tifblue fruit is larger than Calloway. Color is light blue-
much lighter blue than most other rabbiteye varieties, which
tend to be rather dark. The scar of Tifblue is small and dry
and the berries are firm. Flavor is good. Plant is upright, mod-
erately vigorous, and berries are easy to pick. Tifblue is harder
to propagate than is Homebell. The Coastal Plain Station recom-
mends it for trial for general market use.
Florida Breeding Program.-Ralph Sharpe of the Florida
Station is engaged in a breeding program that should add an-
other type of blueberry to the lists of those which can be grown
in Florida. He has crossed a native evergreen blueberry that
grows in central Florida with the rabbiteye. Sharpe made the
first crosses in 1952, and made further crosses in 1953 and later
years. These in turn have been crossed with the northern high-
Sharpe states, "Eventual objectives are good blue-fruited
evergreen plants with much wider adaptation than the presently
available horticultural varieties of V. ashei. Both species can
stand considerable drought, are accustomed to warm, humid
summers and mild winters, and the seedlings should show good
climatic adaptation. . One selection ripened its fruit in 64
to 72 days. This offers promise that earlier ripening selections
might also result from the use of this material."
Crosses have also been made between Florida Evergreen
species and the northern highbush varieties by the USDA in
cooperation with the Florida Experiment Station.
Blueberries require acid soils, although the rabbiteye is not as
critical as the highbush. The best wild growths usually are
found on soils of about pH 4.5 to 5. The USDA states, "The best
indication that blueberries may succeed on a soil is that they
or some related species, such as huckleberries, are found grow-
ing there naturally. Open, porous soils . have been found best
A soil test is the best indication of the pH level of the soil.
You can get a free test made on your soil by the Soils Depart-
ment of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations. For
details on this, see your local county agent. If the soil is too
acid, the pH may be raised by the use of limestone. If it is
too sweet, you can lower the pH by adding sulfur or ammonium
Good Drainage Essential.-Although the highbush and rab-
biteye blueberries are both natives of swamp and moist lands,
cultivated fields should be well drained. The blueberry is con-
sidered a shallow-rooted plant because it survives in swamps
and is not often found on high, dry sites. Vigorous productive
bushes, however, can grow only where there is an extensive soil
volume not saturated with water during the growing season,
and only for short times during the dormant season. Under such
favorable conditions, an extensive root system develops that
can support a large bush and crop. If, because of heavy rains
or poor drainage, the water table is raised for several days,
the root system may be weakened or the plants killed; some-
times the lower part of the root system is killed so that when
a drought follows such injury the whole plant may die. Take
precautions to obtain proper drainage. The low-lying soils usually
selected for blueberries often have depressions or pockets from
which the water does not drain out and the blueberry plants are
The months of December and January are best for planting
blueberries. When plants are set early, winter and spring rains
help settle the loose soil around the roots. Early planting also
provides time for at least partial regrowth of the damaged and
reduced root system. Plants grown in cans may be set at any
time during the year, though the summer rainy season is best.
Space requirements for blueberries will vary with varieties.
Set the plants from 10 to 15 feet each way, depending on the
vigor of the variety.
Cultivate blueberries shallowly and only as much as is needed
to control grass and weed growth. Blueberry feeder roots grow
close to the surface. As a result, deep cultivation near the
plants causes root injury. This damage retards growth and
Fertilizer needs will naturally vary with the different soils
planted to blueberries. On fertile soils very little fertilizer may
be required, while on poor soils larger amounts may be necessary
to maintain satisfactory growth. Stable manure should not
be used except as careful trials have shown it safe to use. It has
sometimes been very injurious, but light applications to some of
the more acid soils have been beneficial.
For locations where satisfactory practices are still unknown,
make one application of a complete fertilizer (use 400 to 600
pounds of a 5-10-5 or similar mixture) in the spring at the
time the buds are starting. Follow this six weeks later-if the
soil is not very acid (pH 4.8 or above)-with an application of
110 pounds of ammonium sulfate per acre. If the soil is below
4.8, use an equivalent amount of nitrogen in the form of nitrate
of soda (150 pounds per acre). On more infertile fields, repeat
this nitrogen application at six-week intervals for one or two
applications; fertile fields do not need these later applications.
Broadcast the fertilizer to within 6 to 12 inches of the plant and
out as far as the roots extend.
If the foliage of the plants show a chlorosis, or yellowing,
always use ammonium sulfate as a source of nitrogen. On loams,
where nitrogen is not needed, you may use sulfur in place of the
Most areas where blueberries are grown are subject to
droughts severe enough to injure both the plants and the crops.
More and more blueberry growers are providing for irrigation.
Many blueberry growers use an overhead sprinkler system, which
can be used for frost protection also. Under ideal conditions of
drainage and irrigation, excess water can be quickly removed
during or after storms. In times of drought, apply 1 to 2 acre-
inches of water about 10 days apart during the picking season
and as needed later in the season during the heat of summer.
Mulching with sawdust or other materials helps to conserve
Mulching with leaves, sawdust, hay, or straw, as suggested
for home garden plots of blueberries, has been followed com-
mercially on small areas with success. Mulching materials ap-
plied to a depth of several inches keep down weeds, keep
the soil cooler in summer, help to retain soil moisture, and
help to control erosion. The plant rows may be covered for
2 to 212 feet on each side, or the entire area may be mulched.
Leguminous hay mulches (clover, soybean, etc.) have sometimes
been injurious and should not be used unless thorough trial has
shown no injury over a period of a year or more. When using
leaves, sawdust, hay, or straw, you will need to apply additional
nitrogen to obtain good growth. Instead of using the 110 pounds
of ammonium sulfate per acre required where mulches are not
applied, make two applications, each of 300 pounds per acre, on
mulched areas, 6 weeks apart. For small plantings scatter one-
third of one-half pound of fertilizer per bush over the surface
at each application, not closer than 6 to 8 inches to the base of
Home Garden Culture
You can grow blueberries successfully in home gardens if the
soil is naturally acid or is properly treated. They do not succeed
in ordinary rich garden soils. Check the section on soils for
information on this subject. For small plantings, mulches are
advisable to help keep down weeds and grass, to conserve mois-
ture and to help keep the ground cool. Plant at least two varie-
ties in your garden to assure pollination.
Growing Home Garden Berries in Tubs.-The Michigan Agri-
cultural Experiment Station has described a novel method of
growing blueberries in soils not naturally suited for them. This
consists of growing the berries in half of an old 50-gallon oil
drum sunk into the ground. This is the method:
Cut an old drum into two equal parts. Make four 2-inch
drainage holes in the bottom of each half of the drum. Clean
the tubs thus formed by burning to remove any oil, paint, or
other materials in it.
Choose a sunny location, not too close to trees or large shrubs.
Dig holes large enough to hold the tubs, leaving about an inch
of the top rim of the tubs protruding above ground.
If proper soil is available, get a supply of soil having plenty
of organic matter with a pH of 4.0 to 5.1. A soil test will give
you the most reliable information on soil reaction. You can
make up a suitable soil mixture by mixing 2 parts of acid peat
with 1 part of the soil available in your area. Plant one plant in
each tub early in the spring.
After planting spread a small handful of a complete garden
fertilizer such as 8-8-8 on the surface of the soil in each tub.
Don't put fertilizer into the holes with the plants. Apply ferti-
lizer early each spring, using a second application in June.
Water the tubbed berries when necessary to keep the soil
moderately moist. But avoid watering too much. You can con-
serve moisture around your plants by using a mulch of oak
leaves, peat moss or old sawdust. Don't use sawdust fresh from
the mill, but aged sawdust. These materials will also help keep
the soil acid. Blueberries are very similar in their requirements
Blueberries may be propagated in several different ways, in-
cluding by seeds and by soft and hardwood cuttings. Make hard-
wood cuttings from the dormant shoots of the previous season's
growth, making the lower cut just below a bud and the upper
cut just above one. These cuttings can be rooted either in
ground beds with lath shade or in covered frames.
Softwood cuttings can be rooted easily and successfully in
early summer under constant or intermittent mist. After root-
ing, the plants should be grown in a nursery for one year before
field setting. For more information on constant mist propaga-
tion, ask for Extension Circular at your county agent's office.
While blueberries may be grown from seeds, this method is
slow and seedlings will not be true to the parental charac-
Diseases and Insects
Blueberry Diseases.-Relatively few diseases attack rabbiteye
blueberries. Among the most important of these are stem
canker, mildew and leaf spots. However, most of the named
varieties are either immune or carry a high degree of resistance
to these diseases.
Stem Canker.-This disease first becomes established in new
shoots. It is hard to see at first, but becomes more widespread
from year to year. It finally forms large, more or less swollen
cankers with deep cracks; or forms a grayish area, only slightly
swollen with an uneven dark surface. Stem canker is spread
by spores which develop in tiny black receptacles on the surface
of the cankers.
This disease is hard, if not impossible, to control by spraying,
pruning out cankered branches, or even removing the whole
plant. Best control is to plant resistant selections. Fortunately,
most named rabbiteye berries are resistant to stem canker.
Powdery Mildew.-This disease is widespread on blueberries,
and does more damage some years than others. Some varieties
are more resistant to it than others. Spraying with a 4-4-50
bordeaux mixture will control this disease. The new rabbiteye
varieties are not seriously affected when grown in full sun but
are subject to mildew when grown in shade.
Other Diseases.-While there are a number of other blueberry
diseases, they usually do not occur in Florida, or are of minor
Blueberry Insect Pests.-Very little injury has so far resulted
from insects on blueberries in Florida. For help on specific in-
sect problems, contact your local county agent or write to the
Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations.
No raspberry was grown with success in South Florida until
the introduction a few years ago of a tropical black raspberry,
Rubus Albescens Roxb. (synonym, Rubus lasiocarpus Smith).
This raspberry is native to the mountains of India, Ceylon,
*The material in this section was adapted from Florida Agricultural Ex-
periment Station Circular S-56, A Tropical Black Raspberry for South
Florida, by R. Bruce Ledin.
Burma and Java, where it grows at an elevation of 1,500 to
10,000 feet. It has been cultivated to a limited extent in India
for many years. In the Far East, it is known as the Mysore,
Ceylon and Hill raspberry.
The Mysore raspberry was first introduced into this country
in the summer of 1948 from seeds sent to the University of
Florida Sub-Tropical Experiment Station by Mr. B. F. Harring-
ton of Natal, South Africa. Mr. Harrington obtained his original
seed from a nursery in Kenya, East Africa, in 1947. This nursery
in turn had introduced the plant directly from India many
years before. Seedlings were set in the field in the spring of
1949. The first fruiting took place in the winter of 1950. Selected
plants were propagated and distributed to a few local nuseries.
By the summer of 1952 many nurseries in South Florida were
advertising the Mysore black raspberry for sale.
Trial plantings show this tropical black raspberry to be well
adapted to the climate and soils of South Florida. The rasp-
berry has grown well throughout that area of the state which
is designated as "subtropical." This includes the coastal areas
south from Merritt Island on the East Coast, and south from
St. Petersburg on the West Coast. The plants have grown well
in the Belle Glade area and in protected locations in Central
Florida. They tolerate a certain amount of cold weather -
temperatures as low as 350 F. have not been harmful-but a
temperature of 290 F. for a short period has killed leaves and
young tender growth. Plants grown in Gainesville have been
killed back to the ground, or in some cases killed outright, by
prolonged freezing weather.
The young stems of this raspberry are glaucous and possess
straight or hooked sharp prickles. The leaves have 5- to 9-
toothed, prominently veined leaflets. These are dark green in
color and have white matted hairs on the lower surface; the
leaflets have curved prickles. The flowers are % to 1/3 inch in
diameter and are produced in terminal and axillary clusters of
8 or more on young lateral shoots near the tips of the mature
canes. The 5 sepals persist at the base of the fruit and are as
long as the petals; the 5 petals are purplish-pink in color; the
stamens are numerous and form a ring around the receptacle
in the center of the flower; the tuft of styles are reddish in color.
Fruiting branches of Rubus albescens.
The compound fruit is 1/. to 3/ inch ir diameter, consisting of
numerous segments which become red or orange-red. On ripen-
ing they turn a dark purple color and are covered with a fine
The fruit is juicy, mildly pleasant, ,lightly sweet, and with
a good flavor. In Florida they possess r inute hairs that do not
detract from appearance or taste. The seeds are relatively small
and the druplets are similar in size to those of the Northern
The plants have a typical raspberry-like growth, producing
several shoots or canes from the crown or the lower part of the
old stems. These canes may grow 10 to 15 feet during the
summer months; when pruned properly they will produce short
lateral branches which bear the flower and fruits during the
winter and spring months. Flowering b gins in early December
and fruit will first appear in late Decem er; flowering and fruit-
ing will continue into May and June, the peak being reached in
March, April and May.
Sometimes new canes produced during spring months will
reach sufficient size by the end of MPy or early June to begin
to flower and fruit; this may continue into July and even into
August. However, these summer fruits lack flavor and size and
are not desirable.
The Mysore raspberry can be propagated by seeds, cuttings
or tip layers. Plants possessing better-tasting berries should
be propagated vegetatively. While large numbers of plants are
conveniently raised from seed, there are several disadvantages
in this method: 1, the seedlings are susceptible to damping-off;
2, the plants exhibit variation, especially in the fruit flavor;
and 3, germination is slow and irregular.
Tip Layering.-Perhaps the best and easiest method of propa-
gating this raspberry is by the tip layering method, as described
for blackberries. It can be done at any time of year, but the
best time is during late summer, after the fruiting season is
over and the plants are growing vigorously.
Bend the long arching canes down to the ground, or into
suitable containers, and cover the portion of the stem just
below the terminal leaves with soil to a depth of one or two
inches. You can put a small weight on top of the covered
portion to hold the cane in place until rooting has occurred.
Rooting takes place within two to three weeks. Then you may
cut the cane just back of the rooted portion. Allow a good
root system to develop before setting the plants in the field.
Cuttings.-If the raspberry is to be propagated from cuttings,
select large, young healthy canes. Although they can be rooted
any time of the year, you will have more success if you root
them in late summer and early fall when the weather is warm
and humid. Cut the canes into pieces 6 to 12 inches in length,
each piece having several lateral buds as well as leaves. Place
the pieces in a rooting bench with moist sand and protect them
from direct sunlight and wind.
Somewhat better success has been obtained by rooting the
cuttings in a constant mist rooting bench in a mixture of peat
moss and sawdust. If this method is used, it will be necessary
to gradually acclimate the rooted cuttings to an atmosphere
with less moisture. As soon as a good root system has been
formed, put the cuttings in suitable containers, rather than
transplanting them directly to the field.
Seeds.-For the best germination, select seeds from fully ripe
fruit and plant as soon as they have been separated from the
pulp. If the seeds are not to be planted immediately, dry them
and store them in the refrigerator. You can separate seeds from
the fruits by squeezing the berries in a piece of cheesecloth and
allowing water to run through to wash the pulp away. Then
spread them out on a piece of paper to dry. Afterwards, mix
them with fine sand before sowing for easier handling to prevent
The time necessary for germination will vary-some seeds will
require three to four weeks, some six weeks and some as long
as several months. Germination may be hastened and made more
uniform by soaking the beds in concentrated sulphuric acid for
40 to 60 minutes, followed by thorough washing in cold running
water, prior to planting.
Several precautions should be observed with this method:
first, use sulphuric acid with care, since this strong acid will
burn the skin and clothing; second, never pour water into the
acid, instead pour the acid slowly into a large container of water;
third, seeds should be thoroughly dry before they are immersed
in the acid; fourth, the seeds must be washed thoroughly in
Propagating the tropical black raspberry by tip layering.
running water. To do this, slowly pour the acid, together with
the seeds, into a large container of water; then, cover the con-
tainer with a piece of cheesecloth to prevent the seeds from
being washed away, and let running water wash out all the acid.
When seedlings are three or four inches tall and have pro-
duced several leaves, transplant them into individual containers.
Seeds planted in March and April should produce seedlings large
enough to plant out during the late summer months. With
good growth in the field, they may flower and fruit the following
winter. However, if the plants are set out in the late fall months,
flowering and fruiting may be delayed until late spring. In this
case, don't expect a good crop of berries until the following year
when the plants are 11/ years old.
The tropical black raspberry has grown well in the rocky alka-
line soil of Dade County and in the acid sands that prevail over
most of the state. The plants grow best in a relatively rich soil.
Do not plant them in soils that are subjected to flooding, and it
is important that the soil be well drained the year around.
Planting.-This black raspberry may be planted in hills or in
rows. In the hill system the plants are set equidistant each
way so cultivation can be practiced in both directions. The
interval between the plants should be 6 to 8 feet. In the row
system, the plants are set 21/2 to 4 feet apart and the rows 6
to 8 feet apart. The plants should be 12 to 18 inches high when
set out, but larger stock may be used if the canes are cut back.
Water and shade should be provided until the plants are estab-
lished. The plants can be set out in the field at any time of the
year. If they are planted in the spring or early summer and pro-
duce sufficient growth during the summer and fall months, they
will produce fruit the following winter and spring when only
one year old.
Support.-For best growth and ease in picking the berries,
support provided by stakes or trellises is recommended. If the
hill system is used, one or more wooden or metal stakes about
eight feet high can be placed by each plant and the individual
canes can then be tied loosely with twine to the stake nearest it.
If the plants are in rows, you can use a two-wire trellis. Place
posts every 15 to 20 feet along the row. Then string two wires
between the posts, the first wire two to three feet above the
ground and the second five to six feet from the ground. Tie
canes with twine to these wires.
Cultivation and Irrigation.-The plants are shallow rooted,
so it is not advisable to cultivate except as needed to control
weeds. The plants require a good supply of water, especially
during the dry winter months. Soak the soil for at least one
foot during each watering.
Mulching.-The use of a heavy mulch around the plants is
recommended, as it helps to conserve moisture and control weeds.
This may be of straw, grass, hay, leaves, wood shavings, saw-
dust or similar material. It is especially advisable to mulch
plants that are growing in sandy soil. A mulch also helps to
keep the soil at a lower and more uniform temperature.
Fertilizing.-Fertilize the raspberry frequently and liberally
for luxuriant growth and heavy production of fruit. A low
analysis fertilizer, 4-7-5-3 (MgO), containing 40 percent organic
nitrogen, has been used with good success on rocky soils of Dade
County. The applications were made twice a month until the
plants had obtained a good growth; thereafter, an application
every one or two months was sufficient. After the main fruiting
season was over, usually in June, applications twice a month were
again made until the plants had resumed vigorous growth.
About one-half pound (two handfuls) were applied around
the base of each plant for a diameter of two feet. On sandy
soils, however, this amount of fertilizer would probably be ex-
cessive. Bonemeal and compost, chicken manure, and other
organic materials have been reported to give good results. A
nutritional spray containing zinc, copper, manganese and lime
has been beneficial to plants growing in the rocky alkaline soil
of Dade County.
Pruning.-The tropical black raspberry grows the year around
in Southern Florida, making rapid growth during the summer
and fall months, flowering and fruiting in the winter and spring.
Fruit is produced on young lateral branches, the best and largest
fruit appearing on the laterals of the thickest and strongest
canes. One of the main purposes of pruning is to develop canes
that bear several lateral branches, which in turn produce the
secondary laterals on which the fruit is borne.
It must be emphasized that this black raspberry is a con-
tinuous grower in southern Florida, yet its fruiting period should
be confined to the winter and spring months. Fruits that are
Tropical black raspberry three weeks after the November pruning, showing
the numerous secondary lateral branches on which fruiting will take place.
produced in the summer are not of good quality and they should
be discouraged by proper pruning; yet at the same time vigorous
vegetative growth during the summer and fall must be en-
couraged. These objectives have been best realized by the fol-
lowing pruning schedule:
1. Make the first pruning in late spring and early summer
when the canes are nearing the end of their fruiting period.
This is indicated by yellowing of the leaves and production of
low quality fruit. The old canes are susceptible to anthracnose
infection. Cut them off close to the ground. At this time, re-
move all dead wood and thin individual plants to four to six
of the most vigorous and healthiest canes. Burn all trimmings.
2. Pruning during the summer months is done mainly to dis-
courage summer flowering. Summer blooming will take place on
the canes that have been produced early in the spring (March
and April). Remove these early shoots from the plant, provided
there are sufficient number of shoots or buds present at the base
of the plant to develop new growth.
Another way to avoid summer flowering is to let the most
vigorous shoots continue to elongate until the end of summer
(August and September), when they can be cut back to five
feet or so. This late summer pruning will encourage lateral
branches to grow during the fall months; at this time of year
no flowering or fruiting is likely to occur.
3. In November, another pruning will be necessary. Trim
back the lateral branches that have been growing since the
previous pruning so that they are only 8 to 10 inches long.
This will then force secondary lateral branches to develop. At
this time cut out all dead wood again and thin the canes to about
five per plant, leaving the most vigorous shoots. Burn all trim-
mings. This November pruning is important, for flowers and
fruit will be produced the following month, and the more secon-
dary branches on the plant the more fruit produced.
Diseases and Pests
This tropical black raspberry has been relatively free of
fungus diseases thus far and has seldom been bothered by
insect pests. In time, of course, diseases and pests may become
Anthracnose or Cane Spot.-Fungus infection of old canes is
almost universal in raspberries. The tropical black raspberry
has developed symptoms on the older canes that are very similar
to those attributed to cane spot. It usually does not develop
until after the canes have neared the end of their fruiting period.
Beginning as oval, circular or irregular patches, dark in color
and scabby, it is very noticeable on the otherwise white canes.
The most satisfactory control is to keep the area around the
plants clean, and to burn all the trimmings-especially the old
canes that have already produced fruit. This will help to hold
the disease in check and to prevent widespread infection of the
mature canes. To date it has not been necessary to spray for
control of this disease. However, if this infection does become
severe, spraying with bordeaux mixture (4 pounds copper sul-
fate, 4 pounds hydrated lime, and 50 gallons of water) may
Damping Off.-Dusting the seeds with Spergon, Semesan or
other seed-protectant compounds, at the time that they are
mixed with fine sand, aids in the control of damping-off. Also,
you may plant the seeds in a mixture of peat moss and ver-
miculite, or in sphagnum moss. The acid condition of these
media discourage the growth of damping-off fungi. If damping-
off appears in the seedlings, a liquid suspension of Spergon ap-
plied around the base of the seedlings and on the soil will help
to check the disease.
Insects.-The two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus bimacu-
latus Harvey) has been observed infesting seedling plants grow-
ing in the nursery under slat shade. This mite usually is found
on the under surface of the leaves, causing them to curl at the
edges and turn yellow. Sulfur dust has been used to control
the mite without damage to the plants. However, it should be
used with caution, since sulfur dust used on raspberries in the
Northern states in hot weather has been reported to burn the
leaves and cause leaf fall.
The Southern green stink bug, pumpkin or squash bug
(Nezara viridula (L)) has been observed occasionally to sting
the fruit and flower buds. The fruit thus stung is very ill-
tasting. However, a severe infestation of this bug has not been
observed on the black raspberry and it has not been necessary
to use any measures to control it.
Wind.-During the spring months may do some damage by
blowing the branches around so that the spines on the plants
tear the leaves, puncture the berries and injure the stems, pro-
viding entrance for anthracnose. Wind damage can be reduced
if the canes are tied securely to the wires. Also planting in
a sheltered location may provide some help.
When the plants are bearing heavily, pick the berries at least
three times a week. Like other raspberries, this tropical black
raspberry is extremely perishable; the fruits mold easily and
the black color fades to a dark red. Handle the berries very
carefully and observe the following precautions when picking.
Do not pick berries that are under ripe or over-ripe-the fruit
when mature will be a very dark purple-black in color and
should come off easily when a very slight pressure is applied.
Never pick wet berries.
Several types of containers can be used, but the regular
wooden pint-size berry box will probably be the most satis-
The pint-size berry box is recommended as the most suitable type
of container for fruits of the tropical black raspberry.
The maximum yield of the tropical black raspberry will be
realized only if you employ the proper cultural practices-
watering when necessary, fertilizing frequently, mulching, prun-
ing, stalking or trellising, etc. The only yield data available are
from plants that have been under observation at the Sub-
Tropical Experiment Station. These plants, over a four-month
period (March through June), produced an average of 12 to 15
pints per bush. Approximately 200 berries fill one pint, which
weighs about one-half pound. In 1950, eight bushes yielded
100 pints (50 pounds). In 1951, 10 plants yielded 153 pints
Use as Food
The fruit of this black raspberry can be used in the same way
as the regular blackcaps of the Northern states. The berries
may be eaten out of hand or they may be used as a dessert,
served with sugar and cream or with honey. Also they may be
mixed with other fruits, such as bananas, and eaten with a
breakfast cereal. The berries blend well with vanilla ice cream;
thus served they make a delicious dessert. They can also be
used in making jam, jelly, preserves, pies and tarts.
The Flordagrand Blackberry grows well in the State. (Photo by Florida
Agricultural Experiment Station.)
Interest is increasing in the cultivation of blackberries in
Florida, particularly for home garden and local market use. Best
results depend on the selection of varieties adapted to the area
and on the use of good cultural practices.
Several blackberry species, notably Rubus trivialis and Rubus
cuneifolius, are native of Florida. They have been widely har-
vested for home use and are available in limited amounts on
many local markets. The wild crop, however, has a number of
*Material in this section was adapted from Florida Agricultural Experi-
ment Station Circular S-112, "Flordagrand, A New Blackberry for Home
Gardens and Local Markets" by J. S. Shoemaker, J. W. Wilson, and R. H.
undesirable features, including comparatively small berries,
lack of uniformity, low yield, slow picking, and late ripening.
Early history of blackberry growing in Florida included efforts
to grow Northern varieties and follow cultural practices used in
Northern regions. Northern varieties have consistently failed
here for several reasons, particularly because the winters, ex-
cept in occasional years, are not cold enough to break the normal
rest period which is needed to force the plants into growth the
following spring. Northern cultural practices are not successful
in Florida because the blackberry has entirely different growth
characteristics in a warmer climate. For example, the black-
berry is deciduous in the North, but evergreen, or practically so,
in adapted types, in the deep South. Therefore a wide difference
occurs in suitable varieties and in essential cultural practices.
Flordagrand. This variety was bred by the Florida Agricul-
tural Experiment Station from a cross of Regal Ness (from
eastern Texas) and a selection of the native Rubus trivialis. It
was made available to Florida nurseries in January, 1958, to
build up a supply of plants. In general, on good sites, Florda-
grand probably is best adapted to the area roughly bounded by
Tampa, Orlando, and Sanford on the south and Starke on the
north. Success farther north may be limited by the fact that
Flordagrand blooms earlier than native blackberries and thus
may be more subject to damage by frost in northern parts of
the state, and also on low sites. Chief merits of Flordagrand
are that the berries ripen about a month earlier than nearby
wild blackberries, its large and attractive berries, high produc-
tiveness, vigorous plants, ease of propagation, and strong re-
sistance to disease.
Other Varieties. The Advance variety has smaller fruit than
Floragrand and seems to require another variety for cross-
pollination. Boysen and Young have a higher chilling require-
ment than Floragrand, and although of better quality, they
yield poorly in most parts of the state. They do fairly well in
northwestern Florida but still are not as productive there as
could be desired. All the varieties mentioned are of the trailing
type. No variety of the erect type, such as the northern Eldo-
rado, is adapted to Florida's climate.
The two leading methods of propagation for blackberries in
Florida are leafy stem cuttings and tip layers.
Leafy Stem Cuttings. Leafy stem cuttings provide an excel-
lent means of propagating trailing-type blackberries by nursery-
men who have a mist system of supplying water. The canes are
cut during the growing season into 5- to 8-inch pieces. These
pieces are placed upright, 2 to 3 inches apart, in an equal mix-
ture of peat and perlite (or equivalent mixture) and left there,
without shade, until rooted. Cuttings should not be inserted more
than about 11/2 inches deep in trays, because of adverse effects of
poor drainage and aeration. Also, they should not be left a long
time in the propagating medium, because of its low fertility.
After cuttings have rooted they should be removed from
under the mist and "hardened off" for field planting. Place them
where water can be supplied as needed.
Tip Layers. The tip layering method produces fewer plants
per cane (usually only one) instead of the larger number from
leafy stem cuttings, but it does not require specialized equip-
ment. A good time to layer is in October and slightly later. The
tips are inserted a few inches deep into the ground, just deep
enough not to pull out, and are left attached to the parent cane
until they form a root system. A better root system results
from a vertical insertion than from horizontal layering.
The returns from a high-yielding planting of moderate size are
likely to be such that the grower can afford to use good land
for blackberry crops.
The cooler fall, winter, and spring months are preferred for
shipping and for setting blackberry plants. With extra care,
labor and cost, blackberry plants in cans may be successfully in
Florida at almost any time of the year, especially if they can
Allow 6 to 8 feet in the row for the long canes. The best
spacing between rows depends largely on the equipment used
in caring for the planting. Often, 10 feet between rows is a
Cultivation near the plants should be shallow, since deep
cutting destroys a part of the root system and retards growth.
Eliminating weeds, particularly grass, should start on the pro-
posed site some time before the plants are set. At that time it
is easier to work the land in several directions and deeper work-
ing can be done before blackberries are set.
Blackberries usually make more growth than is actually
needed. But good yields of high-quality berries will not result
if there is a deficiency of any required nutrient. Wise use of
fertilizer should accompany other good cultural practices.
A blanket recommendation on the best kind and amount of
fertilizer to apply per plant is difficult to give for all conditions.
In general, an application is suggested of about 1/4 pound of a
mixed fertilizer, such as 8-8-8, around each plant two weeks
after planting, keeping it 8 to 12 inches from the young plant.
In subsequent years apply 1/ to 1/2 pound of a mixed fertilizer
around each plant in February, or about a month before picking
Following the mixed fertilizer, separate applications, each of
about 1/8 pound per plant, of ammonium nitrate (or equivalent of
other nitrogen fertilizer) at 8-week intervals between February
and September may be required because nitrogen fertilizer is
highly soluble in water and leaches quickly after heavy rains.
Aim to maintain reasonably vigorous growth and dark-green
foliage during the growing season.
Training and Pruning
It is important for ease of picking, cultivation, and other rea-
sons to raise the canes off the ground and provide them with
support. Growers must choose between a stake system and a
wire trellis. One or the other should be erected preferably either
shortly before or shortly after the plants are set. The cost
of stakes or trellis is usually outweighed by the advantages ac-
quired by supporting the canes.
Growers have the option of either cutting practically to
ground level both the new canes and those which have fruited
or of removing at ground level only the canes which have borne
fruit, leaving the new canes to grow freely. Which alternative
gives the best results in not definitely known yet.
Several different methods of supporting the canes are possible.
The vertical, three-wire trellis with the top wire (No. 9 or
No. 10) about 5 feet high and each of the other two wires spaced
18 inches apart permits good distribution of canes and their
branches on the trellis for ease of tillage and picking, but re-
quires frequent tying and a fairly expensive trellis. The com-
paratively low (3-31/2 feet) horizontal 2, 3, or 4 wire trellis re-
quires less tying, permits most of the picking to be done at one
level and involves less cost than the vertical three-wire trellis,
but the canes and branches become greatly intermingled, and
the cross-arms increase the width of row occupied by the trellis.
The individual stake system permits picking around each plant
and cross-cultivating but the stakes tend to fall over as they
No one system is best for all conditions. A high yield of
marketable fruit is often essential for the most profitable crop.
To this end, tall substantial support material, whether stake or
trellis, may be required and extra labor in tying justified.
The harvest period of Flordagrand extends from mid-March
to early May at Gainesville, varying in different years. Black-
berries become almost full color before they are ripe. Berries
that are reddish or pinkish should be left on the vine for a later
Careful handling for market is necessary. The marketable
berries are picked directly into a box or cup (usually a pint) with
berries are picked directly into a box or cup (usually a pint) in
which they are sold and should not need to be handled again
for grading or sorting.
The year after planting, blackberries often yield 2 to 3 pints
per plant. The next year, and in succeeding years, the plants
should be in full production. A good average is then 5 to 8
pints per plant.
Customers sometimes can do much of the picking. They save
the cost of picking, and since they may use any type of con-
tainer (especially for payment per pound of berries), they also
save the cost of special containers. The grower does not need to
haul to market, and he has cash in hand at the end of each day
of picking. The grower may notify a waiting list of customers
when they may come and pick.
Life of Planting
The life of a blackberry planting depends on a number of
factors, such as the variety, site, and care. The process whereby
canes which have fruited are replaced by new canes continues
indefinitely unless adverse factors enter the picture.
Probably about 10 years is the average profitable bearing life
of a blackberry planting of an adapted variety. The plants may
live longer but the per-acre yield may decrease because of some
dead plants or other factors.
Diseases and Insects
Double blossom or rosette disease seriously limits the useful-
ness of susceptible varieties. In infected plants the sepals and
petals are increased in size and number, the petals are more or
less wrinkled and pink and the fruit either does not mature or
is otherwise small and worthless. Irritation set up by the fungus
may also result in a small bushy growth known as witches
broom. Flordagrand has not shown any of this disease.
Leafspot often occurs on blackberry plants. But it appears
relatively late and usually does little serious damage. It is often
worst on a poorly drained site.
Mites and thrips sometimes infest blackberries. Spraying
when necessary with parathion or malathion, at manufacturers'
directions, checks these pests.
Other Florida Berries
A few other types of berries are grown in Florida in a very
limited way, or grow wild in the State. Most important of these
is the wild, upright blackberry. These are native to many parts
of the State. Some people make a small amount of income from
picking and selling these berries on the local market.
Elderberries also grow wild in certain parts of the State and
some people plant these berries in their home gardens. They
are used locally for such things as jellies and home-made wine.
MARKETING FLORIDA BERRIES
As mentioned in the preface of this booklet, strawberries are
the only Florida berry marketed to any extent in the state today.
Blackberries are often picked from the wild and marketed
through local retail outlets, house to house, or to processors.
Some persons are beginning to grow blackberries on a commercial
For some time, blueberries have been grown and sold in a
few areas of west Florida. However, since the fruit from these
berries was varied in size and quality, it held a poor reputation
on the market. In fact, rabbiteye blueberries have this bad
reputation as a result.
One factor concerned with marketing blueberries should be
mentioned here. The northern highbush berry ripens in a shorter
period than does the rabbiteye. For this reason-even though
the highbush berries growing from North Carolina northward
bloom several weeks later than the rabbiteyes of Florida-both
are ripe about the same time. This causes competition.
One of the objectives of the breeding program being carried
on by the USDA and the Florida Stations is to produce a Florida
adapted variety of blueberry which will produce fruit ahead of
the highbush varieties for an early market. This would solve
many marketing problems.
The Marketing Bureau of the Florida Department of Agricul-
ture points out that the Plant City area is the leading producer
of strawberries. Berries produced in the Starke-Lawtey area
are sold mostly in nearby cities-few are shipped north. This
is because of competition with berries from Louisiana and the
Most Florida strawberries are sold through the State Farmers
Markets. They are shipped in 36-pint crates as a rule, and move
both by rail and by truck. Since Florida is the only winter
strawberry producing area in the country of any commercial
importance, berries from Florida go to many parts of the
country. Of course, most of the state's berries go to the large
metropolitan centers of the north.
Recently, processors have become more important, and so has
the packing of quick-frozen fruit. Growers are not agreed on
their attitude toward this development. The Market News
Service points out that these packers are often helpful in mar-
keting the crop, but points out that some feel the plentiful sup-
plies of frozen berries available in the north compete with
Florida winter berries. These frozen berries are usually grown
in the north during the summer and frozen at time of harvest.
However, the Market News Service reported in 1955 that proc-
essors were a stabilizing influence on the market that year.
Toward the end of the 1955 season, most of the production went
Here are some statistics on strawberry marketing in Florida.
According to the Florida Crop and Livestock Reporting Service,
Hillsborough County produced by far the most berries during the
1960 season, the latest season reported at this date. Acreage in
Hillsborough was 2040. Other counties were: Bradford, 150 acres.
Dade, 420 acres, Polk, 50 acres, Sumter, 25 acres, Hardee, 135
acres, Palm Beach, 275 acres, other counties, 170 acres.
Total acreage in the state in 1960 was 1800 for a total yield
of 8,280,000 pounds with an approximate total value of $2,508,-
This crop was moved by refrigerated truck and by rail, with
36 carlots shipment being made by rail and the equivalent of 331
carlots by truck. This does not take into account locally marketed
The above figures will serve to give an idea of the size and
importance of strawberry growing in Florida.
Methods of Selling
Most growers bring their berries to the State Farmers' Mar-
kets, where they are inspected and auctioned off to the highest
bidder. This buyer then pays the grower for the fruit as soon
at it is delivered to the proper car or platform for shipment.
Direct Sale to Local or Distant Markets.-Growers may haul
fruit to various towns and cities in Florida, or even to cities in
nearby states which do not receive much fruit through normal
Roadside Stands or On-Farm Markets.-In Central and South
Florida, this type of marketing is becoming more and more
popular. Where first-class quality of fruit was maintained, the
returns from marketing in this way have been high.
Sale of Stemmed Fruit to Processing Plants. -Growers can
sell fruit which is too ripe for shipment or slightly off-grade
to frozen food plants. The fruit is cleaned and stemmed at the
field packing shed by the grower's labor. It is placed in quart
containers and carried to the processing plants, where it is sold
for 18 to 20 per pound. During period of depressed prices on
the fresh fruit market, more than 90 percent of the fruit picked
is thus prepared and sold to processors. This method of selling
is becoming more important.