BULLETIN NO. 13
A Revision of
University of Florida
Agricultural Extension Service
WILLIAM G. MITCHELL
Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations
STATE OF FLORIDA
Nathan Mayo, Commissioner of Agriculture
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 varieties better adapted than present ones to Florida
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 area.
This booklet is designed for those who may wish to develop
berry growing in Florida to greater commercial importance.
Florida Ninety -
Maintaining Soil Organic Matter 9
Setting Plants 10
Frost Protection 14
Picking and Packing 15
Culture -. .-... 20
Home Garden Culture 22
Diseases and Insects 23
Diseases and Pests 31
Use as Food 33
Varieties -...-------- ------ 34
Trailing ....... --... 34
Erect ----------- 35
Comparison of Erect and Trailing Blackberries -- 35
Choosing a Location 36
Soils .--------- 36
Culture -..... .....-----.--- -. ____ 37
Planting -. _....-... .._-...-- . .. .....-. ..... 37
Fertilizing .... ..... .. ... .....-- -- 37
Cultivation -------------..___. __..___ ... 37
Trellising and Pruning --------------- -------- 38
Propagation ...- - ._ ... .._ 39
Diseases and Insects ------39
Harvesting --- .------- .. ___.._._____. 40
Yields -- -----------_ ___. 40
MARKETING FLORIDA BERRIES .- 41
Marketing Strawberries ..----------- -..__ .________ 41
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)
Strawberries provide growers an income during an off-period
for most other crops.
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 3,000 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
production 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 which are resistant to the common leafspot dis-
ease. However, during the past 15 years virus infection has
taken place in various nurseries supplying plants of the variety
IMaterial in this section was slightly changed from Florida Agricultural
Experiment Stations Bulletin 160, Growing Strawberries in Florida, by
A. N. Brooks of the Strawberry Investigations Laboratory.
and yields of fruit from Missionary have greatly decreased.
At present virus-free plants are again available from certain
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
Missionary 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
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
received on the Northern markets. Consequently, in March
1952, No. 90 was released by the Florida Agricultural Experi-
ment 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
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 bene-
ficial soil organisms. (2) Drainage sufficient to maintain aera-
tion of the soil and prevent water-logging. (3) Sufficient
fertility for crop production, and (4) maintenance of soil re-
action 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 is
too acid, any lime-bearing material needed to correct this con-
dition can be broadcast 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, crotalaria, 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 materially 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 fertilizer material so
distributed in the soil as to give the newly set plants a quick,
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 fertilizer bands should be approxi-
mately 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
Missionary 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, one 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 than 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 unnecessary task.
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 300 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 30-34 F. and 88-96% humidity. However, even
an ice-storage room at 25-34 F., where plants have frozen
solid, has been found satisfactory.
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 estab-
lished 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 applica-
tions 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
applications 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 preceding 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 irri-
gation makes a strong solution surrounding the roots.
For Florida Ninety fruit, it is imperative thatthe fertilizer
have twice as mucfipotash as nitrogen. Use such formulas as
4-4-8, 4-6--E-8 Tor 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
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
practiced in the Starke-Lawtey area, in Manatee County and
on the East Coast. The fruit from mulched plants is com-
paratively 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 for-
merly because of the high labor cost and length of time required
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 beds
to cover the plants. Soil is used to weight down the edges
Picking Strawberries in Florida.
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 320 and is
continued until the temperature is again above 32' 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. Fruits must not be snatched from the plant nor
should a number of berries be held in the hands at one time.
After picking, it is important that fruit be carried to the
packing shed before long exposure to the sun. Close super-
vision 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-sized berries should be packed.
All imperfect, decayed, green or small (less than 3/4 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 the season 1954-55, 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 condi-
tions 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
reputation 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 seed-
ling 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
controlled breeding. Sharpe of the Florida Agricultural Ex-
periment Stations still recommends Calloway.
In November, 1955, the Coastal Plain Station released two
more new rabbiteye blueberries as a result of their breeding
'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.
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.
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
Calloway, and have a good scar. The plant is vigorous, ex-
ceptionally 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,
moderately vigorous, and berries are easy to pick. Tifblue is
harder to propagate than is Homebell. The Coastal Plain
Station recommends 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
another type of blueberry to the lists of those which can be
grown in Florida. He is attempting to cross 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.
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 are also being made between Florida Evervreen species
and the northern highbush varieties by the USDA in co-
operation 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 growing there naturally. Open, porous soils . have
been found best for blueberries."
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 De-
partment 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
considered 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;
sometimes 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 drowned.
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 plant-
ing 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 appli-
cations 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 ammonium sulfate.
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 re-
moved 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
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
commercially on small areas with success. Mulching materials
applied 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 21/. feet on each side, or the entire area may be mulched.
Leguminous hay mulches (clover, soybean, etc.) have some-
times 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 to one-half pound of fertilizer
per bush over the surface at each application, not closer than
6 to 8 inches to the base of the plant.
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 moisture and to help keep the ground cool. Plant
at least two varieties 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 a.n 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
fertilizer 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
conserve 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 to azaleas.
Blueberries may be propagated in several different ways,
including by seeds and by soft and hardwood cuttings. Make
hardwood 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 two years
before field setting. For more information on constant mist
propagation, ask for Extension Circular at your county agent's
While blueberries may be grown from seeds, this method is
slow and seedlings will not be true to the parental characteristics.
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 immunity
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
insect 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,
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. F. B. 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
nurseries. 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 -
3The 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.
Fruiting branches of Rubus albescens.
temperatures as low as 350 F. have not been harmful-but a
temperature of 29 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 1/2 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. The compound fruit is 1/) to % inch in diameter, con-
sisting of numerous segments which become red or orange-red.
On ripening they turn a dark purple color and are covered with
a fine bloom.
The fruit is juicy, mildly pleasant, slightly sweet, and with
a good flavor. In Florida they possess minute 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. produc-
ing 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 flowers and fruits
during the winter and spring months. Flowering begins in
early December and fruit will first appear in late December;
flowering and fruiting 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 May 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 may 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. After-
wards, mix them with fine sand before sowing for easier handling
and to prevent overseeding.
Propagating the tropical black raspberry by tip layering.
^M. ~ f off
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 seeds in concentrated sul-
phuric 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 thor-
oughly in running water. To do this, slowly pour the acid,
together with the seeds, into a large container of water; then,
cover the container 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 fol-
lowing 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
alkaline 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
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/) 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 established. 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 produce 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.
Tropical black raspberry three weeks after the November pruning, showing
the numerous secondary lateral branches on which fruiting will take place.
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
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 encouraged. These objectives have been best realized by
the following 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,
remove 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 trimmings. This November pruning is important, for flowers
and fruit will be produced the following month, and the more
secondary 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 damp-
ing-off appears in the seedlings, a liquid suspension of Spergon
applied 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,
pruning, staking 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.
There has been an increasing interest in the culture of black-
berries for home and local market use, although they are not
now a commercial crop in Florida. Some of the earliest tests of
varieties by the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station were
reported by Mowry.
Since 1949, several newer varieties have been tested and their
behavior observed. From this work it is evident that varieties
of Northern origin require more chilling than usually occurs
in Florida winters. This results in prolonged dormancy and
poor fruit set. Healthy vine growth of such varieties as Boysen
and Young was obtained at Gainesville, but bloom was very late
and fruit set was poor all years. In a planting near Milton in
northwestern Florida, the Young variety produced good crops
in 1951, fair in 1953 and poor crops in 1950 and 1952, the years
of least chilling.
Beginning in 1951, the Florida Station distributed the prom-
ising new varieties of Regal-Ness, Earli-Ness and others to
interested cooperators in several areas of the state for further
testing. Where possible, comparisons were requested with
Advance as a standard. These newer varieties appear quite
satisfactorily suited in central Florida, while reports from more
extreme southern and northern areas of the state are less
encouraging. On heavy soil at Milton, with abundant spring
rainfall, they have been subject to leaf spots and not considered
as satisfactory as Advance.
Advance.-Vigorous, productive, trailing evergreen. Two simi-
lar appearing strains are commonly sold together to insure
'Material in this section was adapted from Florida Agricultural Ex-
periment Station Circular S-67, Erect and Trailing Blackberries in Florida,
by R. H. Sharpe and R. D. Dickey; and from USDA Farmers' Bulletin No.
1995, Growing Erect and Trailing Blackberries, by George H. Darrow and
George F. Waldo.
pollination. Fruit are small to medium size, about 110 per pint.
Ripens late April. Resistant to double-blossom, moderate leaf
spotting. This is an old standard variety for Florida, doing
well in nearly all parts of the state.
Regal-Ness, Big-Ness and Earli-Ness.-These were originated
by Texas Agricultural Experiment Station from crosses between
a trailing dewberry selection and the original Ness variety.
Introduced commercially in 1946, they are very vigorous, trailing
evergreen types, inclined to be more erect in early growth than
Advance. Regal-Ness fruit are large, 55 to 65 per pint,
firm, good quality. It is subject to leaf spots which may
become quite severe in wet seasons. Regal-Ness ripens late
in April, is productive. Suggested for trial. Big-Ness is similar
to Regal-Ness, but fruit is slightly larger. It has been less
productive, but more resistant to leaf spots. Worthy of trial.
Earli-Ness produces medium-sized fruit, about 80 per pint. It
is a heavy yielder, with firm fruit, lower quality and more acid
than Regal-Ness. Growth, season and susceptibility to leaf spots
are about the same as Regal-Ness. Worthy of trial because of
Young and Boysen.-Fruit high quality, large, soft. Fairly
satisfactory for northwestern Florida but not recommended
for peninsular Florida because of high chilling requirement.
Availability.-Advance and Regal-Ness are, at present, the
only varieties available from nurseries in this area.
No named variety of the erect type has yet been found and
tested that could be considered superior to the wild native types,
which ripen in late May and early June. The native erect types
could probably be improved by selection, proper culture and
irrigation; but their late ripening and the abundance of wild
fruit results in less interest in cultivation of these types.
Comparison of Erect and Trailing Blackberries
The blackberry has a root that lives for many years and a
top that lives only 2 years. It bears fruit upon canes grown
the previous year. These canes die soon after they have fruited.
The trailing blackberry differs from the erect blackberry in
having canes that trail on the ground or climb over brush and
shrubs. From this habit it receives the names "running black-
berry," "ground blackberry," and "dewberry." Canes of the
trailing blackberry form new plants by rooting at the tips,
whereas the erect blackberry propagates itself by suckers. The
fruit clusters of the trailing blackberry are usually small and
open; those of the erect blackberry are larger and denser.
The trailing blackberries produce fruit similar to that of the
erect blackberries, but because their berries ripen earlier than
those of most erect blackberries the culture of trailing black-
berries has proved profitable in many sections. Because the
canes have less woody fiber and must be fully supported, the
methods of raising them differ considerably from those used
for erect blackberries.
The principal cultivated varieties of trailing blackberry are in
reality hybrids between erect and native trailing species. In the
wild many such naturally occurring hybrids occur-some with
trailing canes and some with arched canes, but nearly all root
at the tips.
Choosing a Location
The most important factor to consider in choosing a site for
blackberries is the supply of moisture in the soil during the
ripening season and during the dormant months. The black-
berry suffers more than almost any crop if the water supply
is short while the berries are growing and ripening. Trailing
blackberries, however, have a deeper root system than the
erect kinds. They also ripen earlier, and so they suffer less
It is unwise to choose a location near wild berries. Such
pests as rosette (double blossom), orange rust, the red-necked
cane borer and the strawberry weevil may spread from the
wild plant to the cultivated planting. In fact, it may be nec-
essary to eradicate wild berries near your planting or to control
diseases and pests on the wild berries where these diseases
and pests are troublesome.
Choose a location that is sheltered from drying winds during
the ripening season and during the winter. Also, avoid low
places where there is danger from late frost. Select a site on
highland which has good air drainage for your planting.
Blackberries will flourish on nearly any type of soil, if it has
suitable moisture conditions. The finest wild berries are found
in localities where the humus and soil conditions are such that
the plants can get a proper supply of water. The best black-
berry land is a deep, fine, sandy loam with a large supply of
humus. Such a soil is to be preferred to a coarse, sandy or a
clay soil. The largest yields are produced on soils having
mellow subsoil that allows the roots of the plants to penetrate
deeply for plant food and moisture.
Sharpe and Dickey point out that well-drained soils contain-
ing sufficient clay and organic matter to hold moisture during
spring droughts are best for blackberries. But they add that
it is possible to obtain satisfactory yields on lighter soils with
proper attention to moisture and nutrients.
The best time for setting plants in Florida is from December
through February. The soil generally contains more moisture
at such times, and the young plants can make a vigorous start.
The earlier they are set, the larger the proportion that live and
the better they grow. Set the plants as deep as they formerly
stood in the nursery or slightly deeper, and thoroughly pack
the soil about the roots. Before setting the plants, cut back
the tops to 6 inches or less. Distances should be about 6 feet
between plants and 6 to 8 feet between rows. Plants in pots
can be set at any time, but winter and the rainy summer
season are preferred.
The use of fertilizers in blackberry fields must be governed
by the same principles that apply to their use with other fruits.
As soils vary in the quantity and availability of the plant food
they contain, the fertilizer problem is a local one which each
grower must solve for himself.
Blackberries respond to fertilization but the exact require-
ments under Florida conditions have not been determined.
Mixed fertilizers containing 4 to 8 percent each of nitrogen,
phosphoric acid and potash are satisfactory. One-quarter to
one-half pound per plant at planting time and a similar appli-
cation in mid-season are suggested for the first year. In
subsequent years, apply one pound per plant in February, with
a possible second application of one-half to one pound in May
or June, depending on vigor of growth.
Begin cultivation as soon as the plants are set in the spring.
Cultivate often enough to keep the planting free from weeds
throughout the season, but discontinue cultivation at least a
month before frost.
Since the roots of blackberries ordinarily are close to the
surface of the ground, cultivation must be shallow. Breaking
the roots not only weakens the root systems of the plants but
also increases the number of suckers. The deeper the soil
and the more thorough its preparation before the plants are
set, the deeper will be the roots. Frequent cultivation is of
more importance during the growing and ripening season of
the berries than at any other time, since they require more
When the canes of trailing blackberries which are allowed
to trail on the ground for the first year begin to interfere,
discontinue cultivation and do nothing further in the field until
the following spring, except where winter protection is neces-
sary. If later cultivation is required, push the canes carefully
to one side. Any work among the plants during the fall or
winter is likely to injure the canes, which become very brittle.
If they are bruised or partially broken, they may break off at
that point during the next fruiting season and thus the fruit
will be lost.
Canes are tied to stakes or wires before growth starts in
the spring. Start cultivation immediately after growth begins
and continue it at frequent intervals until the new canes begin
to interfere, usually some time in August. Using a system of
mulches to aid in moisture and weed control is satisfactory
on small plantings.
Trellising and Pruning
It is usual practice to train trailing type blackberries on a
wire trellis for ease of picking, to keep the fruit clean and to
keep the tips from making excessive numbers of new plants.
A vertical two-wire trellis with the bottom wire about two feet
high and the top wire about three and a half feet high is
satisfactory. Space posts about 20 feet apart. Vines are
usually allowed to run on the ground until winter, then tied
or looped over the wires. If desired, they can be trained on
the vines during the summer or fall when of sufficient length.
In a few cases Advance has been grown entirely without
trellis support, allowing the canes to trail on the ground. The
rows are kept from becoming more than three feet wide by
occasional mowing. The advantages are ease of pruning after
harvest and elimination of the expensive trellis. The disad-
vantages are that fruit is more difficult to harvest and the
plants become very thick in the row. The method appears of
sufficient merit to justify comparative trials in attempts to
reduce labor and costs and make possible more extensive use
of mechanical equipment.
Immediately after they have fruited, cut all old canes just
above the ground and remove them from the planting. Tests
with the Advance and Ness type varieties have shown that
both old and new growth may be removed at this time, as a
matter of convenience, without any effect on next year's crop.
The old canes must be removed at this time because removal
disposes of old dead wood and helps greatly in reducing carry-
over of insects and diseases. Raking the canes together be-
tween the rows and burning them has been satisfactory. Usually
no further pruning is required, although you may thin to five
or six canes per plant, if you wish, when the plants begin to grow.
Trailing varieties root naturally where the tips touch the
ground in early winter. The process can be hastened by cover-
ing the tips in late summer and fall with three to four inches
of soil. When rooted and ready for planting, these tips are
cut off from the parent plant about six inches above the ground.
Plants can be propagated also from summer softwood cuttings,
but this requires more care in handling than does the tip layering
method. Constant mist may be used.
Another method is to dig roots one-fourth inch or more in
diameter in the fall or early spring. Cut these into pieces about
3 inches long and plant horizontally in trenches about 3 inches
deep. By the following fall they should have become strong
plants generally with better root systems than those of sucker
Diseases and Insects
There are several diseases which attack the trailing black-
berries. The special merit of Advance is its high resistance
or possible immunity to double-blossom, a fungus disease at-
tacking the flower buds and preventing fruit set. In tests so
far, the Ness types appear to have similar resistance. Both
Advance and Ness-type varieties are subject to leaf and stem
spotting in varying degrees by anthracnose or other organisms.
The annual pruning appears to give quite effective control of
these diseases in small test plantings. Spraying with 4-4-50
bordeaux just as new growth appeared in early February has
given some control of leaf spotting under experimental condi-
tions. With attention to proper pruning and fertilization prac-
tices, however, yields have been good without any spraying for
disease control. If grown in large plantings, it would un-
doubtedly be necessary to investigate more thoroughly the
possible need for disease control sprays.
The insect most commonly seen in test plantings has been
thrips on young flowers and flower buds. Because no spraying
was done for thrips control on the test plants, it is not known
whether heavy infestation was related to imperfect fruit set.
From experience with other plants, thrips may be suspected
of causing trouble. Several of the new organic insecticides,
such as DDT and chlordane, effectively control this insect.
Their use would be suggested in the early bloom stage where
heavy thrips populations are noted and where past experience
has shown any quantity of "nubbins" or imperfect fruit.
Fruit of each variety must be harvested according to its
particular season of maturity. Berries of most varieties are
not ripe when they turn black. Pick them while still firm enough
to be marketed in good condition, but not before they become
The keeping quality of berries of any variety depends largely
upon the care exercised in picking and handling. If they are
bruised or injured, molds and decay fungi quickly spoil them;
but berries carefully picked and stored in a cool place will keep
fresh for several days.
A plantation is usually picked over every other day or every
third day. Since blackberries ripen in early summer, when the
afternoons are often very warm, picking is usually done in the
morning if only a part of the day is required. The berries
may become even warmer than the air. As berries spoil quicker
at a high temperature than at a low one, those picked in the
afternoon, especially on hot days, will not keep so well as those
picked in the early morning.
Place the berries in the baskets; don't throw them. To make
careful handling easy, use waist carriers.
The yields of trailing blackberry plantations vary greatly with
the different conditions under which they are grown. Better
plantations may yield 4,800 quarts, and some growers obtain
crops of 3,200 quarts per acre year after year. Though the
average yields may be somewhat smaller, good plantations
favorably located should yield as much as just stated.
In their first plantings, Sharpe and Dickey found that Advance
yielded about 3 to 4 pints per plant, while Regal-Ness and
Earli-Ness yielded 5 to 8 pints per plant.
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
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.
But this marketing is not from planted berries.
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 com-
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 Florida State Marketing Bureau 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 Carolinas.
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 com-
mercial 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
marketing the crop, but points out that some feel the plentiful
supplies 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 to processors.
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 1954-55 season, the latest season reported at this date.
Acreage in Hillsborough was 2,900. Other counties were:
Bradford, 75; Dade, 100; Hardee, 150; Polk, 150; and Sumpter,
75. Other counties totaled 150 acres together.
Total yield in the state in 1955 was 306,000 24-qt. crate equiva-
lents. Total acreage was 3,600, and total value of the crop was
This crop is moved by refrigerated truck and by rail. In
1955, 66 cars were shipped by rail and the equivalent of 437
cars 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
as 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 20c 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.