Here in North Florida, it is not uncommon to see a few citrus trees in a residential landscape. With Florida being the second highest producing state of citrus, it is not out of the normal to see them when you are out and about. They are a great option to keep a lush green aesthetic in your yard. But, what other options are there for the homeowner that wants to add some edible diversity to their landscape? In this article we will be discussing a few of the many edible landscape choices that can add both diversity and a sweet treat to your yard.

A popular edible landscape option is the rabbiteye cultivar of blueberry. The rabbiteye blueberry plant is considered easier to grow for the first time blueberry grower in comparison to the southern high bush cultivar. This cultivar thrives in acidic soils and requires a soil pH of 4.0 to 5.5. When planting, the use of pine bark mulch is a great organic method to satisfy the soil pH requirement. Mixing composted pine bark mulch in the soil and adding additional mulch after the bush is planted will add to the soil’s organic matter over time. Mulching also aids the establishment of young plants and moderates soil temperatures and weed control. For variety selection, mid-to-late season rabbiteye cultivars are best for Northwest Florida, as they are more cold tolerant and less susceptible to lose their flowers and young set fruit in late winter/early spring frosts. Common mid-to-late season rabbiteye’s are ‘Vernon’, ‘Brightwell’, ‘Powderblue’, ‘Tifblue’, and ‘Georgia Giant’. Because blueberry plants are not “self-unfruitful”, they will require more than one variety to cross-pollinate with in order to produce fruit. Two is great, but three plants will also encourage larger fruit set for you and your family to enjoy!

Blueberry Set Fruit, Jackson County Master Gardener Demo Garden

Another option that has steadily grown interest in the Florida Panhandle is the apple tree. There are two known cultivars of apple that are acclimated to the North Florida region due to their low chill hour requirement cold tolerance. This is the ‘Anna’ Apple and the ‘Dorsett Golden’ Apple. Apple trees will perform best in full sun locations of the yard and prefer a well-drained soil. The chilling hour requirement for these cultivars of apple are between 400-600 hours. You will begin to see the fruit ripen in the months of May to June. The ‘Anna” Apple has been compared to the well known ‘Red Delicious” that is best known in northern region of the United States. Planting should occur in early spring and planting holes should be big enough that the root system does not become over crowded from limited expansion space. There is no UF/IFAS fertilizer recommendation for the apple tree because it is not commercially produced in Florida, but generally a fertilizer such as 10-10-10 can be used.

‘Anna’ Apple, Photo Credit: UF/IFAS NFREC

The blackberry is a great choice as well for an edible landscape. There are several blackberry species that are native to Florida. Most blackberries produce thorns on their shoots, but many new cultivars have been developed as thornless. When selecting your planting location, low-lying areas should be avoided to deter from over-flooding of your plants. Blackberries thrive best in well-drained soils and high air flow and should be planted between December to February. Pollination of the plant is very important to ensure the quality and quantity of the fruit produced; blackberries range from self-fruitful to self-unfruitful depending on the cultivar. ‘Apache’, ‘Flordagrand’, and ‘Choctaw’ are a few examples of many blackberry cultivars available. The first year after the blackberry has been established, it will only produce new shoots with no berries. These shoots are called primocanes. The second year, berries will produce on these shoots and then be called floricanes. It is important to cut the tip off the primocanes after they have reached about 3 ft in height to encourage the shoot to create lateral branches. Floricanes will die off after they have produced fruit. Trellises can be used as well to encourage the plant to grow upright and off the ground.

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