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Southern Gardening: Citrus, Blackberries Great Choices For Spring Planting

Once Northwest Florida dries out from the going flood event, residents will be returning attention to their gardens. In this installment of WUWF's occasional series on gardening, the focus is on citrus and other fruit, such as blackberries, that would grow well in this region.

Jonathon Heide and Escambia County horticulturalist Beth Bolles, long-time hosts of the WUWF TV program “Southern Gardening” have some tips on what to plant.

Bolles on Citrus:

Locally, many citrus plants are still recovering from cold damage due January’s extreme winter freeze.

In purchasing a new citrus plant as a replacement, it’s very important to make sure they’re getting a healthy tree from a reputable source. The first step is to verify that the plant nursery is certified nursery with the Florida Department of Agriculture. Additionally, residents need to inquire about an official inspection tag for citrus plants to be purchased.

“You never want to buy a citrus from a local vendor from the side of the road or from somebody that’s propagated something in their back yard. We’re actually not allowed to buy it from another state and bring it into our state.” Bringing un-inspected plants into the state can result in bringing diseases into Florida that can ultimately injure the state’s citrus industry.

Spring and early summer is the perfect time to plant citrus because it is a tropical plant. Suggested varieties for this Northwest Florida climate include Satsuma, kumquat (cumquat), or possibly the Meyer lemon.

Bolles on Blackberries:

An example of another fruit that would be good to plant during the spring is an upright blackberry. The wild blackberry produces nice fruit, but is thorny.

There are new varieties of blackberries, such as Arapaho and Navaho, that are thorn-less, upright and very low maintenance.

“They’re coming on in bloom right now and they’re  gonna be forming fruit about the end of May and into June. So, if you’re kind of a low-maintenance gardener and have a full-sun area, you do want to think about a blackberry or two.”

Bolles says a little bit of care is necessary, such as watering, a little bit of fertilizer and a light amount of pruning.

“The good thing is these are so fruitful, the ones I recommended, and also they will sucker. So, you can start with one and get several in a small area.”

Beth Bolles is an Extension Service agent for Escambia County. The county extension office provides practical, how-to education based on research conducted by the University of Florida.

For future gardening features, submit questions to Jonathon Heide at jheide@uwf.edu.