The Meadowlark Blueberry is a very popular variety of southern highbush blueberry, and for good reason. The fruit is large and tasty, it boasts high-yield potential, and it can be grown in low chilling conditions.
That’s not to say that growing the Meadowlark is a walk in the park. Reaping these delicious berries requires knowledge, hard work, and most importantly, patience.
In this article, we’ll be sharing everything you need to know about the Meadowlark blueberry — from its characteristics to its most common uses and everything in between!
History of the Meadowlark Blueberry
The Meadowlark™ ‘FL01-173′ is one of six varieties that were released as part of the University of Florida’s “Bird” series between 2009 and 2010. One of the main purposes of this blueberry breeding program was to inject the blueberry industry with other species that were viable for mechanical harvest.
As it turns out, Meadowlark arguably has the highest potential for machine harvesting out of the six additions. With sparkleberry in its pedigree, the Meadowlark bush possesses very long pedicels and peduncles. Its vase-shaped, upright growth habit and stout cane can even cause the bush to topple from the weight of both heavy crops and heavy ice loads during frost protection.
Due to its loose berry clusters, seamless berry detachment, and plant yield potential, however, the Meadowlark variety has been identified as having very promising commercial harvest potential. In fact, the Meadowlark Blueberry garnered significant interest early on after performing well in harvest mechanization trials.
Characteristics of the Meadowlark Blueberry
Meadowlark shares many characteristics with Emerald, yet the crop is distinct in its own right. Some of the Meadowlark blueberry’s main characteristics include the following:
Fruit Size: Large/Very Large
Attributes: Excellent fruit firmness, mild sweet flavor, medium/dark blue fruit color
Chilling Requirement: Low Chill
Bush Type: Southern Highbush
Growth Pattern: Very Upright, Vigorous Plants
Market: Fresh, Processed, You-Pick
As a southern highbush blueberry variety, the Meadowlark Blueberry can be cultivated in low chill conditions and has a chill requirement of only 200 chill hours per year.
The Meadowlark Blueberry is known to leaf, bloom, and ripen very early—especially compared to mid – season and late – season species. By approximately February 3, Meadowlark’s flowers are 50% open; and by approximately April 24, it yields 50% ripe berries.
The Meadowlark variety is known for producing very firm berries that possess a mild but excellent flavor—not overly tart or sweet.
As for its appearance, the Meadowlark blueberry has been noted for its below-average uniform color development during ripening season. While the overall berry color is typically medium-to-dark blue, growers have observed red and purple shades that often show at the stem end of the blueberry.
Fully mature berries are marked by narrow crowns, and they are able to maintain their taste and color for quite some time while on the branch.
The Meadowlark bush’s larger berry size and large fruit scar are comparable to that of the Emerald. A fully mature Meadowlark blueberry measures as a large or very large blueberry—boasting an average diameter of 18.3 centimeters and an average weight of 2.45 grams per berry.
As Meadowlark is a southern highbush variety, it is best planted and grown across the middle, lower, and coastal south regions of North America. (more specifically, USDA zones 7–9).
Size and Spacing
Most southern highbush varieties grow to be 6–8 feet tall at full maturity. Space your bushes approximately 4–5 feet apart, and leave roughly 9–10 feet between rows so that there is room to harvest.
Because blueberries are self-pollinating, no other plants are necessary in order for your berries to thrive. You may, however, wish to cross-pollinate in order to increase your crop loads and enjoy more excellent quality fruit. Just make sure you use a southern highbush species!
Meadowlark Blueberry Shrub Care
To properly care for your shrubs so that you reap a high-quality and sustainable crop, make note of the tips below.
Also, be sure to check out our detailed guide on How to Grow Blueberries!
Sunlight, food, and water are the three most important aspects of blueberry growing.
In the case of Meadowlark Blueberries, you will need to make sure that you plant your bushes in areas that allow them to receive a minimum of 8–10 hours of sunlight per day. This will help maximize your harvest yield!
For successful blueberry production, you’ll need to make sure that you plant your seed or bush in optimal field conditions.
While many crops require neutral soil, blueberries need soil that leans acidic—typically in the 4.0–5.5 pH range. Additionally, make sure your soil contains enough high organic matter, iron, and nitrogen.
Blueberry bushes have relatively shallow root systems, so it’s important that your soil stays moist without holding excess water.
Because 1–2 inches of water per week is more than enough, your shrubs may already get ample water through rainfall. If not, supplement it with trickle or drip irrigation so that you don’t drench the foliage.
For the best results, wait to fertilize your Meadowlark bushes until the spring. Choose an acidic fertilizer product, preferably one that contains ammonium sulfate or sulfur-coated urea, and apply it sparingly. Avoid nitrates and chlorides, as they can cause flower damage and impact berry quality!
You won’t need to prune your Meadowlark blueberry bushes while they are still growing. Once they reach the fruiting stage, however, it’s recommended that you prune your bushes regularly—at least a few times per year.
For more information on pruning, take a look at our guide, How to Prune Blueberries.
Meadowlark is particularly susceptible to certain diseases—including Xylella fastidiosa (bacterial leaf scorch), “Funky Spot” virus, and blueberry red ringspot (BRRSV).
For more information about the diseases that can interfere with your blueberries, be sure to check out our guide, 10 Blueberry Bush Diseases and How to Treat Them.
As is the case with many other blueberry varieties, Meadowlark can be thwarted by blueberry bud mites.
For information about how to identify, eliminate, and deter pests, read our blog post on the 9 common pests you’ll encounter with blueberries.
When to Harvest Meadowlark Blueberries
As we mentioned earlier, Meadowlark blueberries are often among the first varieties to ripen each year; so your blueberry picking season might begin as soon as mid-April!
Keep in mind, however, that harvest time varies from crop to crop. Pin down the right time to harvest by consulting our guide, When Is the Right Time to Pick Blueberries?
Common Uses for Meadowlark Blueberries
Because blueberries are so versatile, they can be used in a variety of ways. Use your Meadowlark blueberries as a last-minute garnish or as the centerpiece of a delectable baked good or dessert!
What Does This Blueberry Taste Like?
As we alluded to earlier, Meadowlark blueberries have a mild but still relatively sweet flavor compared to many other varieties. With moderate sweetness levels and low-to-moderate sourness levels, these berries contain an optimal balance of sugar and acid.
Meadowlark blueberries are perfect for any dish that doesn’t require an intense, tart blueberry taste. Due to their mild flavor and low aroma, you can add them liberally to a dish without fear of them overpowering the food!
Fresh blueberries make for the perfect low-calorie snack. Because they’re neither sickly-sweet nor lip-puckering sour, feel free to eat as many as you want!
Because blueberries can be used for all types of treats — including desserts, baked goods, snacks, drinks, jams, jellies, and more — you may need a few different methods of storing them.
If you would prefer to go the canning route, follow these tips for the best results:
- For blueberries that you plan to use in pies, cobblers, and similar desserts, can with syrup.
- For blueberries that you plan to use in muffins and other baked goods, can with water.
If you want to use fruit from freezes, start by laying berries out on a baking sheet, freezing them overnight, and then transferring them to a freezer bag or container to continue freezing.
Finally, if you have a food dehydrator, dried blueberries make a great addition to any granola, cereal, or trail mix!
Need a little inspiration for enjoying your blueberry harvest? Here are some of our favorite recipes:
Health Benefits of Meadowlark Blueberries
Blueberries are loaded with all sorts of nutrients. Both a superfood and one of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can consume, a single cup of blueberries boasts the following nutritional value:
- 6 grams of fiber
- 24% RDI of vitamin C
- 36% RDI of vitamin K
- 25% RDI of manganese
- 85 calories
- 15 grams of carbohydrates
- … and other vitamins and minerals!
Blueberries can also help prevent and improve the following conditions and diseases:
- Colon cancer
- Cognitive disabilities
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
Learn more about the many health benefits of blueberries in our detailed guide, Health Benefits of Blueberries.
Where to Buy Meadowlark Blueberry Plants or Seeds
If there are local nurseries in your area, be sure to ask them whether they carry Meadowlark plants or seeds.
Although Meadowlark Blueberry plants and seeds are in commercial production throughout the North-Central Florida region and the Central and South-Central Florida regions, crop plants are often difficult to find online. However, run a search every now and then to see if there’s a nursery that will transport a blueberry plant or ship seed to you!
Where to Buy Meadowlark Blueberries
If you live in the middle, lower, or coastal south U.S., you may be able to purchase fresh Meadowlark blueberries from your local farmer’s market. If you can’t find a farmer who grows them, it just might be time for you to grow your own. After all, fresh fruit prices aren’t especially cheap!
Wrapping Up the Meadowlark Blueberry
The Meadowlark Blueberry is not only a tasty blueberry but it’s also one that isn’t particularly difficult to grow, thanks to its minimal chilling requirements. If you happen to live down south (USDA zones 7–9), gather a few supplies and start preparing your garden to grow your very own large, high-quality blueberries.
Have you ever grown the Meadowlark Blueberry? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below! Excited for more blueberry content? Then check out our blueberry page to learn all about how to grow, care for, and harvest this delicious fruit!