Harvesting Citrus


harvesting an orange
     We returned from our Thanksgiving vacation to find our grapefruit and orange trees ready to pick.  At least it looked like it.  We have been watching the fruit on them becoming more orange in the last month.  I know gardeners in California have bee harvesting their citrus for a month now.  Here the ripening schedule for grapefruit is mid-October through June, and for oranges it is mid-November through April.

Arizona Sweet Orange tree
     I have never grown citrus because I have never lived in a citrus growing climate until now.  The oranges on our tree are called Arizona Sweet.  I don't know the variety of grapefruit other than it is pink.  Many of the orange trees used as ornamental plantings on highway and curb medians are the Seville Sour Orange, which grows well here but are so sour they are not edible.  Citrus trees are evergreen and retain the majority of their leaves year round.  They can produce fruit for over 50 years.  And I discovered my orange and grapefruit trees have thorns!  Evidently younger trees produce more thorns.  I have read that there are thornless varieties, but not in my yard.

     Citrus should be fertilized three times a year.  But I have read that citrus can go for years without fertilizer and do well if correctly watered (17 gallons per week in mid-summer and 3 gallons per week in mid-winter).  I fertilized three times this year in hopes that the trees would grow better and produce more.  Nitrogen is low in the soil here and is the main fertilizer element needed.  The grapefruit tree has done the best with 27 grapefruits on it.  The orange tree has 10 oranges, and the lime tree did not produce any fruit this year because it was damaged by frost. 

pink grapefruit tree
      The sun can burn the tree leaves and bark.  Temperatures above 110F (43 C) may damage bark on young and old trees, leading to fungal infections.  It is recommended any exposed bark be painted with white latex paint.  Most of the citrus trees in neighboring yards have their exposed bark painted, and my husband painted our citrus tree trunks.  Salt concentration in the soil can be a problem here and can be reduced by heavy irrigation.  Citrus trees have no significant pests in Arizona.

bark painted with white latex paint

     We gave our oranges and grapefruit a taste test.  They were edible but not as sweet as we would like them.  So we will give the fruit another week or two on the tree before harvesting more.

first harvest - two grapefruit and an orange

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