With vibrant colors and fragrant blossoms, everyone loves to have those sweet and tangy citrus fruits in the garden. Citrus plants are small shrubs that reach a height between 5 to 15 meters. All you need to grow citrus trees is warm climate and well-drained soil. In addition, you don’t need huge garden to grow citrus trees. The best part of growing citrus tree is it requires low maintenance like once in a year fertilization and little to no pruning. Citrus trees begin to flower during spring season and the fruits begin to set shortly afterwards. You can harvest the fruits when they ripen in early winter.
There are three major categories under citrus family. They are oranges, lime, and grapefruit. Each of these categories has different varieties under them. Clementine, Mandarin, Tangerine, and Tangelo are different varieties of Oranges. Lime category include varieties like rough lemon, persian lime, key lime, makrut lime, and leech lime. Similarly, white grape fruit, red grape fruit, and Minneola come under grape fruit family. The general growing procedures for all citrus fruits are almost same with slight variations. Here we will see how to grow oranges. The steps described below apply to all orange varieties.
a. When to plant:
Like other citrus varieties, oranges require moderately hot climate with an average temperature of around 28 degrees. As citrus plants are very sensitive to cold climates, the best time to plant them is during spring season.
b. Where to plant:
When you buy orange trees, choose the ones that have fresh and dark green leaves. It may be better to avoid the ones that have leaves with yellow spots on them. Also, inspect the root of the trees for rots or decay. When you plant the citrus trees outdoor, choose an area that has well-drained soil and has good sunshine. You may have to avoid areas that does not drain well, as clogging of water could rot the roots of any plants and could invite mold and fungus to thrive in the place. In addition, you can find whether you have drainage problem by making a small hole and filling it with water and see if the water drains quickly.
c. How to plant:
After you have decided a right spot to plant your trees, you need to dig a hole that is three times the diameter of the roots and deep enough to hold the root ball of the citrus plant. In the case of dwarf citrus trees, choose a pot that has at least 2 feet in diameter. Before you place the citrus tree in the hole, soak the roots in water and then place the plants in the hole. Now, fill the planting hole with a mixture of soil and compost until the hole is half-full. When you place the plants, make sure that only the root section is inside the soil and the part that connects the root ball and trunk is outside. Now, fill the hole with water and allow it to settle. After the water has been absorbed, fill the remaining hole completely with soil.
d. How to water:
After you plant the citrus tree, you need to ensure the soil is always damp but not water-clogged until the roots are established well in the ground. Once the plant has gotten a grip, you can water it when necessary, usually once or twice a week would do. But you need to water the tree regularly even after the citrus tree matures. Even though citrus trees develops broad root systems and can tolerate droughts to an extent, you may not get good yield without regular watering.
e. When and how to harvest:
Even though you can identify whether the fruits have ripened by looking at their color, it is better to taste the fruits to check their state, because the color of citrus fruits could vary depending on the climate. As the planting is done in spring, you can expect to harvest in early winter.
When you have freshly planted a citrus tree, do not fertilize them. Citrus trees usually require fertilizing only in their second season. You can obtain high quality citrus fertilizer from local garden shops and use it at the end of the citrus tree’s first year. But make sure the fertilizer you use are not high in nitrogen, as it could damage the citrus tree.
Bacterial diseases like bacterial spot, citrus canker, or black pit could attack citrus plants. When citrus canker infects the plant, its leaves, fruits, and stems tend to produce lesion with raised brown margins or yellow rings. When citrus trees are attacked by citrus canker, Melanose, greasy spot or sooty mold, you could use liquid copper fungicide sprays.
Weeds and pests:
Aphids, whitefly, and scale insects also infest citrus plants in spite of their strong citric acid flavor. Apart from this, bronze-orange bugs are a major threat to citrus trees, as they could make flowers and fruit to fall off prematurely. You could rely on organic insecticides to prevent weeds and pests infesting the citrus trees.
Things to watch out for:
Other fruits like pears continue to ripen off the trees, but citrus fruits have to complete their full phase of maturity on trees. That means if you pluck the fruits in between the stages of maturity, they would only decay instead of ripening further. So leave the citrus fruits on tree itself till they finish their complete phase of ripening.