April 2006

Pruning Citrus

I would suggest pruning citrus three times each calendar year once your citrus becomes established in your yard and begins to produce a normal amount of vegetative growth. By getting off on the right foot, you will find it easier to prune your citrus as the years progress. This way, you will have a more attractive looking plant with good form. Most urban lots just cannot handle a large citrus! The three times to consider pruning are late January to early February. This time period can be used when up to several feet of wood must be removed. The next period is early May to remove about 50% of each of the new spring shoots and the same goes for late September. This schedule will help encourage new shoots to develop below the cut, giving a fuller, more compact and better-shaped plant. Keeping the lowest branches 12-18" above the soil line will make it easier to clean under the citrus as well as to remove fallen fruit before they spoil. The last quality fruit is normally found on the lower half of the plant and it is easier to harvest. Dead wood can be removed at anytime during the year, but December & January temperature makes this job somewhat easier. Better fruit sizing each year will result when maximum plant size is controlled. If your fruit size is small, these pruning tips may help solve this problem. Better watering will help if the plant isn't getting the amount suggested for the size & type of citrus grown.

Helping young citrus

Mid-day, overhead shade is excellent for newly or recently planted citrus if it receives all day sun or our hot afternoon sun, up through the first 12 month period. Using an old bed sheet or large burlap supported by 4 stakes over the plant will do. Take into consideration the angle of the sun, which is always changing, so that the plant will receive the maximum amount of mid-day shade.

This will help modify the intensity of our sun. Your citrus tree receiving sun before 9-10 am and after 3-4 pm will normally be okay. For our gardening endeavors to be successful here, we must learn to understand and manage our abundant sun shine. Good luck!

Citrus Harvest Period

Your best bet is to learn the normal harvest period for your particular citrus variety. Check our nursery web site for suggested harvest periods. Begin sampling the fruit a few weeks before the suggested time frame to see what your taste buds say. Everyone's taste buds are not the same!! If necessary, continue to sample the fruit every 7-10 days until the flavor meets your needs. Then, while it is still fresh in your mind, mark down the harvest period for this current season in your citrus notebook for future reference. Years ago, I had a neighbor who would not begin using their navel orange until mid January. This is considered mid season, but this was best for his taste buds! Most citrus varieties improve in quality, with additional time on the plant, up to a point.

Cara Cara Navel Orange

The Cara Cara Navel Orange is the first pigmented navel orange variety available in the citrus industry. Cara Cara was discovered in a commercial citrus grove in Venezuela, South America. It is a bud sport that developed on a Washington Navel Orange plant. It's internal flesh is reddish pink in color. Since it is a bud sport, some plants may produce a lightly colored variegated shoot. When this happens, cut off that particular limb, as it will not be productive.

Our local food stores have featured this navel the past two winters, from commercial growers in California. Greenfield Citrus Nursery has a limited supply of their new navel. Under our conditions, it appears to take our summer heat better than the Washington Navels and bears a little earlier in it's life span.

Citrus Root Development

Citrus research shows that the optimum soil temperature for citrus is from 68 - 95 degrees F.

So soil temperatures below or above this range, is not favorable for root development at a given soil depth. Therefore, when soil temperatures near the soil surface go above 95 degrees F, root development is less favorable, in those areas of the soil.

Training young citrus

When you buy a young citrus from our nursery, the lower trunk is covered with cardboard. This is done to keep the lower trunk from sun-burning and to keep the lower trunk from developing shoots. As a result, you will have a smoother, more beautiful looking trunk. It is suggested that this cardboard wrap be kept on for the next year or two, until the lower branches on the plant bend down and protect the trunk from our intense sunshine.

Juice Oranges

The juice oranges commonly grown here in the Salt River Valley are the so called Arizona Sweets and the Valencia oranges. These can be juiced as a fresh citrus. The Trovita orange, one of the Arizona Sweets is considered a seedling of the Washington Navel and makes an excellent eating, and juice orange. Therefore, this is an excellent substitute for the navel orange and will give you more fruit. The Washington Navel grown here is considered an eating orange, and makes a poor juice orange. Therefore for best results, use the navel as an eating orange and not a juice orange! Since the Washington Navel finds our long summer desert heat too hot for good fruit production, the yield will be less than what we get from the different juice orange varieties. Navels yield in the commercial groves are better than in the back yard situation. This results because probably the higher humidity in the groves and the protection the plants get from adjacent trees to our intense heat and winds. In the home owner situation, growing the navel where it can get afternoon shade is best for better fruit production. For the best of both worlds, consider the Trovita oranges over the Washington Navel Orange.

This latest "What's New" comes to us from Mr. Allen Boettcher, our loyal employee, a retired Cooperative Extension Agent, and our nursery's very own, horticulturist expert. You got a plant question ? - Allen has the answer. Thanks, Allen.