Sunday, March 2, 2014

Caring for Citrus Trees in the Spring

Here at the Back Forty Garden and Park, we had a bumper crop of citrus.  Of course, three Meyer Lemons may not fall into that category.  We had more of the Satsuma oranges than two people could eat and make marmalade to last for a long time.  We gave away oranges and we hardly noticed any decrease.  We still have Valencia oranges that should be ready for harvesting this month.

The Florida orange industry suffered because consumption of orange juice was down by 15% for the season.  People had so many other choices and the amount of sugar in oranges adding calories also added to the decrease.  The industry is also blamed for killing the bees by using pesticides.  With research, I'm hoping there will be a change forthcoming and better years ahead for Florida oranges.

In our small orchard, we have trimmed the Satsuma trees.  Some of the branches were reaching the ground, so we cut them back.  We cut out dead limbs. We cut out limbs growing on top of each other.  The Satsuma trees don't grow very tall; they are more like umbrella shaped trees.

One of the more important tasks in caring for the citrus trees is to keep the ground free of weeds.  For each tree, I (not we) have been on hands and knees pulling and tugging at weeds that so quickly invade the orchard.  The citrus trees have roots that grow very near the surface, so care must be giving not to hack away and thereby doing more harm than good.

Each of the citrus trees grows in a circle ending at their drip lines.  This makes it easy to mow with the tractor to cut in crazy eights when tired of going around in just one kind of circle.  It is also easy to remove grass at the edge of the circle with a weed whacker.  It looks very nice and clean when the trees are trimmed and the circles free of weeds.

At this time, we liberally sprayed the citrus trees with horticultural oil. The trunks were soaked and the branches were wet down.  We sprayed the the tops and undersides of the leaves.  We sprayed the trees just as new growth were appearing and more importantly we sprayed before the trees started to bloom.  This way, the neighbor's bees are welcome and they won't get hurt.

When new growth appears, it will be time to feed the trees with special fertilizer made for citrus trees.  The fertilizer instructions on the package give instructions on how much and how often to fertilize depending on the ages of the trees:  new trees, fruit bearing trees, and well established trees.

Thank you for visiting my blog.
Drink more orange juice.

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