If you live in the correct location in the United States you can grow our very favorite fruit… Oranges. But, even in the right location there is more to a healthy orange tree than just adding water.
Orange trees are native to China and India, oranges have been cultivated in the United States since the early 1700s. Valued for their fragrant white flowers in the spring and nutritious fruit in late fall and winter, orange trees are suitable for USDA zones 9 through 11. With proper care, the tree grows to be approximately 20 to 30 feet tall and has a naturally well-rounded shape.
Orange trees need full sun and well-drained soil to thrive.
Water: Newly planted trees benefit from the addition of a watering basin around the tree. A ridge of soil creates a berm to hold water and allow it to soak into the soil immediately surrounding the tree. Newly planted trees need to be watered once or twice a week to keep the soil moist but never wet. Wet, soggy soils and standing water can kill the tree. Established trees need water every week or two, depending on the weather and soil type. Hot weather and sandy soils require frequent watering.
Fertilizers: Oranges need light fertilizing with a high nitrogen fertilizer during the first year. The University of California Cooperative Extension recommends applying 1 tablespoon of ammonium sulfate monthly during the spring and summer. Older trees need 1/2 cup of ammonium sulfate per application for every year of tree age, up to a maximum of 4 cups. You will need four applications, spread four to six weeks apart, are needed. Commercial citrus formula fertilizer can also be used according to label directions.
Sun Protection: Young trees are susceptible to sun damage until the foliage grows in enough to protect the trunk. A thin coating of whitewash or interior latex paint thinned with an equal quantity of water will help protect the tree from sun damage. Commercial tree wraps are also available.
Pruning: Citrus trees need pruning only to remove dead branches and limbs that cross or touch the ground. Removing interior branches allows light to penetrate the tree and promotes better air circulation. Sucker branches need to be removed, especially those arising from the roots or below the tree graft. Pruning can be done at any time, but pruning after fruit harvest prevents crop reductions.
Cold Protection: Sustained temperatures below freezing damage the trees, flowers and fruit quickly; but mature orange trees are cold hardy to high 20s (Fahrenheit). During periods of sustained freezing weather, trees can be protected by covering them with a tarp or blankets. The addition of a few strings of outdoor lights adds warmth under nonflammable tarps or plastic coverings. The covers should be peeled back or removed immediately once the weather warms.
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180 South “E” Street
Porterville, CA 93257