Planting Citrus Tree

Planting Citrus Tree
by Oberon Kitchenell

Citrus trees are sensitive to wet soil and overwatering, yet irrigation is necessary in many citrus-growing areas; to be sure the trees have adequate drainage, plant them on a slight mound with a 3- to 4-inch permanent earthen basin around the trees. When water is put in the basin, it should not rise to the level of the trunk.

Tangors, crosses between common oranges and tangerines, are typified by the 2 1/2- to 3-inch Temple, one of the most delicious and easy to peel of citrus fruits. Standard trees grow 10 to 12 feet tall, dwarfs 5 to 6 feet tall; fruit ripen in spring.

A standard tree yields about 1,000 pounds annually, a dwarf about 400 to 500 pounds. Kumquats bear 1- to 1 1/2-inch orange-colored fruit that ripen in the fall; they have a mild flavor and a sweet, spicy rind that is eaten along with the flesh. Most are made into preserves. Kumquat trees are bushlike in appearance, growing 4 to 5 feet tall. Recommended varieties are Meiwa and Nagami. One tree will yield about 40 pounds of fruit a year.

Limes bear throughout the year, but more fruit ripen in early summer than in other seasons. Standard trees are 15 to 20 feet tall, dwarfs 7 to 10 feet tall. Ripe limes are yellowish green or green in color and about 11/4 to 2 inches in diameter. Recommended varieties for Arizona and California are Bearss Seedless and Mexican; for Florida, Persian, also called Tahiti; and for Texas, Mexican. A standard tree yields around 1,000 pounds annually, a dwarf 200 to 250 pounds.

Because citrus fruits do not improve in flavor after they are picked, they should be allowed to ripen on the tree. Fortunately, most citrus fruits cling to the trees for months after they are ripe, and even though their flavor slowly deteriorates, the harvest season is spread over weeks or months.

Citrus fruits are fully ripe when they have reached the color and size specified for their type. All fruits should be picked with shears (and gauntlet gloves if the trees have thorns) and should be cut off flush with the button, the point at which the fruits are attached to the stem.

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