Organic California Orange Trees

Pay top dollar for organic oranges at trendy natural food stores or grow your own. Choose from seedless naval oranges, Valencias or an unusual variety such as the blood orange. Whatever the choice is, the growing conditions are the same. Plant in a sunny area that is large enough to accommodate the mature tree. The planting area should have rich, well-drained soil. Add a bit of fertilizer and water and success should follow.

Start With Organic

Organically grown orange tree saplings are available for sale at specialty nurseries. Choose a grafted tree of the variety you prefer instead of attempting to grow from seed. A grafted tree will ensure that you'll get the true variety. It also will produce more quickly than trees started from seed. Dig organic compost into the soil before planting and additional fertilizer won't be necessary until the tree is about 1 year old. Two gallon buckets of compost is an appropriate amount for a tree that was purchased in a 5-gallon pot.

Organic Fertilizer

When the organic California orange tree is about 1 year old, begin feeding it in early spring with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion. Follow label instructions. Repeat your application once a month until midsummer. Avoid giving your organic orange tree fertilizer during the winter, but remember to water it if rains are sparse. You can provide continuous nutrition for your orange tree by spreading a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch around the tree's drip line (about 3 to 4 feet away from the trunk of mature trees). Any organic material is suitable---try using compost, well-rotted manure, grass clippings, fallen leaves and other plant parts you have available.

Organic Insect Control

Orange trees can become the victims of several insect pests, including aphids, scale, whiteflies and spider mites. If you notice ants crawling up your tree, that's your first clue that you've got an insect problem because they carry aphids and scale to the tree so they can feed off their sweet excretion called honeydew. To get rid of ants organically, shoot your tree with a sharp stream of water to remove the ants and then smear a layer of Tanglefoot around the trunk of your tree. Spray aphids, whiteflies and spider mites with insecticidal soap, which you can purchase at garden centers. For scale insects, which are armored and impervious to soap, mix 1 tablespoon of organic cooking oil, such as olive oil, with 1 quart of insecticidal soap and spray your tree with this mixture. The soap will take care of young, unarmored scale and any aphids or other soft-bodied insects, and the oil will smother the older, armored scale. Take care of snails and slugs by hand picking and squashing them or use an organic product called iron phosphate granules, sold as "Sluggo."

Organic Disease Control

Powdery mildew is a common fungal disease that affects citrus trees. Watch for a gray or white fuzzy coating on leaves, especially during warm, wet weather and if you live in an area such as the California coast that gets summer fog. Organic sulfur is a good remedy to spray on your organic orange tree for controlling powdery mildew and some other fungal diseases.

Organic Weed Control

Hand pull weeds that pop up around your organic orange tree. If you spread a layer of mulch around the soil surrounding your tree it will prevent weed seeds from sprouting and will also nourish your tree.

Keywords: orange tree, organic fruit, citrus California

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.