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How to Care for Orange Trees


Keep the area around your orange tree well-weeded for its first two or three years in the ground. If you choose to grow your orange tree in a pot, follow these instructions, but move it to a sunny, warm indoor location before your first fall frost. You can keep your first big harvest fresh for three months if you store your oranges at 52 degrees Fahrenheit.

Oranges are a delicious, healthful food, full of vitamins A, C and calcium. If you grow your own, you’ll have no excuse for skipping that morning glass of sunshine, and because orange trees produce a prolific harvest of their juicy fruit, you’ll learn to use them in many recipes. Oranges are easy to grow in yards where winter low temperatures rarely dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and they do well until the summer high temperature tops 100 degrees. Several varieties of oranges are good choices for home gardens: the navel, Valencia, Hamlin and pineapple orange are favorites in California and Florida. You can even grow an orange in a large pot, which you can bring indoors during cold weather.

Choose an area that has plenty of sun and acidic soil that drains well. If your soil is alkaline (above 7.0 pH), add sulfur, sawdust, composted wood chips, leaf mold and/or peat moss.

Dig a hole larger than the root system of your orange tree’s nursery pot and fill in about one shovelful of compost. Gently remove the tree and place it in the hole. Fill in with the soil you have removed. Pat down around the trunk and then water your tree thoroughly.

Fertilize with a citrus fertilizer four to five times during the warmer months. Use a half-pound of a nitrogen-based fertilizer at each feeding, for a total of 1.5 pounds fertilizer throughout the year.

Prune orange trees in winter to keep them a size that fits well with your landscape. Be sure to cut off dead branches and any that are closer to the ground than one foot. Remove water sprouts that pop up from the tree’s base.

Protect your tree from frost by running a sprinkler that will cover the entire tree with water on nights when cold temperatures are forecast.

Spray your trees with sulfur or a fungicide if powdery mildew starts to appear as white or sooty-looking residue, primarily on the underside of leaves.

Control insect pests as soon as you notice them. Rust mites and citrus mites can attack your tree, as can scale insects, aphids and other pests. Introducing such beneficial insects as ladybugs and parasitic wasps to your yard can control aphids and scale. Spraying with an insecticidal soap is often effective against many insects.

Harvest your oranges when they turn orange. Do not expect green oranges to ripen off the tree.

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