Is It Citrus Fruit Picking Time?

Bonnie Nowicki

New year greetings, Quail Creek gardeners. May 2022 be a productive, healthy, and safe year for all of us. Let’s start by refreshing our citrus growing and harvesting knowledge. Most of us have a citrus tree or two in our yards. I have a semi-dwarf Flame grapefruit tree and a Nules Clementine, also semi-dwarf. Both trees are younger than five years old, so fruit production is minimal. It’s important to pay close attention to watering and fertilizing. After two years in the ground, you can start fertilizing one-third of the tree’s total annual nitrogen requirements in January and February, and one-third in March and April and the final one-third in May and June.

If you’re just thinking about planting a citrus tree, usually springtime is suggested, but please consider planting by a west- or south-facing wall during the fall season. This timing allows the roots to develop before the heavy water demands of summer. Make sure the bud union is visible 4 to 6 inches above the ground.

With the enormous tree varieties available, fruit harvesting times will vary. A Fukumoto navel orange can begin ripening as early as mid-October. And yet a Valencia orange may not ripen till February and continue through May. December and January seem to fit the bill for most citrus, but grapefruit harvesting can also continue through May. A Ponderosa lemon and Mexican lime are harvested all year long. How wonderful! As you can see, there’s quite a range of picking times.

Citrus fruits turn color in response to cold weather. The fruit loses acid and gains sugar as it matures, which depends on temperature. The exterior fruit color does not always mean interior sweetness. Once picked, the fruit will not become sweeter. Fruit is sweeter sooner in warmer climates, and fruits grown in dry climates will always have thicker peels. There are so many options and decisions to consider when growing citrus trees. Fellow gardeners, I guess the best way to determine if a citrus fruit is ripe is to eat it. How fortunate we are to be able to grow our own citrus. Happy picking and tasting!