Masterful Gardening 1.19.08

by Kay McAllister, Master Gardener

We're the citrus state so let's grow some fruitMy Nassau Sun Logo


Florida is the Sunshine and Citrus State. Many Florida homeowners include orange, grapefruit, lemon or lime citrus trees in their landscapes. Watching a tree bloom, develop fruit, and then harvesting and sharing the fruit is popular in many neighborhoods. Here in Nassau County, we are a little far north for the ideal citrus growing climate. However, selecting citrus varieties that are cold-hardy offers the best opportunity for annual harvests in our area.

One orange tree variety that does very well in Nassau County is the Satsuma; it is a tangerine-type orange. The Satsuma is productive, stays medium in size and is cold-tolerant. There are three other sweet orange producing trees to consider: the Hamlin, Parson Brown and the Osbeck. These varieties mature in early to late fall so the fruit can be harvested before a severe freeze.

To add citrus trees to your landscape, start by buying from a reputable nursery, a good quality tree that is free of disease. A young tree should be planted on the south or west side of the yard to get the best exposure to the sun. Make sure you plant the tree with space to grow to full size without being crowded by other vegetation. Citrus trees are planted 10 to 15 feet apart, and 20 to 25 feet away from other trees or buildings.

CitrusThe best time to plant is late winter or early spring. Dig up the ground to a depth of 2 to 3 feet and 11/2 times the width of the container. Remove the tree from the container and make several vertical cuts in the root ball to stimulate root growth. Set the plant in the ground slightly higher than it grew in the container. Refill the hole around the plant; tap the dirt to remove air space.

Form a water basin around the tree to retain water near the roots. Provide the tree with 1 inch of water three times a week for two weeks, then taper off gradually to once a week. Young trees should receive a generous supply of water every seven to 10 days during periods of little or no rainfall. The best way to irrigate citrus is with the drip method.

During the first growing season it is best to remove immature fruit from the tree, thereby leaving more nutrients for the tree structure to grow to produce and hold fruit the second season. Citrus trees need to be fertilized with 8-8-8 fertilizer.

Pruning should not be done except to shape or remove small sucker branches.




Kay McAllister

Kay McAllister lives in Lanceford Creek Plantation. She has lived in Nassau County for 10 years and has been a Master Gardener for two years..