Harvesting Citrus Fruit in Arizona - When and How
The opportunity to grow citrus trees in your backyard is just one of the many perks of living in Arizona. Each year, nature provides us with a bounty of tangy lemons, juicy oranges and delectable tangelos that make life even more enjoyable.
As someone new to growing citrus, it does help to know that there are ways that you can increase your harvest while making sure that your plants are ready for another year of growth. The citrus season spans several months, and knowing when and how to harvest the fruit is an essential part of your landscaping plan.
When to Pick Fruit for the Best Flavor
The citrus season runs from November to May. However, you do need to know when to pick specific types of fruit.
- Navel oranges - These produce early and are at their best between November and February. Some trees produce fruit until June.
- Valencia oranges - You’ll find these ready to harvest later in the season. Start checking the trees between February and July.
- Tangerines - These usher in citrus season and are one of the first fruits you can pick. They’re usually ready to harvest between late September through December.
- Tangelos - This hybrid fruit is ready for harvest a little later than tangerines. Look for them to be ready between November and March.
- Grapefruit - These trees can help you to extend your citrus season. They produce fruit that is ready to pick from January through May. Then, you might be lucky enough to get a second harvest sometime between September and December.
- Lemons and limes - These make the citrus season a year round event. Like grapefruits, they typically have two harvest times. Winter lemons and limes are ready to harvest between November and March. Summer fruit can be picked in September and October.
Keep in mind that these are just general guidelines. Citrus fruit tends to get sweeter and juicer as time goes by. If you aren’t sure if a piece of fruit is ready to pick, then give it a few more days. Giving it more time to ripen may yield a better harvest.
Pick a Sample
The fruit on the outside of a citrus tree ripens first. Start by checking along the outside branches for fruit that feels heavy. Ripe fruit should also have a strong citrusy scent.
The color of the fruit is not always the best indicator of its ripeness. Oranges and other fruits often still have a hint of green on the peel. Sampling a piece of fruit is usually the best way to find out if the others are ready to harvest. If the first bite has a tangy, sweet flavor, then feel free to begin picking.
Remove as Much Fruit as You Can
You can also feel comfortable picking all of the ripe fruit that you can. Fruit that is left too long on a citrus tree can negatively affect its growth and next season’s harvest.
If you leave the fruit alone, it will also eventually drop off. On the ground, it can rot and attract pests. Harvesting all of the fruit protects the landscaping.
The fruit that your trees produce is a good indicator of their overall health. While a younger plant takes a few years to produce a good yield, you should be concerned about one that suddenly stops. With proper care, you can expect to harvest enough citrus fruit to have enough to share.
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