HARVESTING AND PRUNING CITRUS, by Larry Williams UF/IFAS Extension Agent

Home gardeners can easily decide when most citrus types are ready to harvest. As the fruit reaches full size and the skin color changes from green to greenish yellow to orange, simply pick some fruit and taste it to see if it is sweet. If not, wait a little longer (a week or two) and test taste another fruit. Meyer lemons are ready when skin color changes from green to greenish yellow. Satsuma fruit might be ready to eat before the skin becomes completely orange, especially if the early fall is warm. Kumquats usually are at their peak in taste when they become fully orange but can be eaten somewhat earlier if you enjoy a tarter fruit. Citrus fruit does not ripen additionally after it is harvested. so let it mature sufficiently on the plant.

Harvest season for Satsuma is October toDecember. Harvest season for Meyer lemon is November to March. Harvest season for kumquat is November to April. Most grapefruit have a harvest season from November to May. Harvest season for sweet oranges varies based on the cultivar. Early season oranges are harvested October to January, mid-season oranges are harvested December to February and late-season cultivears are harvested March to June. In general, citrus fruit may mature a little earlier in the harvest season on mature trees and those that are not fertilized as much. But on young, vigorous trees, the number of fruit will usually be less with fruit being ready to pick more toward the end of the harvest season.

Basics of pruning citrus include the following:

  • Prune mid to late March.
  • Avoid pruning after September to reduce the production of late growth, which will be more easily injured by frost or freeze.
  • Prune only as needed, otherwise don’t prune.
  • Overly vigorous or overgrown trees may be the result of too much fertilizer, including fertilizer from nearby lawn area. Tree roots grow outward two to three times beyond the branch spread. Much of the lawn fertilizer used by homeowners is high in nitrogen. Excess nitrogen results in excess tree growth. As a result, the tree will require pruning more often as compared to a correctly fertilized tree. This is a common problem in home grown citrus trees.
  • A citrus tree may be planted where it does not have enough room to mature. If a citrus tree is planted in the right spot (given enough room to grow) and is fertilized correctly, it will require little pruning.
  • Avoid severely pruning a citrus tree, which will result in the tree not producing much fruit for several years.
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