Hardiness Zone: 9a
Jean from Savannah, GA
When citrus trees are allowed to bear all of the fruit they set in the spring, the results are usually less than optimal. You will either see lots of small fruits or inconsistent crops over the course of several years. Thinning the fruit of younger trees is important for good crop production, and it promotes the growth of the canopy, which produces a healthy, more disease resistant tree in the end.
In order for trees to produce a good quality crop consistently, it is recommended to thin fruit clusters down to a single fruit so that each fruit hangs no more than 6 inches from the next. With limes trees, I believe 2-3 fruits per cluster is considered acceptable. In general, if you make a fist and find you can touch 2 fruits at the same time, your citrus tree needs thinning.
Thinning should be done in the spring or mid-summer, after the tree thins itself naturally (also known as fruit drop). At this point, the fruit will still be a manageable size (between the size of your thumbnail and a golf ball). If you wait too long, any benefits gained by thinning will be lost.
The thinning process is best done with a pruning shears or scissors. Leave the largest, most vigorous fruits on the tree and when removing the others, make sure to remove the fruit as well as the entire stem from the tree.
I hope that helps!
Can I send you my address? I would love some fresh oranges!!
I'm only kidding. I just wanted to comment on the picture you sent in. I would give anything to be able to grow fruit the way you in the southern states can. Here in Northern Canada, I live in oil country, so the views out my windows are of huge black oil burns. They are also loud and don't smell anything like oranges!
What a beautiful sight! Don't thin the fruit, just support the branch. Put a board under it to hold it up, stick one end on the ground and the other end under the branch. To be extra good to your tree, pad the top end of the board with bubble wrap, cloth or something to keep from opening the bark. Speak praise to your little tree for being so eager to please! and to its maker of course!
There's another reason to remove excess fruit: It will drop off the tree eventually, attracting pests. I remember, when I lived in AZ, there were news stories telling people to remove fruit from their citrus trees because it was attracting rats! :-O
Yes... thin the fruit!! I live in the Michigan Fruitbelt, born and bred and I'm surrounded by our own orchards. PEaches, pears, apples, cherries, apricots, pluots, and plums to name only a few, but we thin the fruit to two or three per cluster but only after what's called the "june drop" which is when the trees naturally drop some of the excess fruit. Take note: if the fruit is not thinned, it can get too heavy for the branches and cause them to split and crack and even break off. This can dammage the tree and even kill it. An excellent book for just such things is called "The backyard orchardist" by Stella Otto.
We have apple, pear, plum, and cherry trees and we thin them. I leave only 2 in a cluster.
I live in the countryside and am surrounded on three sides by citrus groves, and several grow wild on my acreage. I would say, yes, go ahead and harvest :) if the fruit are so heavy that they're weighing down the tree then they are definitely ripe and ready for eating. Naval oranges are delicious, and make for awesome chicken marinade.
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