Harvest: Late December – February
Conditions: A light, draught-free position in rich, moist soil.
This guide is for growing citrus in the UK, those of you in warmer climes probably won’t need a guide.
It can take six months for oranges to grow and fully ripen on your tree, and for the first few years your tree won’t produce much fruit. However, as the trees are evergreen with white flowers and rich green leaves, they make a wonderfully lush feature for any garden or house, regardless of their productivity.
Flowers should start to appear in May, with fruits appearing behind them. Most flowers won’t produce fruit but once they do, mist regularly to prevent them from dropping. The ones that do make it can be ready to harvest from Christmas onwards.
In this country, it’s probably best to grow your tree in a pot. Orange trees need protection from the frost, which means wrapping them in fleeces or bringing them inside before the first frost. I chose a large, plastic pot (so that I could move it easily in the winter) filled with special citrus compost. I also made sure there was a large dish underneath, so that I could water it safely in and outside the house.
Place the pot in as sunny and sheltered a position as possible. Orange trees need humidity so keep the soil moist but not wet and in the winter, they need less water again. Never let the soil dry out because the tree will drop its leaves. Keep an eye on the soil and top it up with citrus compost once a year.
Feed the tree throughout the summer with citrus feed and move it inside at the end of October – earlier if you’re in an area that gets early frosts. When inside the house, keep the tree away from direct heat sources like radiators and fireplaces because citrus trees do not flourish in such a dry heat. Remember, citrus trees do not mind cold weather, it’s frosts that damage them, so a cool room with plenty of light is the ideal position when inside. Then, when all risk of frost has gone, you can move them back outside.
When growing indoors, an orange tree could flower at any time throughout the year. Feed regularly and once flowers start to appear, try and improve the humidity by misting them often.
Fresh – If you leave the ripened oranges on the tree until you need them, they’ll keep for longer than if you were to harvest them all at once. However, if you have a large quantity to store, you can wrap them in paper and store in a cool, dark place for up to two months.
Preserves – Marmalade anyone?