How to Care for Citrus Trees When the Fruit Is Too Heavy
You may be delighted if your orange or lemon tree overflows with young fruit, but if a tree bears more fruit than it can handle, neither the gardener nor the tree benefits. There’s an inverse relationship between the number of fruits on a tree and their quality — overcrowded fruit seems small and not as delicious. Additionally, the citrus tree may grow weak in the carbohydrate drain of surplus fruit production. Reducing the fruit load during crop thinning reduces the odds of broken branches and allows the fruit to grow to its maximum size. Hand loss is the most precise method of fruit selection, but rod pruning works faster.
Watch for the natural thinning that occurs in early May in Mediterranean climates. Diseased or small, immature fruit falls from citrus trees in that time since the tree does its own fruit thinning. With citrus trees, then this is often all of the fruit thinning the tree requires.
Inspect your tree from mid-May to ascertain the degree of the fruit overload. The amount of fruit you need to narrow changes between species and also between individual trees. Determine if your citrus tree has one or two overcrowded branches or if the entire tree carries a lot of fruit. Look for branches so heavily weighted they are in danger of cracking. Take into account the tree’s age and state of health; young, vigorous trees may endure more of a fruit load than people with weak or old branches.
Thin your tree from hand to decrease crop load and increase fruit size. It is by far the most accurate method of citrus thinning, allowing you to target and eliminate the smaller fruits, but it’s very time intensive. Pluck sufficient fruit off by hand, to ensure those remaining are spaced evenly across the branch, far enough apart that each one can develop to full size without demanding another fruit. Remove small, blemished or misshapen fruit first, and only then remove wholesome fruit. Toss thinned fruit to the ground for later clean-up.
Pole prune if you’re in a hurry or your tree is too tall for hand thinning. Attach a cloth into the end of a rod. Strike individual fruits or branches until sufficient fruit falls in that branch to allow the remaining fruit space to grow. Repeat until the citrus fruit crop on each branch has been thinned.