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Sweet golden oranges are winter’s special treat.
They hang on our trees like glowing globes and feature in our kitchens as breakfast juice and marmalade; cakes and desserts; salads and delicious any-time snacks.
Linda Ross has the juice on how to get the best from them in your garden.
Planting and caring
Oranges thrive in temperate regions with hot sunny days and cool nights. They demand sunshine, good airflow, occasional deep watering and regular feeding: quarterly applications of blood and bone, regular animal manure mulches and a winter dose of citrus food. Potted citrus should be fed every three months with a controlled release fertiliser.
Collar rot is a phytophora fungus that attacks the roots and low section of the trunk, killing the tree. Prevent it by ensuring good drainage and removing lower branches and grass growing around the trunk to aid airflow. If collar rot occurs remove affected rotting back and spray with Antirot.
Fruit drop is most likely due to irregular watering when small fruit are developing.
Citrus leaf miner presents as a wiggly track in new leaves. Prune affected leaves and prevent with regular sprays of Eco Oil.
Pests such as bronze orange bug, scale and aphids are sap-sucking insects that reduce the vigour of the tree. Spray with Eco Oil.
Taste before picking as some fruit may be coloured but not ripe. In summer, Valencia oranges can be ripe even if they are partly green, as the greening is a natural protection against sunburn. Oranges store well on the tree, so there is no need to harvest the whole crop at once. This is useful as an average ‘Washington Navel’ will produce about 100 fruits in a season. In fact some very large, very old trees in the Mediterranean are said to produce between 3,000 and 5,000 fruits in a year! If you do have a glut, the fruit can be squeezed and the juice frozen.
Navels – ‘Washington’ matures in May and June. In some coastal areas excessive summer fruit drop or shedding of developing fruit occurs, resulting in very poor navel crops. Thomson is also early with a fine rind, but is not as juicy as the Washington. Leng navel, suitable for inland areas only is early, with small fruit. Fruti drop can be a rpboem. Lan’s Late matures in August. It can be slow to reach satisfactory cropping levels in coastal climates.
Valencia – primarily grown for its juice, it matures between September and October although fruit will remain on the tree for 6 months under favourable conditions. Watch out for fruit fly or black spot in coastal districts.
Joppa, Parramatta, Homosassa, Siletta, Hamlin and Mediterranean Sweet – are mid-season varieties that mature in July and August and have good juice content. Trees are easy to grow and cropping is regular, but fruit will only hold on the tree for a short time. All are suitable for home juicing.
Blood oranges - Arnold’s Blood, Ruby, Maltese and Harvard. Although popular in some Mediterranean countries owing to their distinctive flavour and appearance, they have increasing appeal in Australia. The amount of rind and flesh pigmentation, particularly under mild coastal growing conditions, is usually disappointing. The hot, dry inland areas are more dependable for dark red pigmentation.
- Oranges do not ripen further after harvest. They keep best in the fridge but can also be stored at room temperature.
- Freshly squeezed orange juice or grated peel or zest can be frozen.
- In Jamaica, people clean their floors with an orange cut in half; mechanics there use oranges to clean away grease and oil.
- The best oranges for pots are those grafted onto a dwarfing ‘Flying Dragon’ rootstock.
- Microwaving an orange for 5-10 seconds before juicing will make it easier to juice.
Where to buy
Engall’s Nursery, www.engalls.com.au
Your local nursery