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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 10, 2004

Variety of orange trees flourish in our neighborhoods

By Jari Sugano

As the surf builds on the North Shore, mornings become cooler and citrus trees hang low with plump orange and yellow balls of fruit. This is a signal that winter is just around the corner.

And there's nothing like a boost of vitamin C to help you tackle the busy holiday season.

Sweet oranges are easy to grow and very productive this time of year.

Navel oranges are the predominant sweet oranges in our back yards. Washington navel, Rico No. 2, and Shuekhan are the recommended varieties for home gardens. Big Island oranges, also known as Ka'u or Puna oranges, are the most popular Washington navel varieties.

The Ka'u orange is a popular Washington navel variety in the Islands.

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Tabata, a low-acid variety, is recommended for people who can't tolerate citrus acid. Robertson and Thompson navel oranges are varieties found in older neighborhoods. Caracara, also known as blood orange, is a novelty variety with its purple flesh and few seeds.

Select recommended grafted plants from local nurseries or garden shops. Find a site with full sunlight and good drainage. Dig a planting hole 2 to 3 times the diameter of the container.

Add a handful of superphosphate fertilizer along with a generous amount of decomposed organic compost to the planting hole. Mix soil amendment thoroughly. New plants should be planted at the same level as it was in the original containers. Stake plant to avoid excess movement from winds.

Water thoroughly immediately after planting. Keep soil moist until the plant has established itself. Thereafter, water 2 to 3 times a week. Mulch lightly around the plant to minimize weeds and to maintain uniform soil moisture.

Orange trees should be pruned lightly every year. Remove dead or weak limbs. During the first 2 to 3 years, fertilize every three months with an 8-8-8, or 16-16-16 fertilizer. As trees begin to fruit, use fertilizers with higher potassium sources such as 10-20-20 or 10-5-20 or 6-20-20 to enhance fruit quality.

Healthy plants are less vulnerable to pest problems. The most destructive citrus pest is the tristeza virus, which can kill trees. To minimize this problem, prevent aphid infestation. Other pests include thrips, mites, Chinese rose beetles, citrus swallowtails, leaf miners and scales.

Harvest mature fruits when two-thirds of the fruit is yellow-orange by twisting on the stem.

Use homegrown fruits and other local treats to fill holiday gift baskets for friends and neighbors.

Happy holidays!

Jari Sugano is an extension agent with the University of Hawai'i-Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Reach her at suganoj@ctahr.hawaii.edu.