Growing Citrus In Louisiana

Patricia M. Arledge, Sharpe, Kenneth W.  |  11/16/2015 8:55:04 PM

News Article for November 2, 2015:

If you have been munching on some fresh satsumas and think you might like your own supply, November is a great time to plant trees.

Citrus likes to grow in a warmer winter environment that we have here. They do better along the coast and even further south in Florida, but the citrus that is grown here is of high quality and tasty. If you are not willing to occasionally lose a plant or have it burnt back by cold and lose a year’s production then citrus in southeast Louisiana is not for you.

The two most cold hardy and therefore reliable citrus producers for our area would be kumquats and satsumas.

There are two kumquat choices, sweet and tart. The Nagami kumquat produces a tart fruit that is oblong. The fruit will get ripe from mid-October to February and in an attractive evergreen tree with lots of smooth orange fruit. The Meiwa kumquat produces round fruit that has sweet pulp.

Satsuma choices are based on when you want production and then the taste that you like best. For early production consider Louisiana Early or St. Ann. Both varieties where developed in Louisiana and they will be ready for harvest from early September through to mid-October. Brown Select is another Louisiana variety that will have fruit ready for a later harvest in mid –October to November.

The most widely planted satsuma variety is Owari. It produces high quality medium to small sized seedless fruit. The fruit will get ripe about 2 weeks after Brown Select, usually maturing in early to mid-November but can be held on the tree to be harvested into December. Owari has the most cold tolerance of the satsumas which makes it an excellent choice for planting here in the northern most growing range for citrus.

Satsumas can be harvested once the color starts to change from green to yellow, they do not have to be orange. Some people like satsumas more tart and others like them sweeter. Growers use a meter to determine sweetness and harvest satsuma based on sugar content. You have such an instrument also and it is right on the tip of your tongue. It is hard to pin point the harvest date on a calendar because every year is different and the harvest date can be 2 weeks either way. Just use the old taste test to determine when your satsumas fill your sweet tooth and are ready for harvest.

We do have some people who have been somewhat successful with growing navel oranges but they are more prone to freezing. If you want to give it a try plant the Washington Navel. It will be ripe when it turns a deep orange color in late November and December.

Lemons and limes cannot take our cold. The Meyer Lemon is the only exception. It is really a mandarin orange crossed with a lemon and has lemon like physical characteristics but gets some cold protection from the mandarin. Meyer lemons are ripe when they turn yellow in mid-October and can stay on the tree into December.

Be patient with citrus, the quality of the fruit you get the first three years is not that good but year four they get much better and then at year five you will really be pleased.

The best cold protection for citrus is to plant on a southern exposure and keep the grass cleaned out from underneath the canopy. Bare ground under the tree will allow heat to radiate up from the earth to warm the tree on cold nights. Just one or two degrees can make the difference.

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.

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