THE ANNUAL FRONT-YARD GARDEN CITRUS HARVEST BEGINS TODAY WITH HAMLIN
Growing up in Southern California, a fresh orange was always little more than an arm’s length away, or so it seemed. The same is true in my front-yard garden in Niceville beginning now and continuing through the holidays.
Literally just 10 steps from my desk, near the front door to my office, stands a Hamlin orange tree heavy with ripe and near-ripe fruit. So heavy with fruit in fact, that two large limbs have snapped from the weight (darn! I should have seen that coming!).
Hamlin oranges are a widely grown juice orange. The reason I chose a Hamlin was because it ripens early, before we have a hard freeze. The fruit from the Valencia orange tree, planted on the other side of the house, does not fully ripen until about February Most years a good bit of fruit – sometimes all of it – is lost or damaged due to a hard freeze.
The fruit from my Hamlin orange tree is not as rich in orange flavor or as juicy as the Valencia oranges I grow. Hamlin oranges are a little greenish in color when ripe and the juice is pale orange in color. But when picked from the tree and eaten fresh, Hamlin oranges grown in north Florida are still quite a sweet and tasty treat!
Orange trees are not a recommended citrus tree in north Florida because of our occasional hard freezes but many people have success growing them in their landscapes in Niceville and other communities south of I-10.
I planted my orange trees near the east and west sides of my house to help protect them from the cold and wind during the winter. I protected them from freezing temperatures when the trees were young but as they grew it became impractical and unnecessary.
Although each only gets about a half day of sun, both trees are now taller than the house (they need pruning). My Hamlin orange tree was in a seven gallon container and stood less than four feet tall when I bought it in March, 2001.
In addition to sweet oranges, I also have large tangerine, kumquat and lemon trees growing in the yard. Citrus trees are very appealing to the eye – I enjoy looking at them more than eating the fruit!
Consider planting some citrus in your yard. You can find fresh trees at local nurseries and garden centers in the spring. Between now and then, I’ll post more about my citrus trees and caring for them, as well as a compressive article on how to grow citrus in north Florida. Watch this space.
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