Harvesting Oranges: Learn When And How To Pick An Orange

By: Amy Grant

Oranges are easy to pluck from the tree; the trick is to know when to harvest an orange. If you have ever purchased oranges from the local grocer, you are well aware that uniform orange color is not necessarily an indicator of a delicious, juicy orange; the fruit is sometimes dyed, which makes things confusing. The same rule of thumb applies when harvesting oranges; color is not always a determining factor.

When to Harvest an Orange

Times for harvesting oranges vary depending upon the variety. Picking oranges may occur any time from as early as March to as late as December or January. It’s helpful to know what variety of orange you have to determine the right time for picking oranges.

To be more specific, these tips should help:

  • Navel oranges are ready for harvest from November to June.
  • Valencia oranges are ready in March into October.
  • Cara Cara oranges ripen in December through May.
  • Clementine oranges are ready in October as are Satsuma until December or January.
  • Pineapple sweet oranges are ready for harvest from November to February.

As you can see, determining which type of orange you have gives you a hint as to when the fruit is ready. In general, most orange harvest takes place between late September and onward into early spring.

How to Harvest Oranges

Knowing how to pick an orange that is ripe can be tricky. As mentioned above, color is not always an indicator of an orange’s ripeness. That said, you don’t want to pick green fruit. In many cases, the ripe fruit will simply drop from the tree. Check the fruit for mold, fungus, or blemishes. Choose an orange to harvest that smells sweet, fresh and citrusy, not moldy. The surest way to check to see if an orange tree is ready to be picked is to taste one or two fruits before you harvest the entire tree. Remember, citrus does not continue to ripen once removed from the tree.

To harvest your oranges, simply grasp the ripe fruit in your hand and gently twist it until the stem detaches from the tree. If the fruit is too high, use a ladder to climb as far up as you can and shake the branches to loosen the fruit. Hopefully, the fruit will fall to the ground like citrus manna from heaven.

If the skins of your oranges tend to be very thin and, thus, easily torn, it is best to use clippers to cut the stems. Some varieties of oranges do well to just leave the ripe fruit on the tree for a few months longer instead of harvesting the entire tree at once. It’s a great storage method and often the fruit just gets sweeter.

Go ahead and gather fruit that has dropped from the tree to the ground. Inspect it for broken skin. Discard any that have open wounds, but the rest of them should be just fine to eat.

And that, citrus growers, is how to pick an orange.

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Harvest Vegetables Daily

A great practice in harvesting vegetables is taking a basket out to the garden every day to see what has ripened. Picking vegetables as soon as they are ripe often encourages the plant to produce even more.

Bigger Does Not Necessarily Mean Better

Most vegetables are at their peak of tenderness and flavor when they are relatively small. Zucchini, for example, are best when they are no more than six or seven inches long, and then they get tough and woody. (If you discover an overlooked whopper, grate it and make zucchini cookies or zucchini bread.)

The Timing of Harvesting Vegetables

It's crucial to keep track of what you planted and when it was planted. Keep the seed packet so you know what to expect in terms of when it is ready for harvest. There are many cultivars of vegetables today, bred for different characteristics such as size and flavor. For example, it would be a shame to pick yardlong beans (which actually are best when they are 15 to 18 inches long) at the five to six inches that would be normal for pole beans. You can plant a watermelon variety that ripens at eight inches across (see here) or one that's not ready until the fruit weighs 30 pounds.

Look for Signs of Trouble

When you harvest, look out for signs of trouble, such as yellowing leaves or rotting fruit, and remove the problem parts. Even if it's something you can do little about -- such as blossom end rot or cracking from too much rain -- there's no point in letting the plant put energy into fruit you won't be able to eat.

Tomato Diseases and Problems

Tomato plants are the most commonly found vegetable growing in American backyards. These are some of the signs of trouble to look for when growing tomatoes:

How to grow oranges in a pot

When planting in a pot, choose a dwarf orange variety, such as Dwarf Valencia or Dwarf Navel.

  1. Choose a pot at least 600mm wide. Position in full sun and fill with quality potting mix, such as Yates Potting Mix with Dynamic Lifter. TIP: Consider placing the pot on pot feet if you live in a cold area, so it can be easily moved inside or to a more protected spot in winter.
  2. Remove the shrub from the container, gently tease the roots and cut away any circled or tangled roots.
  3. Position in the hole and backfill, gently firming down. Water in well.
  4. Water deeply, 2-3 times during the week, depending on weather conditions.
  5. Feed your citrus with Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser three times a year, in early spring, summer and again in autumn.
  6. When the tree starts to produce fruit (normally in its 3rd year), feed weekly with Yates Thrive Citrus Liquid Plant Food.

  • Pick a citrus variety based on your garden and cooking needs and choose a consistently sunny spot sheltered from cold winds.
  • Prepare your soil with organic matter like compost and sheep pellets.
  • Add a layer of citrus and fruit mix to plant into. In New Zealand plant citrus in spring, autumn and winter (where frosts aren't prevalent).
  • Feed your citrus in spring and summer to encourage maximum fruiting and flowering.
  • Mulch and water well, particularly over the warmer months.

Follow our full guide below to a bumper crop of homegrown citrus.

Citrus trees laden with juicy lemons, oranges, limes and mandarins ready to be plucked from the branch are a quintessentially Kiwi addition to many home gardens. Plant in your garden or in pots.

Choose a variety

Before you get started, choose a variety suited to your garden and cooking needs. Below are some popular orange, lime, lemon, mandarin and grapefruit varieties to plant.

Orange: Best Seedless, Harwoods Late, Ruby Blood, Seville.

Lime: Bearss lime, Kaffir lime, Tahitian lime.

Lemon: Eureka, Meyer, Lemonade.

Mandarin: Burgess Scarlet, Clementine, Satsuma.

Grapefruit: Golden Special, Orlando, Wheeny.


Choose a suitable spot: citrus trees are frost tender and they do best in a consistently sunny environment with adequate rainfall, in an area sheltered from cold winds.

The better the soil, the better your plants will grow. If you are starting with an existing garden dig in organic matter like Tui Sheep Pellets and compost to your soil. Then you can add a layer of Tui Citrus & Fruit Mix. This mix contains potassium, magnesium and iron necessary for flower and fruit development and healthy green growth. SaturAid soil wetter channels water directly to the roots and added seaweed extract stimulates root development whilst improving overall plant health. If planting in pots or containers, plant in Tui Citrus & Fruit Mix.

Clear the area before planting, removing any weeds.


Planting citrus in the garden:

  • Soak your tree in a bucket of Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic before planting and allow to drain. This will help prevent transplant shock and give your citrus a healthy start.
  • Add a layer of Tui Citrus & Fruit Mix to the planting area.
  • Dig a hole, approximately twice the depth and width of the root ball of your plant.
  • Gently take the plant from the current container, loosen the root ball and remove any loose or dead plant material and roots.
  • Fill in with Tui Citrus & Fruit Mix. Press mix gently around the base of the plant.
  • It is a good idea to stake when planting, as citrus don't like having their roots disturbed - this will help support the tree.
  • Water your plant well and continue to water regularly.

Planting citrus in pots and containers:

  • Soak your tree in a bucket of Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic before planting and allow to drain. This will help prevent transplant shock and give your citrus a healthy start.
  • Half fill your container with Tui Citrus & Fruit Mix.
  • Gently take the plant from the current container, loosen the root ball and remove any loose or dead plant material and roots.
  • Position the plant in the centre of the new container and fill with Tui Citrus & Fruit Mix up to 3cm from the top.
  • Gently firm the mix around the base of the plant. The mix should be at the same level on the plant as it was in the previous container.
  • Water your plant well and continue to water regularly.


Replenishing nutrients used by your citrus plants ensures they will grow to their full potential, producing abundant and juicy crops. Feed your citrus in spring and summer to encourage maximum fruiting and flowering.

Citrus require higher levels of potassium and magnesium, and Tui Citrus Food is specially blended with all the nutrients needed for citrus planted in gardens. Feed citrus planted in containers with Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser.

Magnesium deficiencies can be common in citrus, shown by yellowing leaves. Apply Tui Epsom Salts around the drip line of the tree (where the leaves extend to), to correct the deficiency.

Citrus require more watering over the summer months - and well watered, well nourished citrus will have a better chance of keeping insect pests and diseases at bay.

The weather, weeds, pest insects and diseases can all impact on the success of your citrus. Protect your plants from the elements with layers of Tui Mulch & Feed, to help keep their roots moist.

Keep the area around your citrus weed free.

If you have lemons that are ready to be harvested, try Christine's Lemon Brownie recipe to enjoy your bumper crop.

After harvesting, fresh, whole oranges may be kept on the counter at room temperature for up to a week before they begin to degrade. Moisture may cause mold to develop on the orange skin, which can penetrate the fruit to the inside, ruining it. If you live in a humid area, consider refrigerating your oranges for longer storage or wrapping them in wax paper to protect the fruit from mold. If you have cut open an orange, leave it at room temperature for no more than two hours, or one hour in hot weather.

Refrigerated oranges last longer than those kept on the counter because the lower temperatures in the refrigerator slow the growth of molds. It should be two to four weeks in the vegetable crisper drawer before you notice any decrease in fruit quality or mold formation. At the first signs of mold, discard the fruit, regardless of how long it has been stored. Pre-sliced oranges will last up to two days in the refrigerator in a covered container.

Watch the video: Harvesting Citrus Fruit. 10 Backyard Types of Citrus + Harvesting Tips!! Orange, Mandarin, Etc.

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