How To Grow Orange Organically (Indoor & Outdoor)
Planning to grow your own oranges can often appear to be a daunting task. However, if you are willing to put in the time (which is mostly comprised of a high level of patience), then the payoff is one of a kind.
Oranges, are a fantastic addition to any well balanced diet. They are a great source of vitamin C. They also contain a notable amount of potassium, dietary fibers, vitamin A, vitamin B-6, calcium, and a small amount of magnesium.
There are two ways that you can grow your own orange tree. If you have the benefit of living in plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, then you can plan to plant your orange tree outside. If you live outside of those zones, then things will get a little tricky. You will need to plant your orange tree in an extra-large pot and move it inside during the colder months.
The other thing you will need to consider is whether or not you want to start your orange tree from seed or buy a tree that is already developed. If you decide to grow your tree from seed then you will wait around 15 years before your tree begins to bear fruit. If you choose to buy an already established tree then you will need to verify that the tree has been grown organically.
Things You Will Need
For Trees Grown From Seed
- Organic, untreated orange seeds (straight from your favorite variety of orange)
- Soil mixture (1:1:1 mixture of vermiculite, compost, peat moss)
- Small Bowl
- Paper Towels
- Ziplock bag
- Pebbles, stones, or gravel
- Small and large Planters (well-draining and varying in size)
- Compost tea
For Established Trees
Starting Your Orange Seeds
2) Discard any seeds that are damaged or have discoloration.
3) Using your small bowl, fill it with room temperature water and soak the seeds in the water overnight. This aids in germination. Do not soak the seeds for longer than 24 hours. They will become water logged if they are left to soak for too long, and will not germinate.
4) After soaking the seeds, fold them into a wet paper towel.
5) Put the wet paper towel containing the seeds into a ziplock bag.
6) Place the ziplock bag in a location that gets plenty of sunlight and will keep the bag at around 75 F (21 to 24 C). The seeds need warmth and light to germinate.
7) Over the next 10-14 days, check your seeds daily for moisture and germination. Once the seeds have germinated, they can be planted. If the paper towel begins to dry out, mist it to keep it moist.
One seed per planter so if you have more than one seed, you will need an equal number of planters.
8) Starting with a small 4 inch planter, fill the base with a thin layer of gravel to help with drainage.
9) Fill the rest of the planter with your soil mixture.
10) Using your finger, make a hole in the soil about 1/2 inch deep. Plant your germinated seed, with the sprout (also known as the radical) pointed downward, in this hole and cover it with soil. The sprout is what will become the tap root.
11) Be sure to place your seedling in an area that will keep it warm, and exposed to a lot of sunlight.
12) As your plant grows, be sure to provide it with sufficient water and nutrients. Water your plant thoroughly once a week. (More if your soil becomes dry. The germinated seed will die if it dries out.)
13) Every other week, fertilize your seedling with a mild compost tea.
14) To prevent your tree from becoming root bound, you will need to transplant your tree frequently.
15) In the beginning, you can to transplant the seedling from the 4 inch planter to a larger one once it has developed a few leaves.
16) After a few months the root structure of your seedling will be well developed and you can transplant it into an even larger, medium sized, planter.
17) Be sure to place the tree in a very warm and well lit area.
- If you have warm summers, you can move the plant outside.
- Your seedling will grow best if it is kept in temperatures around 75 F.
Do not allow your tree to be exposed to temperatures that are below 25 F.
18) Continue to transplant to larger pots as your tree grows up and bushes out. Remember, the bigger the roots, the bigger the fruits.
If you want your potted orange tree to remain relatively small, then stop transplanting your tree once it is in a 20-25 inch planter.
19) If you live in a climate that doesn’t have harsh winters and stays relatively warm, you can transplant your seedling to a permanent location outside.
For Established Trees
1) If you have not grown your tree from seed, find a local tree nursery that uses organic methods to grow their trees.
- Choose a tree that has a well developed and healthy root structure.
- Nursery raise trees can be ordered online.
2) If you are in a climate where your tree can survive being outside all year, then choose a well lit area with well draining soil and plant your tree in a permanent location outside.
- Mix compost, plant tone, or any other organic fertilizer into the soil where you choose to plant your tree.
- Depending on the size of the roots, dig a hole that is 2-3 times the size of the root ball of the tree.
- When you put your tree into the hole, make sure it sits comfortably and then backfill the hole so that the roots and the base of the tree are about 5-6 inches below the surface.
- You should gently tie your tree to a stake for the first few years that it is outside. This will help support your tree and keep it growing well as it is exposed to wind and other harsh climate conditions.
3) If you plan to grow your tree indoors, you have a few options to control the hight of the tree and how much fruit it will bear.
- Allow room for the roots to be well established.
- Don’t allow your tree to become top heavy.
- Keep it in a greenhouse or sunroom that is always warm and sunny
- This method is tedious and takes a decent amount of knowledge about your tree’s root structure.
- Bonsai is often a method used as a “zen” project for people.
4) Continue to provide your tree with sufficient nutrients.
1-During it’s first year, continue with the compost tea every other week.
2-After it’s first year, add a layer of well established compost around the base of the tree, once in the spring and once in the fall for both indoor and outdoor trees.
5) Move your tree outside during warm and sunny months, and inside for colder months.
6) Over the years you will want to prune your tree in order to keep it looking healthy and keeping nutrient flow to fruit bearing branches.
1-When pruning a 1-2 year old seedling, you will want to prune your tree in a way that allows the main branches to develop.
2-Once you have a well established orange tree, trim your tree from the top in order to encourage those branches to bush out.
3-It may take some time to perfect this trimming method.
4-Over the years you will get to know your orange tree, and which “suckers” you want to let grow, and which ones you should trim off.
Pollinating Your Tree
1) If you plant your tree outside, bees will pollinate the tree(s).
2) The type of orange that you are growing, will determine when the fruit and harvest season is.
- Many varieties are ready for harvest throughout the winter months, while others bear fruit that can be harvested throughout the summer months.
- If you move your tree outside during the summer, and then inside during the winter, you may need to pollinate the tree by hand while it is inside.
3) Orange trees can self pollinate, so you do not need another orange tree in order for fruit to grow.
4) If you have an indoor tree, you can pollinate it by hand.
Many growers state that they are able to get fruit without any pollination while others claim that it is required. It is dependent on the variety of orange that you are growing.
5) You do not need to know the grow season for your specific type of orange, if it is grown indoors.
The environment inside your home will naturally establish a grow cycle, as long as there is adequate warmth and sunlight.
6) To pollinate by hand, wait for the orange blossoms on the tree to be fully open with their pistil exposed.
7) Using the small paintbrush or cotton swab, go from flower to flower, touching the pollen covered pistils.
This will transfer the pollen from one flower to another.
You can follow this detailed guide to “How to grow oranges organically” for most varieties of citrus plants. The fruits are highly nutritious and can be eating alone, or as an ingredient in a delicious organic meal.