Orange trees dropping young fruit & leaves curling yellow/brown

Discussion in 'Citrus' started by remember, Jul 12, 2008.

  1. remember

    remember Member

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    I have been trying to grow the various orange trees viewable in the pictures attached for many years, with no good results.

    They are located in Palm springs, Ca., desert climate, with average high temps of 108F in the summer and average high temps in the winter of 70F.

    I water with bubblers on a feeding schedule of twice per day at 7am and 12 noon with 4 minutes at each time.

    The far smallest orange tree(Cara Cara Navel) was planted about 5-6 months ago and was luscious deep green when bought and planted. The other small Cara Cara navel was planted about 1-2 years ago and has shortly afterwards maintained this fruitless curling yellow/brown leaves appearance.

    Actually, when the flowering season comes, they all produce abundant flowers, nearly all get pollinated and begin to set fruit. But when the fruit gets to no bigger than the size of a pea, they fall off.

    I don't know what I am doing wrong. This year I gave the new small Cara Cara navel a small handful of chicken poop and the others were given the directed amount of Dr. Earths citrus fertilizer which was about 3-4 months ago.

    The big orange tree(about 4 years planted), which I believe is a Washington Navel, has always had yellow/brown curling leaves shortly after planting, but this year they are all especially bad.

    Can anybody help me with this? I have seen other full sun exposed orange trees, but they are much bigger, so again, I just have no idea what I am doing wrong.

    Any help is deeply appreciated and much needed. Thank you.
     

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  2. skeeterbug

    skeeterbug Active Member

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    Your trees look really dry! I don't think they are getting enough water. Does the water contain fertilizer? Does that get on the leaves? I think the 4 minute watering is not working.

    I think I would suggest putting a water ring around the tree ( a mound of dirt in a ring about the size of the tree 4-5 inches high). I would fill the ring with at least 5 gal of water about once a week to start with and adjust from there. If you are not fertilizing, you should put about a cup of 8-8-8 around the trees once a month during the summer. If you do not have to worry about cold, you can change that to every 2-3 months in the winter.
     
  3. remember

    remember Member

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    Dear skeeterbug:

    First, thank you very much for responding. If only you knew how much I love orange juice.

    The water is on a irrigation control system, with irrigation valves from the water mains throughout the property, so no there is no fertilizer in the water. Only the minerals/elements that would be in the regular water that comes from the city water. And no the only time the leaves get watered, is when it rains, which is like 3 times a year here.

    As far as the water ring thing, if I understand what it is correctly, I believe I already have that. I call it a water trough. I dug a type of basin around the trunk of the trees extending to about the furthest outward reaches of the foliage (so about 1-3 feet outwards from the trunks). The basins are all about 4-5 inches deep or 4-5 inches below the level of the surrounding ground level. Is this what you mean by a water ring? Otherwise, can you please explain what you mean by water ring? It might be hard to see, but the basins may be somewhat visible from my earlier pictures.

    I'll put some more fertilizer on them today, but do you think I should manually give the plants 5 gallons of water each week? or should I just open the bubblers more or increase the irrigation clock time? I ask because it gets extremely hot here now in the summer, often over 110F and I'm thinking that if I only give them 5 gallons of water per week manually, the soil will surely be totally dry within a few hours, let alone for the whole week.

    Ok. I'm going to put some of the Dr. Earths fertilizer on them now. It's supposed to be good organic fertilizer.
     
  4. drichard12

    drichard12 Active Member 10 Years

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    remember. How long has you trees been planted in the ground?
     
  5. skeeterbug

    skeeterbug Active Member

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    That is what I was calling a water ring. My question about the fertilizer on the leaves was to rule out salt burn which can look like some of your leaves.

    As for the watering, I do not know how much water is delivered by your bubblers, but I would suspect it is less than a gallon a day and it never gets very deep into the soil, so most of it evaporates fairly quickly. The roots of the tree are much deeper than the water it is getting. A deeper watering will stay in the soil much longer. Here, I would not consider watering more than once a week, and I do not know what your soil is like, but considering the desert conditions, maybe every 3-4 days would be OK.

    As for fertilizer, I would try to get some life back in the trees first, so no need to hurry with that. Organic fertilizers do not offer anything special for citrus. They are heavy feeders and it is difficult to get the required nutrients through organics alone. All organic fertilizers have to turn into the same chemicals or chemical forms of the elements N P and K that are supplied in regular commercial fertilizers. The N in commercial fertilizer is made from air using one of the same processes that Mother Nature uses--heat and electricity (lightening).
     
  6. remember

    remember Member

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    To drichard12:

    From the picture of all 3 orange trees, the farthest away that is the smallest one was planted about 6 months ago. The one on the right, which is the next smallest was planted somewhere between 1-2 years ago.

    And the closest one in the picture, which is the biggest one was planted at least 4 years ago. Never has it produced any oranges. It always flowers and makes a lot of super sweet smelling flowers, but after a few weeks the very young green fruits, just either fall off or turn yellow/brown and fall off.

    To skeeterbug:

    I didn't give them any fertilizer yet, so I'm glad I didn't. As far as how much water is coming out of the bubblers, I would have to say, just judging by looking at how much water is coming out of the bubblers that no more than 1.5 or 2 gallons was emitting in any 4 minute watering period.

    However, today I opened up the bubblers to their maximum, and I would definitely say that atleast 3 or 4 gallons is now emitting from each bubbler during any 4 minute watering period, possibly 5 or more gallons. I'm tempted to connect an elbow to the riser bubblers tomorrow and measure just exactly how much water is now emitting from any 4 minute watering period.

    But I will also study my irrigation controller tomorrow and reduce the watering schedule from what it is at now, which is 4 minutes twice per day everyday, to only 2 times per week.

    So 5 gallons per tree every 3-4 days or twice per week should make my trees grow green again? If this works, I'll send you half my orange production next year.
     
  7. skeeterbug

    skeeterbug Active Member

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    What is your soil like? I would try to get an idea of how deep the water in penetrating into the soil and how long it is staying. You need to try and wet the soil a foot to 18 inches deep in a circle the width of your tree when you water and then rewater when it is dry in the top 2-3 inches.

    It is difficult for me to know what that will take for sure as I have no experience in your climate and soil, but your trees do appear to be very dry.

    The other thing that would help is some shade, my container seedlings are all under a shade cloth (50-60%) and are doing well.

    What is happening to your tree that is blooming is due to the dry conditions. I watered my Ponkan once a week fairly deep from bloom to the end of June to reduce fruit drop--I only had 35-40 flowers, but I have 20 fruit still on the tree--I had the same results with my Daisy mandarin about 40 flowers--22 fruit still on the tree. A citrus tree will only keep fruit that it can support--your trees are having difficulty supporting themselves, much less fruit.
     
  8. Millet

    Millet Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Most citrus species develop a single tap root. The lateral roots form a horizontal mat of feeding roots with weakly developed root hairs. Root development is largely dependent on the type of rootstock used. Rooting depth varies between 3-ft and 6-feet. In general, 60 percent of the roots are found in the first 1.5-feet of soil, 30 percent in the second 1.5-ft., and only 10 percent can be found below 3-ft in depth. Where water supply is adequate, normally 100 percent of the water is extracted from the first 3 feet with a small reserve below that available to the tap root. These trees have been water starved for a considerable time period. Also they are vastly underfed. - Millet
     
  9. drichard12

    drichard12 Active Member 10 Years

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    To remember

    A simple way of checking the depth of water without doing much harm to the root system is by sticking 3-4 bamboo cains around the root systems. To the depth of 2-3 feet, pull them out after a 1-2 days.

    I also see you are using bubblers which is a great idea, I'm thinking maybe you should turn the water flow down to 1/2 to 1 Gal. a minute and leave them run longer.
     
  10. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Cara Cara is notorious for having issues
    with Copper deficiency.

    Certain dwarfing rootstocks have trouble
    assimilating available nutrients in the soil
    to be transported to the rest of the tree
    once the trees are planted in the ground.

    Sand used for construction that is
    spread and left in a layer over a clay
    soil causes Citrus to appear like they
    have been watered well when we see
    the water filtrate down through the sand
    but in fact they are not getting enough
    water down in the clay profile, where
    the majority of the roots will be.

    I'd want to know what is the soil like
    a foot under the topsoil. I'd want to
    know how long it takes for the water
    to infiltrate the soil and how long it
    stays visible in the moat. Water
    percolation rate becomes rather
    important when we are dealing
    with two soil types and perhaps
    a developing or an existent clay
    pan layer about a foot and a half
    under the topsoil.

    You have some real issues going
    on with these trees such as wind
    and heat desiccation to the leaves
    which can cause them to have the
    curl up but then again some Cara
    Cara on certain rootstocks have a
    tendency to have their newer growth
    leaves curl even when in good health.
    It is when both the new and old growth
    leaves curl is when this condition is
    a growing issue.

    Your fertilizing program will be of
    little use until you deep water the
    fertilizer applications into the ground.
    A bubbler shrub head in a sandy loam
    or a sandy soil will not put out enough
    water all at once or over a period of
    time to effectively dissolve the fertilizer
    for you.

    You can still use the bubblers as your
    primary means of irrigation but you will
    also want to come back in and give
    these trees a good supersaturation
    hose watering to fill the moats with
    water at least once a week in 100
    degree weather as a supplement to
    the water you are already applying.
    Use the hose water method for every
    fertilizer application.

    Sometime do try to make it a point to
    go into your nearest Riverside County
    Cooperative Extension office and ask
    them to look it up in a Soil Survey Map
    book [all County Farm Advisor and UC
    County Cooperative Extension offices
    in California have one on hand that
    were published by the Soil Conservation
    Service back in the 50's and 60’s as I
    remember it (some updated information
    has been published since). To all of us
    that have used these books extensively,
    these books with accompanying soil
    profile maps are still the most relevant
    ever published on California soils], to
    see what your soil type really is. You
    should try to find out what your range
    and township numbers are for your
    property (should be listed on your
    Deed of Trust or write down the ID
    number from your County Assessors
    office property tax form and take it
    with you). With a little information
    given to them in the office, they can
    look it up and give you a decent idea
    what your soil type is and provide you
    with knowledge of some of the limitations
    of your soil. Gives you a solid basis to
    work from to better know when you may
    want or need to have a soil test done
    later for a particular growing location
    or planting site.

    Jim
     
  11. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I forgot to mention that your County Assessors
    office will have the range, township and parcel
    numbers on file. Once you know the numbers
    for your property then visit your Cooperative
    Extension office to obtain the soil information
    for your site.

    Not only can a sandy soil overlying a clay
    layer give us an indication that we are not
    applying enough water but can also tell
    us we are applying too much water. The
    latter case does not seem to apply here
    given the existing conditions seen from
    the plants and the soil but can later be
    an issue when the percolation rate of the
    water is greatly slowed down due to an
    impervious clay layer. When sand hits
    the top of a solid clay layer we usually
    get a compressed hard pan condition
    to develop later on. Oxygen is forced
    out of the soil quicker than it can be
    replenished and if enough Oxygen is
    forced out through heat and/or from
    water movement or lack thereof or
    from too much residual moisture
    we can get a compressed soil layer
    to develop on top of an already
    existing clay pan. This condition
    combined with an existent clay
    pan layer is what can cause your
    Citrus some real trouble later on.
    Even to the point of causing the
    trees to decline rather quickly
    and perish on you before you
    knew what hit you. Tristeza
    was blamed for the complete
    collapse of trees in Riverside
    County years ago but when we
    dug down far enough into the
    soil we saw what our real culprit
    was. The two hard pans essentially
    choked off the existing roots from
    being able to breathe and inhibited
    their growth and development to the
    point of not giving them any where
    to grow, hold and expand after the
    tests came back negative for the
    virus in the plant.

    Jim
     
  12. Millet

    Millet Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Finding the depth of moisture in soil is quite easy to accomplish. Using a pointed steel rod, you can easily push the rod into the soil until it reaches dry dirt. Then measure the depth of the rod. Farmers have been using this method for centuries. Basically, I think all this tree requires is a proper watering schedule that provides adequate water, and the correct fertilizer program. 1 year old trees should be fertilized six times a year, 2 year old trees five times a year, 3-year old trees four times a year, and 4 year old and up trees 3 times a year. Fertilize, between March 1st and September 1st. For 1 to 4 year old trees us either a 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 fertilizer formula. For 5 year old, or older trees, you can use either a 6-6-6; 8-8-8 or 10,10,10 fertilizer. Apply at labled recomendations. - Millet
     
  13. drichard12

    drichard12 Active Member 10 Years

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    remember. Mr.Shep's postings certainly contains a great deal of very important information. It's information that I myself would follow up on if I lived in your area. I wish you the best of luck. Dale
     

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