Help!!! Dead Navels and Lemons? Bought 7 Acres

shawnee73April 2, 2014

Hello to all you experienced citrus growers. My husband and I purchased a foreclosure in December with 7 acres, half navels half lemons. We have no experience with citrus or farming in general and are trying to decide if we should try to save the trees or just level the field. I would say there are approximately 300 trees at varying stages of death. We know there are some that can be saved but we are not sure about the trees that look totally dead but have new growth. Also, if there is new growth, how will I know that the trees will reproduce. I am including pictures. If anyone can help and give us advice, it would be highly appreciated. Also, keep in mind, I am in central California and we are experiencing a severe drought. If we can only save like 75 trees, can you make a profit? The oranges we do have are very sweet and tasty. The lemons are plenty but very small right now.

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Lemon grove

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 8:12PM
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One of the lemons with some new growth

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 8:14PM
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One of the healthier lemon trees

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 8:19PM
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Sick Navel but still green and blooming

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 8:22PM
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Some green shoots from navel tree but are they root stock?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 8:25PM
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One of the healthier Navel trees

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 8:28PM
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if it were my property, I would cut and burn all the citrus, thus sterilizing the environment; and then, if you can find them, I would plant the whole acreage with Meyer lemons. Meyers are very profitable and not hard to deal with when planted in the field as a crop. Try Citrus Tree Source in Exeter; they have good trees at reasonable prices.
If you don't want to go all Meyer; maybe go with half Cara Cara oranges; both are the best of show and are being promoted by Sunkist.

IMHO it is always best to start fresh with clean, new trees that are healthy, the rootstock you want, and the same age and variety... it is a lot easier to manage them; and you will end up with more profits.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 10:53PM
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tcamp30144(7B N.ATLANTA)

I would call the Department of Agriculture if you want to save them. They can tell you what's wrong with the trees if they have citrus greening citrus cancker. If that's the case you need to destroy them all and start over the Department of Agriculture will tell you what to do and it won't cost you anything I would check with them. I would contact the website and giving you the link to and also your local echo agriculture Department And find out what's going on before you started chopping them burning.

Here is a link that might be useful: help

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 11:24PM
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Thanks for the honesty Johnmerr. I have seen a lot of postings about the Meyer lemons. I will have to do a little research and perhaps run over to Exeter and talk to them. How soon do the Meyers produce and is 7 acres enough property to profit? Also, because we have never farmed, I'm not real familiar with how the process of picking goes. Will Sunkist treat and pick the grove and take the cost out of the profit? Or are we better off to hire out the service to an independent company or person?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 11:29PM
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Thanks Tcamp30144. Great info. I will definitely look into that. I really don't believe the trees are diseased just super thirsty. I know the house and property was empty for well over two years before we purchased so no water at all except for the tiny bit of rain, but it never hurts to check. Appreciate the info!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 11:55PM
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In California your Meyers should produce the first harvest in under 3 years. If you affiliate with Sunkist producers, they will help your with growing advice, marketing, etc; they would not help me because they considered me competition...LOL... today Sunkist cannot compete with me in Meyer lemon production; but that is another story... I am not in California.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 1:24AM
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If you find you need to start over with new trees, and if you don't have a disease you need to exterminate, you might be able to get someone to buy the wood for BBQ.

Sure hate to see your trees in that condition....good luck!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 9:52AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

You really bit off a big bite with no orchard experience! We almost made an offer on an orange grove (with no experience) that was also distressed. The owner told us they had to let it go because they couldn't make a profit with water costs and competition so high.

I hope you don't have to destroy your orchards. We inherited a few citrus rescue trees on the property we did settle on, and after 8 months of water, pruning out the dead limbs, and fertilizer, all of the citrus are blooming heavily and covered with new shiny green leaves.

It's a good feeling to rescue a tree! Good luck to you!


We actually bought a cord of citrus wood. It burns great in our fireplace!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 10:01AM
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It's always a good feeling to rescue an animal or a plant; but there is a huge difference between that and making money. If you count the time necessary for rescuing an old citrus; and the extra trouble of dealing with some old, some new, some small, some large; some you can harvest from the ground, and some you need ladders, it is an economic mistake. Yes citrus wood is a good fuel; it burns very hot due to the oils; but probably too hot for bbq. Also, dead or dried citrus wood will burn up a chain saw pretty fast; it is very hard.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 12:32PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Shawnee, get over to Exeter. Talk to the UC folks and the local ag agent or UC extension agent about your orchard. Have someone come out and inspect it to see if the trees are worth saving, or if you should start from scratch. I can tell you this - there is a resurgence here in California for "heirloom oranges" being grown on sour orange rootstock. There are a few very well known commercial growers making a nice business for themselves in this niche market. One being Sky Valley Heirloom Oranges in Orange Cove, CA (your neck of the woods, I think.) You might even see if you can talk with them about your property. I would try to save if possible. Meyer's are great, don't get me wrong, but you should explore all your options. Saving will most likely be less expensive than razing the property and re-planting. Please keep us posted as to how things go for you in this message thread. We would all be very interested!

Patty S.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 1:18PM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

My inclination would be to try and save, But maybe the first thing you do is secure a reliable, good source of water. Can you drill a well?
- George

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 1:09PM
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