The Q&A Archives: When do I know it's time to pick the fruit from my citrus trees?

Question: I love growing citrus trees in containers and have acquired several different kinds of trees (lemon, lime and most recently, naval orange and grapefruit) in the last 2-3 years. I've had luck with the lemon and lime producing fruit but I've never been able to find a clear explanation of how you can tell when the fruit is ready to be picked. I usually just try to make an educated guess but don't want to harm the tree in any way. Are there any specific

Answer: Removing a fruit or two early will not harm the tree at all. And, since the fruits ripen over a long period instead of all at once and hold quite well on the tree once ripened, there is no rush to harvest as with something that would spoil quickly if not picked. The ripening time frame for most citrus is very long compared to say, apples or peaches. Color is not really an indication which makes it a bit tricky. Instead, begin by looking for full sized fruit that is no longer rock hard and then go by taste. Different varieties ripen at different times, for instance depending on what tree you have, spring blossoms may yield ripe fruit the next summer, the following winter or even longer than that! You may even have a tree that blooms and sets fruit year round. So unfortunately there is no easy answer. You may have to do some trial and error from year to year until you have a better idea of when to expect each tree's fruit to begin to be ripe. Enjoy!

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