Farm Focus: The Future of Citrus at Frog Hollow
While Frog Hollow Farm is known for our legendary summer stone fruit, our growing citrus orchards are gaining more momentum each year. Farmer Al first started growing citrus about 25 years ago with Blood Oranges, Meyer lemons and Kumquats plus some unusual varieties like bergamont and seville oranges. What started as just growing fruit to make marmalade has changed as he discovered that we can produce such great citrus here in Brentwood. Now that those same trees have matured, our CSA members get to try kumquats, three different varieties of blood oranges, and meyer lemons during the winter! What is different about growing citrus than stone fruit? You can see one big difference this time of year. All of our stone fruit trees loose their leaves and get pruned in the fall because they store their energy in the roots during the cold winter months. That energy will then burst out in the spring in the form of fruiting flowers and leaves that soak up the sun for energy to ripen fruit during the summer. Citrus, on the other hand, come from warmer climates so they keep their foliage year round and have ripe fruit in the winter. Since they store their energy in their leaves and grow slower we only need to prune them half as much as stone fruit. Our citrus orchard gets the same TLC that all of our trees get at Frog Hollow Farm. We rely on compost for fertility, beneficial insects for pollination, regular weed abatement and irrigation as needed.
Last year we planted a full acre of new mandarin trees and, this year, we will be planting SIX more acres of mandarins and other citrus varieties! Once the mandarins come in fully we hope to be picking fruit year round. Just like our stone fruit orchards, we have chosen many different varieties of mandarins that are genetically predisposed to ripen at different times of the season. One downside is it takes citrus trees longer to get established and can take 5-6 years for them to produce their first real crop.
Luckily, citrus tree lifespans are very long so our new trees will be productive for many winters years to come!