Growing oranges in North Georgia, Atlanta metro - Marietta? (Sandy Springs: living in, move)
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We are currently living in Phoenix, AZ. We have a mature orange tree in the back yard that produces hundreds of juicy sweet oranges every December through March. We have two mature Navel orange trees in the front yard that produce around the same time, they are not as sweet but still very good.
It is a well known fact here that the oranges need cold weather to get them to turn from green to orange and ripen. We see the oranges start to turn orange in early November after some nights of really cold weather. We get about 2 weeks on average every winter of below freezing weather at night. We don't get all of these nights together, but scattered through Dec-Feb. 3 years ago we had a really severe frost around 20F, which killed our rubber tree back to it's base, it has since recovered. The orange trees however were completely unaffected!
Our winter highs are often around 50F - 55F. When I look at the weather for Atlanta, I don't see too much difference during winter. Maybe a few degrees lower, but I don't think daytime highs are consistently lower than 50F. Maybe I'm wrong? I know our weather forecast is usually a few degrees more or less than what we actually get.
In older posts I have read that cold spells damage or kill the orange trees in Florida. I wonder whether they have different varieties to ours in Phoenix? Ours seem to weather the cold and frosts without any problems.
We are planning to live in North Georgia next year, maybe somewhere aound Marietta or Sandy Springs and I am inspired to take some cuttings of our orange trees here to bring with us. Maybe our varieties will do okay over there?
Peaches don't even grow well in the Atlanta area; I can't imagine any kind of citrus fruit doing well at all. I think your underestimating the length and severity of cold spells in North Georgia. In Arizona, it might drop to below freezing at NIGHT on occasion but then the daytime quickly warms up, right? In the Atlanta area, we have extended periods each winter when the temps NEVER get above 32 degrees -- sometimes for 2-3 weeks at a time. And lows in the single digits to below zero are not unheard of. Yes, Atlanta's average winter highs and lows may appear mild, but the extremes can be brutal!
The orange growing region of Florida has pretty much been pushed well south of Orange County (Orlando) -- which USED to be the epicenter of the cirtus industry. Tens of thousands of acres of dead orange groves killed off in the 1980s north of Orlando have since been turned into retirement communities, further depleting the amount of available land to grow oranges.
Orange trees also need a LOT of water to thrive. I'm assuming you irrigate your trees in Arizona some way?
We have a sprinkler system but I don't think we have excessively watered. They seem to thrive on a grass watering schedule since they are in lawns, with a watering head beside each tree.
I didn't realise the weather could be as cold as you describe. Sounds more like England in the winter, where we used to live, over 8 years ago.
We couldn't grow oranges there and the one peach tree I tried to grow developed peach leaf curl and that was the end of that! We had good success with sweet and sour cherries though. I grew some special cherries, really good! 50 lbs of jam one year from the Morello.
You're right about Phoenix. It can get below freezing at night, but always gets up to at least 50 or thereabouts in the day in winter. We get a lot of retirees here for the winter months. They fly their northern states and roost here for the winter. Commonly known as 'snow birds' in Phoenix. The population doubles in some areas of metro-Phoenix, especially in the retirement communities.
We've been growing oranges, peaches and plums very successfully in Phoenix. We have a pineapple guava, but whereas it always flowers we never get any fruit! Most of our neighbours have citrus of some kind and our nextdoor neighbour has quinces, figs, oranges, lemons, pistachio, almonds, pomegranates, apples, chinese pear, apricots, donut peaches and nectarines. He has a strawberry guava but the birds usually get most of the fruit!
He does irrigate his trees, flooding every 2 weeks in the summer and once a month in the winter.
Phoenix is a very nice place, but the summers are like being in an oven. There are seasons, but to the untrained eye it just seems like 1-2 months of 'winter' (maybe fall?) and 10-11 months of summer!
We were thinking that Atlanta might be a compromise between Phoenix and England?
Actually, I think the winters in London and Atlanta are probably quite similar -- cold, rainy and gray with only occasional ice or snow. In fact, Atlanta's weather isn't all that different than NYC year-round, except that NYC has colder winters. People assume that Atlanta has mild winters because it doesn't get a lot of snow (though it does snow!). Very frigid *dry* high pressure air masses dipping south out of Canada are quite common, but they seldom coincide with moisture, which for us rises up from the Gulf of Mexico on warm fronts. The stronger of the two usually pushes the other out of the way, meaning you can have a relatively warm but RAINY day followed immediately by a very cold but SUNNY day. When the two do override each other, we get very nasty winter storms that might paralyze the region for days.
Also: You mentioned frost. When you go two weeks without temperatures ever getting out of the 20s, as it did in Atlanta last January, frost isn't an issue. That's a HARD freeze and anything that's not cold hardy, including many flowering plants and even dormant non-native trees, often get killed off in Georgia.
I know several people who have tried to grow citrus in Atlanta - all failed. You can grow small trees in sunrooms of course, though. Maybe a well equipped greenhouse. There are a couple of species of Palm Trees that can survive here, but we're not anywhere close to a semi-tropical enough zone to support what some people think we can.
People told my dad he wouldnt be able to grow Bananas here... he has 4 huge trees in the backyard and they all put out bananas every year except when we get long and really hard early season frosts. Then again he's a landscaper so thats his thing.
Atlanta weather sounds more like central European weather. Cold winters and hot summers, although maybe the winters aren't quite as severe and possibly more like British winters? From what I understand Atlanta winters are short, maybe contained within the winter months of Dec-Feb? We were there in 97 on vacation in April and it was hotter than England in July-August.
I guess it's hard to compare the weather in Atlanta to anywhere else, since every place is distinct. On the subject of oranges, I agree, it looks like they would have to be grown in moveable pots in Atlanta, as they are grown in England and NY etc. The weather definitely sounds like it is too cold for them outside.
It is difficult to grow tomatoes in Phoenix during the summer, most varieties just can't take the heat and the desert types stop fruiting in the heat. I have grown them here from November to November. They were in fruit from March through May and again October to November. They managed to cope with the frosts as they were against a wall and away from drafts and south facing. They became spindly in the end up, as the indeterminate vines grew for up to 20 ft.
Bananas are grown here but most people just end up with the leaves and no fruit. There are some that manage to produce the fruit, but they are few. I've tried to grow them but they probably prefer more humidity than Phoenix has to offer and I found that I either added too much water and their roots rotted, or they dried - baked under the sun. Bananas like good drainge too, so our clay soil has to be amended to give them adequate drainage. Again, it seems, I didn't do a good enough job.
I think we should be able to grow some nice fruit though in North Georgia, when we move there. I'm going to try peaches (the peach state - therefore has to be done) and I guess we'll go for cherries again and whatever else we can have a go at. Maybe a cutting from our oranges here, in a pot or two there?
The weather in Atlanta can vary greatly, however it is absolutely guaranteed that temperatures will dip below freezing several times during the winter, which would hinder citrus growth. Last winter was downright frigid for Atlanta. As Newsboy stated, there were periods in December and January where we didn't get above 32 degrees for a high....we also had two major winter storms....an ice storm on January 7 that turned many side streets into skating rinks, and a large (for Georgia standards) snowstorm on February 12.
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