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Year-Round Orange Juice

It's a California scenario almost as old as the state itself: a leisurely weekend breakfast on the backyard patio, featuring fresh squeezed orange juice, using fruit plucked from a tree within arm's reach... in February. That fresh-squeezed flavor shouldn't just be a seasonal treat here. There's no reason why you can't enjoy fresh oranges most of the year.

"With just two orange trees, valley gardeners can have oranges from November to September," says Lance Walheim, author of the book "Citrus: The Complete Guide To Selecting and Growing More than 100 Varieties" (Ironwood Press). "All you need is a Washington Navel Orange and a Valencia Orange," he says.

Both the Washington Navel and the Valencia are tried and true performers here in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys, well-known for producing flavorful fruit. The Washington Navel is productive here from mid-November to April; Valencias bear fruit March to September. Walheim advises that for the best crop, fertilize your oranges and other citrus trees now. "All citrus need nitrogen this time of year, either sulfate of ammonia or a packaged citrus food, which contains micronutrients in addition to the nitrogen," he explains.

Orange trees, as well as other citrus varieties, are available from late winter through the spring at area nurseries. Walheim advises choosing citrus in smaller containers, such as those sold in three and five gallon cans, bypassing those packed in seven gallon and bigger pots. "Smaller sizes are less likely to be rootbound and often become established more quickly than plants set out from larger containers," he explains.

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