Q: This year, some of my navel oranges had dry areas in the fruit. What causes this and how can I prevent it?
A: It is always disappointing to cut open citrus and find the flesh is dry or pulpy. Navel oranges are not the only citrus to have this problem; any citrus can show the same signs. We do suspect this can occur on older trees which have not been tended, fertilized or pruned properly. This is especially true when the root stock foliage has been allowed to overgrow the scion or fruiting part of the tree. It is important to keep the root stock growth in check. In fact, if possible, check citrus several times a year to remove the suckers from the root stock. This type of growth can be removed any time of year. It is always sad to see a once strong producing citrus which has be overgrown from the rootstock. Irregular irrigation or periods of drought will also produce poorly developed, lush fruit. If you are using micro or drip irrigation then watering once or twice a week should be sufficient. Cut back on the irrigation when we receive sufficient rain. Citrus are notorious for developing root decay under heavy irrigation from the type of sprinkler heads used on typical lawns. I know your tree has been planted for several years but young trees (under 5 years) often will produce poor fruit. However, this should outgrow this tendency once the tree is established and becomes more mature. Regular fertilization is also important. Use a 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 once every 6 weeks from March through September. Do not pour fertilizer under the tree in a circle or band, but rather broadcast it completely under the tree canopy. Be sure to water in the fertilizer once it is applied; usually ¼ inch is sufficient. Or use a slow release citrus fertilizer once every quarter (March, June, September) for those of you with busy lives. When purchasing trees, be sure to ask about the root stock.