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Drinking fresh orange juice in the morning is a popular way of consuming oranges, but the fruit has many other uses, too. You can use them for making desserts, for achieving that tangy taste for your hams or add them raw to your healthy salads. That said, it pays to have a fresh supply, and one way you can do that is by growing oranges in aquaponics gardens.
In this article, you will learn more about how you can enjoy an abundance of oranges by growing them in your aquaponics garden.
Getting To Know Oranges
The orange fruit (Citrus sinensis) is a subtropical fruit that belongs to the citrus family. They can also be referred to as sweet oranges, with different popular varieties cultivated for fresh and processed consumption. The term sweet orange helps to distinguish this particular orange group from bitter orange (Citrus aurantium).
Just like other fruits in the citrus family, such as limes and lemons, oranges prefer to grow in warm areas. That’s not to say that they can’t tolerate cool temperatures. Some varieties can still thrive in cooler climates as long as they’re protected from frost or freezing temperatures.
Having oranges in your aquaponics garden can be rewarding because orange trees are abundant, able to produce 300 fruits each season. They can live as long as 50 to 80 years, maybe more. It is even possible for an orange tree to live for a century, especially if it’s healthy.
Nutritional Content of Oranges
An orange is easily a go-to fruit that is part of a healthy diet. Indeed, eating oranges can offer you many health benefits. They are known to boost the immune system, promote better skin health, and even improve your heart health.
According to USDA Food Data, 100 g of orange contains the following basic nutrients:
- Calories: 47
- 0.9 g of protein
- 11.8 g of carbohydrates
- 9.4 g of sugar
- 2.4 g of fiber
- 0.1 g of fat
Oranges are rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin C, which they are popular for. One large orange has about 100 mg of vitamin C, which is already more than the recommended daily intake of 60-90 mg per day.
Other than vitamin C, oranges are also a great source of vitamin A, as well as the minerals thiamine, folate, and potassium.
Orange Varieties For Your Aquaponics Garden
There are several varieties of oranges grown in the United States, and each one is unique for its flavor. However, when growing aquaponic oranges, you can start with the most popular types, which are listed below:
- Navel oranges – This variety is known for the distinct growth on its apex, which resembles a human navel. Sizes may vary, but the larger ones can have a diameter of 3 to 3 ½ inches. Navel oranges are best when you need to eat oranges fresh.
- Valencia – This type of orange is grown for its sweet juice. This is also another reason it’s the most widely grown for fresh and processed consumption. The fruit size can be between 2 and 3 inches in diameter.
- Blood oranges – This variety tends to be smaller than the ones mentioned above. Also called Ruby, fruits are usually 2 ½ to 2 ¾ inches in diameter and have distinct red streaks in the flesh.
- Hamlin – Just like Valencia, Hamlin is grown for its sweet juice. More importantly, it’s considered as the most cold-hardy of the sweet orange group. Be careful, though; Hamlin oranges still need to be protected, especially when temperatures drop to 20 deg F or lower.
Growing Requirements for Aquaponic Oranges
Below are the requirements for orange trees to thrive in an aquaponics setup:
Aquaponics System Types
You can successfully grow trees in deep media beds. For fruit trees like oranges, you can use a 55-gallon barrel as your growing bed.
Orange trees prefer a slightly acidic to neutral pH, so maintain a water pH of 6.0 to 7.5. Make sure to use a quality pH meter.
Water and Air Temperature
As oranges are growing, the temperature should be between 55 deg to 100 deg F.
Just like its citrus relatives, oranges need sunshine and warmth so they can produce high-quality fruits. Let your orange trees enjoy at least 8 hours of sunshine each day.
Fish Type To Consider
Tilapia is a good match for aquaponic oranges. Catfish and goldfish – both of which are easy to take care of and can thrive in water temperatures conducive to thriving oranges, are also good fish types to consider.
Using gravel or quarter-inch stones is better when growing aquaponic trees. The crevices will provide better drainage and support root growth, especially since orange trees can reach a height of 9 to 10 m (30 to 33 ft).
You can start oranges from seed. It is even possible to take a supermarket orange and use its seeds for your garden. However, there is no guarantee that you will grow a tree that matches the type of orange you got. In addition, it takes about ten years to grow an orange tree and harvest the fruits. For this reason, most home growers go for seedlings.
Visit your nursery to find the seedlings that you need. Don’t be surprised if you see most of the orange trees are grafted. The good news is that grafted orange trees tend to produce fruits much quicker.
Depending on your chosen variety, harvest season may vary. It’s good to note that oranges won’t ripen further once you’ve picked them, so make sure you know when it’s ripe and ready. You can tell by appearance when it’s ripe, as the fruit will lose its green color and turn completely orange.
Orange trees are susceptible to pests too. Common pests that can affect your orange trees include scale insects, citrus leafminers, aphids, and mealybugs. Check your plant often to see signs of infestation. One way of solving pest problems when growing aquaponic trees is by introducing beneficial insects that are natural enemies to these pests.
Common Problems When Growing Oranges
When properly cared for, orange trees can thrive easily. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t be encountering problems along the way. Below are the most common problems that come with growing oranges:
- Trees are not fruiting – If you have flowers on orange trees and still don’t see any fruits, try to shake branches often for days. This should help loosen pollen so it will fall off and carry on with reproduction.
- Overwatering could be a problem, so make sure your water flow is consistent.
- Sunburn can also be a problem for most citrus fruits, despite them being sun-loving plants. This problem affects mostly young ones. To remedy this, wrap trunks of young trees using cardboard or paper.
- Split fruit can happen in many citrus fruits, but it’s a particular problem of navel oranges. If you spot splitting in your fruit, it’s best to discard them or put them in compost.
For a complete list of possible problems in orange trees, check out this guide.