Monday, June 18, 2007

Citrus Day

It was cool and very windy as a swarm of volunteers arrived in front of the library at Diablo Valley College to start preparations for Citrus Day: cutting fruit into big orange, yellow and green bowls for the tasting, arranging tables and making various signs, setting up the budwood distribution, handling registration and questions, taking signups for budwood—all sorts of jobs—and Idell whirling around coordinating and troubleshooting it all. “Many hands make light work” is not just a saying; it was enjoyable to meet and work alongside volunteers from other areas and organizations in addition to CRFG. There was a small raffle of citrus rootstock for the volunteers, but the main reward was the camaraderie of getting the job done together

There were about 85 in attendance, including members from all five Bay Area chapters of CRFG and Master Gardeners from Contra Costa, Alameda, Napa, and Santa Clara Counties.

The proceedings began with a tasting of 12 varieties of citrus Toots Bier had picked only two days before and brought up with her from Riverside. Varieties included Tahoe Gold mandarin, Pixie mandarin, Tango mandarin, Ortanique tangor (my favorite), Delfino blood orange, Barnfield late navel orange, Delta Valencia orange, Mary Ellen sweet lime, Tavares limequat, Siracusano Femminello lemon (one of the varieties limoncello is made from), Nordmann Seedless Nagami kumquat, and Rio Red grapefruit. The tasting was so intensely organized that anyone who wanted to had a chance to go through at least twice, in only half an hour!

Next, we broke up into 3 large discussion groups: growing citrus in cool climates, in climates with heavy frost, and in climates with high heat. This was a great way to exchange experiences with fellow citrus fans, and even discover neighbors with similar interests.

Then the featured speaker, Toots Bier, newly retired assistant curator of the large citrus collection at UC Riverside, took the mike and gave an overview of citrus growing, sprinkled with helpful tips. She talked about: characteristics of varieties, her favorites, and how to choose for your own plantings; how to grow (fertilization, irrigation, pruning, etc.); sources of information (including The Citrus Industry, the “bible” of citrus growing, online at ); and, took questions throughout and at the end.

During the break, folks picked up the budwood they had signed up for during registration, milled around and chatted, and peppered Toots with more questions. Despite the discovery of tristeza in the UC Riverside citrus collection last month, and recent heavy cutting of the trees in the greenhouse, Toots managed to bring enough budwood for everyone to get several pieces.

Then Toots spoke again, this time on citrus propagation—growing from seed, grafting, and budding.

This was followed by a short presentation by her husband, Bob Bier, on Eradicating (not Trapping, he took care to say, but Eradicating) Gophers with Black Hole Traps.

At this point, some went off to tour the Adaptive Horticulture Center at DVC, and others stayed for the last talk, a slide show on Techniques to Place and Protect 60 Grafts on One Citrus Tree, produced by Joe Real from Davis (moderator of Joe could not make it, so instead the discussion was led by his friend Harvey Correa, a grower of multiple kinds of citrus, chestnuts, bananas, and alfalfa near Rio Vista.

By 1:30, it was all over but the cleanup (those volunteers again!). All in all, a tremendous amount of citrus information put forth and exchanged, in just a few hours. A big hurrah to Idell and her peerless organizational skills, and to all who came and shared their experiences!
—Gail Morrison

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