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The house I'm renting has a number of fruit trees. I'm in San Jose, CA and with the drought, it has been a challenge to give them the right amount of water while still conserving. It seems the mature orange tree is suffering with the same level of water that the larger mature lemon tree next to it is apparently thriving on.

The fruit on the orange has mostly stayed small and the leaves are starting to curl. The fruit is just starting to yellow, so I guess it isn't going to get any bigger. I've already seen a few split oranges, and the rains are (hopefully!) about to start.

Here's what it looks like, although I guess you can't really tell that the fruit is small. small fruit, curled leaves

I'm wondering, is there any way to nurture this puny fruit through to harvest or am I too late? (I'm expecting much of it to split as soon as the rain really starts.) Or is the tree so stressed right now (as evidenced I think by the curled leaves) that I should just remove all or most of the fruit anyway?

Some other potentially useful info - the soil in the yard is not great (a lot of clay), although again, the lemon tree is doing fine. There has also been a lot of squirrel activity, and some specifically around the orange tree, so it is possible that their tunnels have damaged the roots. (I have previously stepped through the soil by the orange into a squirrel tunnel.)

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    Not about scuba diving. San Jose, CA? I think you've got a month or two before things get critical. Hope for rain, and give it as much water as you can. I'd pull the smallest and deformed fruit, so resources'll go to what's left. – Wayfaring Stranger Oct 16 '15 at 19:33
  • Scuba... Are you teasing me about lack of a hyphen? ;-) but that seems like a reasonable idea. Most of them are pretty small but maybe thinning will help regardless. – NadjaCS Oct 16 '15 at 19:47
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I agree, take half of the fruit of and water it daily. Leaves don't look curled but folded to me, that is how the tree protects itself in summer. In Australia they did that during the hot months.

My partner's kumquat tree (a very small orange) survived 7 weeks in a dark hot container, we thought it would take about four weeks to get here but the container sat 2 weeks in the scorching heat in Panama , we were sure that it was dead and oh behold, two weeks in a cool tropical climate and it was very happy. It was watered every day religiously.

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  • We're legally restricted in our watering because of the drought (only permitted twice a week and not within 24 hours of "measurable rainfall"), but it has started to rain a bit. I took probably about a third of the fruit off, and I'm picking anything that looks like it is starting to crack. I think the tree itself is ok, and it does look like the remaining fruit is continuing to mature, although a lot of it IS splitting. Good to know the leaves are normal and not indicating it is overly stressed. – NadjaCS Nov 4 '15 at 0:25
  • Dear Nadja, use ANY water say if you scrub a rice pot without detergent pour that outside... you are not watering are you :) In France or Oz during the hot summer months I used to collect all spare water from the kitchen , even from the bath, the water I used to wash the earth of carrots or other veg, all went on the thirstiest plants. When you get rain, organize a few containers and place them so that you can collect as much rainwater as possible. – Annette Flottwell Nov 4 '15 at 0:32
  • I do use collected water, but normally not on the fruit trees, only on the ornamentals. – NadjaCS Nov 4 '15 at 0:51
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This appears to be excessive fruit set for climatic conditions. As the fruit size increases the demands on the tree also increase. By removing half the fruit as suggested the health of the tree should improve. Keeping the leaf fruit set in balance you may be able to prevent alternate bearing (overbearing one year followed by little to no fruit the next year. Once this cycle begins it can continue indefinitely.

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