Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

December 1, 2012

‘Oranges do grow in Georgia’

AMERICUS — “Oranges do grow in Georgia and they do grow right here in Americus in the back yard of the Fussell home,” Betty Fussell wrote in a  letter recently to the Times-Recorder.

One doesn’t normally associate citrus fruit with south Georgia agriculture, however, Ernest and Betty Fussell had extraordinary production from their orange tree this season. They planted the Satsuma variety of orange tree in their back yard about 15 years ago and have enjoyed its fruit for the last few years; but they never expected a yield like the one this year.

“We have been picking oranges on a daily basis for the past three or four weeks. We’ve enjoyed sharing our crop with family, friends and neighbors,” Betty wrote.

When the Times-Recorder called the Fussell home, Ernest said he wasn’t sure exactly how many oranges they have harvested. “Oh Lordy, I wish I had counted,” he said, “at least six five-gallon buckets full.” This week, only a few oranges remained.

He and a friend visited a nursery in Bronwood several years ago and that’s when he bought the orange tree. Ernest’s friend bought a couple of lemon trees, but he didn’t have much luck growing lemons. The Fussells planted their tree near their air-conditioning unit and suspect beneficial heat from the unit and helps the tree survive the winter. He keeps it damp with a drip system he has set up and has only applied a small amount of fertilizer. He said the plant also receives some moisture that runs off the house.

For the first five years he had the plant, Ernest gave the orange tree a lot of special attention in hopes that it would grow big and bear fruit. When the tree didn’t respond much to his care, he lost interest. That’s when it really began to grow.

“Then, it took off on me,” he said.

Every season it got bigger and bigger. Now, it’s about 15 feet tall and measures six to eight feet in diameter. Every April it explodes with blooms. In late spring, early summer the fruit begins to grow and in September they begin changing from green to orange.

The Fussells began picking in October when the limbs were heavy with fruit and sagged to the ground. Fifteen dozen oranges was what they had picked the year before and expected this year to be about the same. Thirty or 40  dozen is Ernest’s best guess at the 2012 crop. “It was a pile of ‘em,” he said.

The tree has not been bothered by critters and pests. Deer and squirrels haven’t’ showed interest in the oranges. “Even the birds don’t peck ‘em,” Fussell said.


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