AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
Hedging of Florida Citrus
R. E. NORRIS
Lake County Agricultural Agent
Hedging of citrus is a form of pruning designed to facilitate
grove management practices and improve the quality of the fruit
produced. It is a practice that is becoming increasingly popular
among Florida citrus growers as a way to alleviate the problem
of over-crowding in many bearing groves. Over-crowding is the
result of close spacing at planting time. Some growers un-
wittingly plant too close but the majority of them purposely
space their trees close together to take advantage of increased
fruit production per acre while the trees are young. They plan
to remove certain of the trees as they become crowded by growth
but find it difficult, when the time comes, to remove healthy,
Hedging provides a means by which the bearing surface of
trees is reduced in area without greatly reducing their bearing
Fig. 1.-These crowded Hamlin trees were hedged to 7 feet.
ability after the first year. Indeed, in the case of some va-
rieties, especially tangerines, hedging actually increases the per-
cent of pack-out of fresh fruit in the first crop following the
pruning operation by increasing sizes (see Table 1). Fruit color
and texture also are often improved because of increased sun-
light and more effective insect and disease control.
Another important reason for hedging is to open the tree
middles to encourage the growth of cover crops which are im-
portant in conserving fertilizer materials applied and supplying
food for soil micro-organisms.
One of the most valuable advantages of hedging, and the pri-
mary reason for its use in the first place, is to open the tree
middles by removing interlocking branches. This allows for the
movement of tractors, discs, spray and dust equipment and trucks
through the grove without damage to the trees and fruit or to
the equipment and operator. It speeds up grove operations
generally, thereby reducing cultural costs.
About the only disadvantages to hedging a grove are the
initial cost of the operation, some reduction in total crop for
the first year or two and a problem with respect to moving out
the brush. Brush removal may add considerably to the expense
of hedging but where there are considerable quantities of heavy
brush it is generally recommended that the brush be removed
from the grove. Brush piled too close to the trees and left there
to rot may result in trees becoming infected with termites and
The pattern of hedging that is adopted will depend on the way
the grove is set, the variety and how thoroughly the operator
wants to hedge in the initial operation. Where possible it is
recommended that hedging be done in a north-south direction
to take full advantage of increased sunlight. Figure 2 illustrates
several forms of hedging.
Experience has shown that hedging the trees to a 7-foot or
8-foot opening in the middles is about optimum. It allows ma-
chinery to pass and does not excessively reduce the bearing
surface of the trees. The most common practice is to prune
trees every row in one direction and in the opposite direction
two years later. That means that after the initial hedging cuts
are made the rows will be pruned lightly in the alternate direc-
tions every two years. Any given row will be trimmed every
four years. This plan is frequently modified. Some operators
hedge tangerines and other varieties in both directions at one
Pattern of trees hedged b(
Trees hedged both directions. T0
)th sides in one direction.
angerines frequently are hedged
the first year.
This pattern extends the hedging operation over several years and re-
duces the crop loss in any one year. It is especially satisfactory when
hedging is started well before branches interlock in the middles.
Fig. 2.-Diagrams of hedging patterns.
time initially and thereafter adopt a four-year rotation plan.
Other modifications are satisfactory.
Hedging should be done during the winter months and the
job should be completed before the spring growth starts. In
some cases this will mean hedging while the old crop is still
on the trees. But many growers feel it is more desirable to
take a salvage price for the fruit thus removed if necessary than
to delay pruning beyond the time of the spring flush. In the
case of Valencias, however, it is felt that hedging should be
delayed until immediately after the mature crop is harvested.
There are several methods of hedging. The first method used
and still widely practiced is the use of hand labor with sharp
pruning saws and clippers. Before the cutting operation is
started many operators line stakes down the middles 31/2 or 4
feet on each side of the center line at 20- to 30-foot intervals.
These stakes are usually about 5 to 6 feet high and the pruners
cut to these stakes by standing on the ground. When this is
done pruners stand on trucks and complete the job, lining up
their cuts with those made by the crew on the ground.
A number of operators use pneumatic tools for hedging. They
follow the same general procedure as outlined above. When
crews are trained and their work well planned the pneumatic
tools reduce the cost of cutting very appreciably.
A third method of hedging is by the use of a mechanical device
developed by Prosser at the Citrus Experiment Station. This
machine will hedge about an acre an hour in average grapefruit
blocks. This method provides the speediest operation and the
lowest cost of doing the job, although the initial cost of the
machine is around $1,500.00. Plans for building the machine
may be secured by writing the Citrus Experiment Station at
The hedging machine is especially well adapted to use by
larger operators, cooperatives and others with large acreages
that need hedging. Small operators could probably operate with
less investment by renting a hedging machine for the initial
pruning job and thereafter maintain their groves in a good
hedged condition by the use of hand or pneumatic equipment.
Regardless of the system of hedging used, the job should be
done in a workman-like manner and cuts made in accordance
with good pruning practices. Wounds of %/ inch in diameter
For complete information on Mr. Prosser's hedging machine, see
Experiment Station Bulletin 519.
and larger should be treated with a thick water emusifiable as-
phalt paint. This will keep water out of the wounds and thereby
hasten healing and reduce the incidence of disease infection in
the pruning cuts.
TABLE 1.-PERCENT OF PACK-OUT BEFORE AND AFTER HEDGING.
(While these figures are not meant to imply that hedging will always
result in an increase in the percent of pack-out, they illustrate a trend in
several varieties based on a very limited study.)
Season Picked Packed % Pack-out
Grove A Tangerine block-25 years old-set 26 X 26-900 trees
1949-50 6,087 2,207 36.25
Hedged on two sides Feb. '50
1950-51 3,564 3,005 84.31
1951-52 7,908 6,588 83.31
1952-53 3,970 3,570 89.92
Grove B Tangerine block-20 years old-set 20 X 20-500 trees
1949-50 2,536 768 30.28
1950-51 215 96 44.65
Hedged two sides Feb. '51
1951-52 2,295 1,972 85.93
1952-53 1,696 1,380 81.37
Grove C Tangerine block-25 years old-set 20 X 20-1,500 trees
1949-50 7,459 3,387 45.41
1950-51 4,980 2,408 48.35
Hedged alternate sides Feb. '51
1951-52 3,708 2,100 56.64
Hedged other sides Feb. '52
1952-53 5,233 3,840 73.38
Grove D Marsh Seedless Grapefruit-set 25 X 25-20 years old-390 trees
1949-50 2,860 2,353 82.27
1950-51 2,370 1,336 56.37
Hedged two sides Feb. '51
1951-52 2,933 2,082 70.98
1952-53 2,761 2,653 96.09
Grove E Hamlin Grove-Set 20 X 20 (diamond)-16 years old-348 trees
1949-50 2,307 all cannery 0%
1950-51 2,125 1,197 56.33
1951-52 2,663 1,800 67.59
Hedged two sides Feb. '52
1952-53 711 (spot 657 92.40
1,807 (picked later) all cannery 0%
2,518 657 26.09
TABLE 2.-SAMPLE COSTS OF HEDGING IN THE FLORIDA RIDGE AREA.
Variety Age I Spacing I Method Cost per Tree Is Brush Removal Included?
Grapefruit .................. 25 25 X 25 Machine 0.071/* No
Temple ...................... 18 121/ X 25 Hand 0.51 Yes
Grapefruit ........ 40 25 X 25 Hand 0.68 No
Tangerines ...-....- 22 25 X 25 Hand 0.25 No
Hamlin ....................... 16 20 X 20 Hand 0.36 Yes**
Grapefruit ........... 20 25 X 25 Hand 0.78 Yes**
Tangerines ...... 25 20 X 20 Hand 0.42 Yes**
Grapefruit -......-.....-..... 28 25 X 25 Pneumatic 0.26 No
Cost of machine not included.
** Includes painting pruning cuts over 1" diameter.
The author wishes to acknowledge the helpful assistance of
the following in furnishing suggestions for this report: Fred
P. Lawrence, Citriculturist, Florida Agricultural Extension
Service; Zach Savage, Assoc. Economist, Florida Agricultural
Experiment Station; C. C. Thullbery, Production Manager, Lake
Region Packing Assn.; H. A. Thullbery, Asst. Manager, Supe-
rior Fertilizer Co.; Morty Howell, Production Manager, Waverly
Growers Coop.; and D. S. Prosser, Jr., Asst. Horticulturist, Citrus
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN
AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30. 1914)
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
AND UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
H. G. CLAYTON, DIRECTOR