It wasn't until almost the entire centre of my Seedless Valencia had turned yellow that I woke up an realised something might be wrong. I guess the more you think your ship is unsinkable, the more surprised you are when you hit an iceberg - and maybe more to the point, the less likely you are to be concerned. That would definitely be the story of my orange trees - they just seem so self reliant.
At first I thought this maybe be a recent chicken problem expressing itself in citrus form, or just due to the lack of rainfall recently... but to be so localised in one area of one tree - no, couldn't be. And then I got closer and saw the sooty mold (which always means a sap-sucking insect) and the millions of tiny nodules seeming growing from the leaves and bark. A scale infestation.
How could I possibly miss this, you might ask? It's not like it's a small infestation, so much as a full-scale invasion. But with an average of about fifteen minutes a day to keep my garden in order, hell, you could hide a herd of elephant amongst my orange trees and I wouldn't know about it until the trees weren't there any more. So, I should add, I actually caught this one early.
So I spent my 10 minutes this morning mixing up the concoction of sunflower oil and dish-washing detergent that is white oil, as per described by my mate Jerry. Its basically a mix of 1 part detergent to 4 parts oil, diluted to 2 or so teaspoons per litre of water.
Its not a perfect time of the year to be applying white oil, because ideally you don't want to be covering spring blossom with the stuff - but as the tree is under so much stress at the minute, its a little more worried about the life being sucked from its limbs than producing fruit in a timely manner.
Hopefully over the next week most of the scale will suffocate along with a few other pests, like leaf miner, that will conveniently get caught in the crossfire. Then just to be sure, I'll hit it with oil again. And again.
Also, where I usually leave fruit on the tree
until I need it, I'll be lightening the burden completely in the coming
week so the tree can focus its full attention on not dying.