An Update on March 19, 2020

March 19th, 2020


It’s hard to wrap our heads around how quickly our daily lives are changing. It’s even more difficult to know where we will be tomorrow, next week, or in a month. Like everyone, all of us at Food Forward have been taking things day-by-day to respond to the impact novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has on us as individuals, as an organization, and as a community. 

The majority of our staff in Los Angeles and Ventura began working remotely late last week. At the Produce Pit Stop, our staff is maintaining its massive recovery efforts from the Wholesale Produce Market with increased cleaning and hygiene protocol in place. As of today, we made the decision to suspend community volunteer events for the time being. We will keep you posted regularly, as we know so many of you want to help. To mitigate lapses in service, our Farmers Market Recovery and Backyard Harvest teams are diverting as many hunger relief agencies as possible to pick up from the Produce Pit Stop–where large loads of fruits and vegetables are available.

As the landscape of need shifts under our feet, we are getting creative with our partners to establish distribution hubs to serve community members and local hunger relief agencies. After our long-time partner A Place Called Home had to temporarily suspend most services for South Los Angeles families, we were able to supply them with assorted produce to create 200 grocery bags for their newly established bi-weekly Family Resource Depot. Yesterday, in Watts, our team worked with staff at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee to ensure that our regular Produce Pick-Up could still happen. 12,000 pounds of strawberries, jicama, squash, oranges, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and onions were given out to local agencies and to the public in bags via a drive-through model.


A Place Called Home distributes grocery bags with produce recovered by Food Forward


The sad truth is that the most vulnerable amongst us will be impacted most by this health crisis, but many more people may be facing food insecurity due to financial upheaval. To continue to provide emergency food relief during this critical time, we must be innovative, adaptable, and compassionate. We hope you will stand next to us–in spirit–to make this possible.

Amongst all of the uncertainty, we have been heartened by the outpouring of support we are receiving from people who want to help. At this time, the best way to support our work is by making a donation to help us adapt our programs to the shifting need. After canceling our annual fundraiser, the Spring Melt, an anonymous donor stepped up to MATCH every dollar we raise from now until April 4, up to $50,000. While we won’t be toasting in-person, we invite you to take a break and Melt-at-Home with us to strengthen our fight against hunger and food waste. 

Since the beginning, Food Forward has been committed to our simple mission of sharing abundance with those who need it most. While how we do that may look different over the coming weeks and even months, we will live by our mission to spread generosity. We encourage you to do the same, so we can get through these challenges more resilient than ever. 

We hope to see you up a tree soon.

From all of us at Food Forward

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Agency Spotlight: El Nido Family Centers

March 13th, 2020

Food Forward’s Fall 2019 FMR intern, Rebecca Luna, followed several boxes of fruits and vegetables as they made their way from the Torrance Farmers Market to El Nido Family Centers, Food Forward’s partner agency serving East Compton. Read on to hear what she learned about their work! 

Volunteers pose with boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables at the Torrance Farmers Market.

Throughout the United States, up to 40% of the food we produce never makes it to someone’s table. In fact, in 2010 the USDA estimated that about 133 billion pounds of food, worth $161 billion dollars, went to waste (USDA). At the same time, many families do not have access to enough nutritious food, due to prohibitive costs, the neighborhood they live in, and other factors. 11% of US households are currently facing food insecurity (USDA). As a result of segregation, redlining, historic economic disenfranchisement, and other discriminatory policies, certain communities face more challenges than others. One such community here in Los Angeles is Compton.

El Nido Family Centers provides free, nutritious fruits and vegetables to low-income families. Founded as a social service non-profit agency, El Nido Family Centers aim to provide services and programs to disadvantaged, low-income communities in Los Angeles County. Their seven locations and many programs have reached thousands of families through education, youth development, health and therapeutic services. The El Nido Family Center in East Compton has its doors open from 10 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday.


Volunteers collect boxes full of surplus produce at the Torrance Farmers Market.

The produce distributed by El Nido Family Centers comes from the Torrance Tuesday Farmers Market—where without Food Forward, it would end up becoming wasted food. Every Tuesday, Food Forward volunteers distribute boxes to farmers for them to fill with any surplus produce they have at the end of the market. El Nido Family Centers comes to the market, collects these boxes of produce, and takes them to their center in East Compton. On one Tuesday in September, they received 170 pounds of surplus fruits and vegetables, then headed back to their center to prepare the produce for the next day’s distribution. Their food program displays the produce for families who come to the distribution, showcasing the fresh picks of the season.

During my visit, Daisy Duran, El Nido’s Health Director, excitedly highlights the produce available for people and explains to me that families also come to the center daily for their other programs. The services provided by El Nido Family Centers are quite extensive and reach out to the community of East Compton with culturally relevant and sensitive material. The families coming by greet Daisy and I with excitement and familiarity.


The selection of fruit, vegetables, and bread on display for folks coming to El Nido. 

They are all invited to come to the tables and take produce they can use. As they make their selections, the community chatters about their weeks and catch-up. They explain to me what plans they have for their produce—one woman, Yasmin, says that she’ll use it to make soups and salads. She says (translated from Spanish), “I prefer to grab things I’m more used to, because I’m familiar with them.” Many people explain to me how they try to make new meals with produce they aren’t as familiar with. They also express their gratitude for the availability of free produce to take home.

Throughout the rest of the day, families continue to come in and out, picking fruits and vegetables to feed their families and neighbors. Daisy’s hopes for the future of the El Nido Family Centers food program is to add workshops, such as how to make kid-friendly healthy snacks, food preparation tips, and how to use unfamiliar produce. She also hopes to incorporate a dietician into their programming. Daisy plans to add these new programs soon, in an effort to continue working with the community and seeking new developments in health outreach.


A mother and son fill up a bag with nutritious food to take home. 

Visiting our partner agencies, like El Nido Family Centers, reminds us of the importance of our work throughout Los Angeles County to provide fresh produce to communities in need. Thanks to our volunteers and donating farmers, produce that would needlessly go to waste can help alleviate the burden of food insecurity for these families. The work of El Nido Family Centers helps to shape and empower communities to have the ability to choose their ideal futures. We thank El Nido Family Centers and their food program for their incredible work!


This post was written by Food Forward intern Rebecca Luna. 

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From the harvest to someone’s table

February 28th, 2020

Our Volunteer of the Month is Dee Bernaldo! Dee is one of our fabulous Ventura County Pick Leaders who has been instrumental in helping us get to all the fruit trees on our list. Ventura County Branch Coordinator Andrea Howry says: “She’s a seasoned volunteer, but [relatively] new as a pick leader. Dee works hard and has been very helpful and patient considering how busy it’s been. She’s been taking initiative on lots of picks and we can’t thank her enough.” Thank you Dee, for all you do!

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
As I was getting ready to retire, I went on the Volunteer Match website to see what kind of positions were open. Food Forward caught my eye and that was it!

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
I have been a life long walker and I’ve noticed a lot of trees with fruit laying on the ground. It always bothered me, the waste. So this is my small part in saving some while at the same time feeding some people.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
As I said I am a walker, a hiker. I’ve walked the Camino Frances in Spain twice and in Portugal once. I also read and like movies.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I just love getting outside and standing in the trees—it just feels right. Plus there’s the extra satisfaction that what I’m picking is going to be eaten almost immediately.


Dee representing Food Forward at an alburgue (hostel) in Rabanal, Spain. 

What was your first volunteer day like?
My first pick I was hooked! The property was incredible, it was terraced, with state-of-the-art green technologies. There were big beautiful trees full of fruit, and a few kids which made it fun. The pick leader turned me on to becoming a leader myself. Everyone was so friendly, we went for lunch after the pick!

What have you learned from volunteering?
The experience of picking fruit for 2 hours at a clip has given me a new found respect for the people who do it to make a living, 40+ hours a week—it is HARD WORK.

Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
On my first pick, the Pick Leader was giving her Food Forward orientation and said “the food you are picking today will be on someones table tonight!” That has stuck with me.

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A morning at the Produce Pit Stop

February 24th, 2020

It’s been over six months since the Produce Pit Stop, our first-ever warehouse space, opened. The Produce Pit Stop is located in Bell, CA, and provides refrigeration, dry storage space, dedicated workspaces, and a centralized hub to our Wholesale Recovery Program. To illustrate its impact, we recently brought a photographer, Jack Sutton, to capture a typical morning at the Pit Stop.

Wholesale Recovery Driver Simon Bergara unloads a pallet of yellow onions. 

One after another, five hunger relief agencies pull up to the Produce Pit Stop in Bell, CA, and load their trucks with watermelons, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and more. Among them are Faro de Luz, a church in Huntington Park, and World Harvest, a Mid-City food bank. Pallet jacks and forklifts move produce in and out of the warehouse, as Daniel, our Warehouse Supervisor, engineers which fruits and vegetables are going to which agencies.


A Food Forward truck, full of recovered fruits and vegetables, backs into the loading bay at the Produce Pit Stop. 

Starting at 4 am, Food Forward’s trucks leave for the Wholesale Produce District to collect donations of surplus fruits and vegetables from wholesalers. By 10 am, they have picked up several truckloads and agencies are beginning to arrive. Over several hours, the warehouse was quite literally filled with produce for our partner agencies to pick up and take back to their communities. There are a lot of moving pieces to keep track of, and the pallets are moving in and out very quickly, with very little downtime. Throughout the entire morning, the Wholesale team remains a well-organized, efficient unit.


Members of the Wholesale Recovery team pose in front of Food Forward trucks. From left: Wholesale Recovery Program Driver Merced Giles Bonfil, Wholesale Recovery Program Supervisor Leo Paz, Wholesale Recovery Program Driver Antonio Velasquez, Wholesale Recovery Warehouse Supervisor Daniel Gallegos. 

Leo Paz, Wholesale Recovery Supervisor, and Daniel Gallegos, Wholesale Recovery Warehouse Supervisor, say that the Produce Pit Stop has “completely changed how we work. Before the Pit Stop, we had to convince an agency to take, say, six pallets of the same variety [before we could accept the donation]. Now, we can accept twenty pallets of produce and know that it will have a home, without having to figure out [the details] beforehand.”


Pallets of watermelon and other fruits and vegetables fill the dry storage space of the Produce Pit Stop.

The Produce Pit Stop can hold over 225,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables, and has greatly increased our capacity for produce recovery. In its first six months of operations, over 15 million pounds of produce touched down at the Produce Pit Stop! The Pit Stop also makes it possible for us to create “mixed loads” of different varieties of fruits and vegetables, increasing the diversity of fruits and vegetables our partner agencies receive. We are so excited to share how impactful the Pit Stop has been so far, and we look forward to seeing how this new warehouse will continue to support our efforts to prevent food waste and provide free fruits and vegetables to local hunger relief agencies.


All photos by Jack Sutton.

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Agency Spotlight: Friends in Deed

February 14th, 2020

Volunteers at the Pasadena Farmers Market pose with 325 pounds of produce, headed to Friends in Deed.


Bringing Community and Food Together

Food is not only a source of nutrition, it connects us to our friends, family, and neighbors. Many of us don’t have to worry about how we will pay for our next week of groceries, but for some of our neighbors (about 1 in 9 people in LA County), food insecurity is a major stressor. To help combat this stress, Friends in Deed provides hunger relief to low-income families in Pasadena, with an emphasis on community building. The amazing work of Food Pantry Program Director Tim Nistler, along with Friends in Deed volunteers, have directed surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste into the homes of many community members.

Friends and Deed has been picking up produce at the Pasadena Farmers Market since we first started recovering produce there in 2015. Every Saturday, volunteers from Food Forward “glean” the market, collecting donations of fruits and vegetables from farmers. They can be spotted in their khaki colored aprons, building boxes for market vendors to fill with surplus produce. At the end of the market, these volunteers collect and weigh the boxes from each vendor and help load them up to be taken to Friends in Deed. Since 2015, we’ve donated over 94,000 pounds from the Pasadena Farmers Market to them!


Friends in Deed also picks up fruit harvested from our Backyard Harvest program! 

Friends in Deed is an interfaith organization dedicated to providing support and relief to people who are homeless or at-risk. They have served the community of Pasadena and the greater San Gabriel Valley for over 120 years through many programs, such as their Food Pantry, Women’s Room, Bad Weather Shelter, Homeless Prevention, and Street Outreach programs. Tim, the Program Director of the Food Pantry, envisions the future of the program to include more waste reduction techniques, like composting, and dreams of the day he’ll have unlimited produce for families to take home.



On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, Friends in Deed operates a food pantry and provides about 300 families with groceries to take home. The walls are lined with shelves of dry and canned goods, breads, meats, and dairy products, while the tables are filled with bags of fruits, vegetables, and desserts. Anyone who comes to the pantry can take home whatever items they want, limited only by their family size and needs. People shopping at the pantry receive a ticket and wait to be called in, and once inside, they are free to browse the shelves and shop in the market-style food pantry for free.

Many of the people shopping around the market were gushing about the amazing work being done by Friends in Deed. One participant named Gloria talked about how this food has impacted her and her family and friends. She said, “Coming here helps me to help other people, while also replacing some of the financial burden.” She uses the food to supplement some of her shopping, and with it cooks meals for her mother-in-law as well as her college-aged children and their friends.


Gloria checks out her finds for the day with a long-time volunteer at Friends in Deed.

Friends in Deed has been a place of solace for many, and continues to spread kindness and a sense of belonging. Friends in Deed not only deals with the issues of food insecurity, but also stands as a reminder to us to care for and connect with our neighbors and community. Gloria also mentioned that the program grants people “the opportunity to be kinder, gentler people, allowing us to care for people other than ourselves.” The team of dedicated volunteers and caring families remind us that we can all be a friend to those in need. We at Food Forward are grateful we can play a role in helping them bring dignity and respect to people in this community.


— By Farmers Market Recovery Intern, Rebecca Luna.

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Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and Huanglongbing (HLB): Update

February 5th, 2020


It’s been two years since our last blog post about Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) & Huanglongbing (HLB) and we thought it was time to give you an update on the issue and what Food Forward is doing to prevent the spread of citrus greening disease.

In 2019, HLB quarantine boundaries grew and spread to new regions in Southern California over the past year, including into San Bernardino & Riverside Counties. This has caused much concern and has been a major area of focus here at Food Forward. We have been, and continue to be, in close communication with scientists and officials at UCANR and CDFA to ensure our citrus gleaning efforts are in line with their recommendations and in no way leading to the potential spread of this terrible disease.


The solarizing process, which consists of placing all leaves, stems, and branches in a plastic trash bag and leaving it in the sun to dry completely, kills any psyllid pests that could spread HLB.

Since Asian citrus psyllids, the vector of HLB, live on the leaves, NOT the fruit itself, we take very special care at our harvest events to remove all leaves, stems, and branches from all of the fruit we pick. We then solarize the green waste prior to putting it into yard waste cans for removal (see our previous blog post for more on the solarizing process). This practice of solarizing, which has been approved by agency officials, is very effective at preventing the potential spread of ACP & HLB.


But is it safe to move citrus from my property if I live in an HLB quarantine zone?

In December 2019, UCANR hosted a webinar, “UC Ag Experts Talk: Asian Citrus Psyllid for Backyard Growers“, led by Dr. Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell, a leading scientist on ACP/HLB. The webinar addressed many questions surrounding this issue, including if it’s safe to harvest and move citrus fruit:



The bottom line when it comes to moving backyard citrus in quarantine zones (and really anywhere in Southern California) is to always remove any leaves, sticks or stems from the fruit while harvesting, do not immediately place the removed green waste into your yard waste can, and to brush or wash off the fruit before transporting. 

To view the current HLB quarantine maps, visit this site,, and if you think you found the Asian citrus psyllid or HLB symptoms on your tree please call the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s hotline immediately, 1-800-491-1899.

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Doing what he can to help

January 24th, 2020

Meet our Volunteer of the Month, Harry Matsumoto! Harry is an Event Leader in three of Food Forward’s programs—he’s a Glean Team Leader, Pick Leader, and Community Ambassador! He’s been critical to keeping the Pasadena glean going over the past year or so, but especially since several of our Glean Team Leaders moved away this summer. He’s always willing to help, has agreed to lead at the last minute several times, and is always happy to be a part of any Food Forward event. The most impressive moment was in December, when Harry was shopping at the Alhambra farmers market and noticed that the Glean Team Leader hadn’t shown up. He called to let us know and offered to lead the glean right then and there!

San Gabriel Valley Harvest Coordinator, Dory Bennett, often leads big picks alongside Harry. She mentioned that right as she’s getting tired and overwhelmed, she’ll look up and sees Harry’s smiling face with orange juice for the team! 



So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?  
I got started when I became an health/life insurance agent authorized to offer AARP Medicare plans. This gave me access to the AARP website, which listed various volunteer opportunities. I searched the opportunities and I found an opportunity through LA Works about collecting produce for a good cause. LA Works forwarded me to Food Forward for the opportunities.


What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
I thought the work and mission of Food Forward is a very important matter. Trying to solve food insecurity through produce recovery and redistribution to the less fortunate is a good cause to strive for.


What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
When I am not volunteering with Food Forward, I am a self-employed Information Technology Consultant, Health/Life Insurance Agent and a Notary Public. As a volunteer, I am the Construction Director for Friends of Faire at the Original Renaissance Faire in Irwindale, CA and other volunteer opportunities (i.e. church office support and events).


Photo Credit: The Sundial/John Hernandez

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward? 
My favorite part about volunteering are the people that are involved with the different events. They are fun to work with. It is relaxing to do the work.


How would you describe the volunteer experience at a market?
The experience at a market glean is a slower paced collection environment for the volunteers than at a pick.  Doing a glean at a farmers market or a harvest pick, both give me a sense of accomplishment that we are making a difference.


What was your first volunteer day like?
The first volunteer day was kind of like any other first day of doing a job.  I was a little nervous about what the task would be to volunteer at the event.


What have you learned from volunteering?
Volunteering with Food Forward has shown me how much food insecurity that is out there in the local area. Also volunteering at a food pantry, showed me how much organization goes into collecting and distributing to the ones that need the items.



Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
The most powerful moment for me was the one time that I volunteered at the food pantry and the gratitude that the people receiving the care packages showed.


Any words of wisdom you live by?
Do what you can to help with food insecurity and reduce food waste.

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2009 – 2019: A look back at Food Forward milestones

January 21st, 2020

See a snapshot of Food Forward’s major milestones, year by year, from 2009-2019! For a more detailed look at Food Forward’s history, check out the timeline we created for our tenth anniversary here.

1. 2019

The Produce Pit Stop, our first refrigerated warehouse facility, is open!


2. 2018
Food Forward recovers and donates 50 million pounds ⁠(now we’re over 87 million!)


3. 2017
We pilot the Produce Pick-Up program in partnership with WLCAC, which is now in 4 sites across LA & VC


4. 2016
Food Forward volunteers give 21,000 hours of service since our founding. We couldn’t do what we do without them!⁠⠀


5. 2015

Food Forward wins our first EPA Food Recovery Challenge award for our work to prevent food waste⁠⠀


6. 2014
We launch the Wholesale Recovery Program, and greatly expand the volume of food we can recover and donate⁠⠀


7. 2012 
The Farmers Market Recovery program is launched at Santa Monica Wednesday. It’s now at 25 weekly markets in LA & VC⁠!⁠⠀


8. 2011

Martha Penhall, a Food Forward volunteer, starts our Ventura County branch⁠⠀


9. 2010

Food Forward serves some of our first partner hunger relief agencies, MEND (pictured) and SOVA. ⁠⠀


10. 2009

It all begins with our first Backyard Harvests and some fruit-loving volunteers! ⁠

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2019 Good Food News Round-Up

January 17th, 2020

We like to start off the new year by celebrating some of the best stories in the food justice world from 2019. From new programs and legislation to reduce food waste, to victories for local food sovereignty, there’s a lot to recap! Here are our picks for the top 5 good food stories from last year.



1. Brooklyn food pantry doubles as community nutrition education center

Reverend Melony Samuels realized that it wasn’t enough just to make healthy food more accessible in her Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn. She set out to make sure her community knew how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diets, so she expanded her food pantry to include cooking workshops, wellness programs, and more. The result? 75% of cooking workshop participants have changed their diets to include more whole grains and fresh produce.

2. New California law allows restaurant-goers to bring their own containers for leftovers

In an effort to cut down on packaging waste, the California state legislature passed a law that would allow restaurants to opt-in to participate in filling customers own containers with their leftovers and take out. The law requires the restaurant to have a written policy for preventing cross-contamination, and to keep the containers away from the serving area or sanitize the area after filling the containers. This new law and the guidelines allow the restaurants to reduce food and packaging waste while avoiding liability issues due to cross-contamination.



3. South Korea recycles 95% of food waste

The South Korean government banned sending food waste to landfills in 2005 (there was simply not enough space for more waste facilities), and in 2013, began requiring residents to dispose of their food waste separately, in biodegradable bags. Residents purchase as many bags as they need to capture their excess food, creating a financial incentive to create less waste—and compost at home—which is contributing to a growing urban farming movement. In Seoul, food scraps are turned into animal feed or fertilizer, and the liquid that accompanies it is fermented into biogas or bio-oil.

4. A Rethinking of the term “food deserts” and the policy surrounding it

For a long time, the logic of food deserts has been that when communities aren’t nearby or otherwise don’t have access to supermarkets that sell fresh food, people eat less healthy.  But recent studies have shown that poverty and high food costs—not proximity—are primary barriers blocking access to nutritious food. Making fruits and vegetables accessible could be as simple as making them more affordable.



5. The South LA Community Farm opens, transforming a vacant lot into productive land.

A collaborative project between The All Peoples Community Center and American Friends Service Committee’s Roots for Peace Program, the South LA Community Farm was first conceived by high school students in 2009. 10 years later, the 6,400 square foot urban farm was built, creating opportunities for food sovereignty and hyper-local produce. Throughout the 10-year process, the students surveyed their neighbors and developed the Food Growers Network, an urban agriculture community focused on addressing inequities in our food system.


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Winter Citrus Tree Care 101

January 3rd, 2020

Winter is the season that citrus gives their biggest crop, so unless your trees are recently planted, your fruit bowl should be full of all varieties of citrus! Local fruit tree expert and founder of Fruitstitute, Joanna Glovinsky, shares some knowledge and care tips with the Backyard Harvest team on the winter citrus season.

If your winter citrus crop is looking abundant, reach out to the Backyard Harvest Program ( for assistance coordinating a DIY or volunteer-powered fruit pick to prevent your surplus from being wasted.



You can also sign up for our Backyard Fruit Donor Updates newsletter to receive more helpful tips!




In the winter there are fewer daylight hours and temperatures are colder, which means evergreen trees, like citrus, are undergoing minimal photosynthesis and their growth rate is slowed. We refer to winter as the slow-growing season for citrus and all other evergreen trees (whereas for deciduous trees, winter is the dormant season). In the slow-growing season, evergreen trees are using energy, sugars created through photosynthesis during the active growing season (the summer), stored in their trunk and roots. As such, if a tree did not have enough leaves during the summer to photosynthesize and store sufficient energy then fruit production this winter will be reduced.


Pruning is essential for a healthy, happy tree. 


For citrus trees, your job in the winter is to ensure your tree does not become overburdened by too much fruit. If a branch seems to weighted down by the fruit, that fruit needs to be removed to ensure the branch does not break and that the tree does not become depleted in energy from overbearing. Other than keeping your tree from overbearing, winter is a good time to do your annual pruning on citrus trees as pests and disease populations are suppressed by cold temperatures.



We hope you find this information helpful as you care for your citrus trees this winter! For more, see all of our fruit tree care resources here, and check out Fruitstitute and their services here.

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