This is truly amazing – imagine growing citrus beneath a snow drift!
Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, mandarins, tangerines, grapefruits, limes, pomeloes) are the highest-value fruit crop in terms of international trade. Citrus plants are not frost-hardy and can only be grown in tropical and subtropical climates – unless they are cultivated in fossil fuel heated glasshouses.
However, during the first half of the twentieth century, citrus fruits came to be grown a good distance from the (sub)tropical regions they usually thrive in. The Russians managed to grow citrus outdoors, where temperatures drop as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius, and without the use of glass or fossil fuels.
By 1950, the Soviet Union boasted 30,000 hectares of citrus plantations, producing 200,000 tonnes of fruits per year.
The Expansion of Citrus Production in the Soviet Union
Before the first World War, the total area occupied by citrus plantations in the Russian Empire was estimated at a mere 160 hectares, located almost entirely in the coastal area of Western Georgia. This region enjoys a relatively mild winter climate because of its proximity to the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountain range – which protects it against cold winter winds coming from the Russian plains and Western Siberia.
Nevertheless, such a climate is far from ideal for citrus production: although the average winter temperature is above zero, thermal minima may drop to between -8 to -12 degrees Celsius. Frost is deadly to citrus plants, even a short blast. For example, at the end of the 19th century, the extensive citrus industry in Florida (US) was almost completely destroyed when temperatures dropped briefly to between -3 and -8 degrees Celsius…
(Read the rest at Low Tech Magazine – it’s utterly fascinating!)
My winter water table is at about 18 inches. I would have to install a bubbler as well.
On the other hand, I am looking into low temperature geothermal to heat a greenhouse, either from water or air circulation in pipes underground
I was so excited that my water barrels had kept my citrus alive after that crazy freeze event. Looks like a total loss after all, though. Watching for signs of growth above the graft but it’s not looking too good. Nearly everything on our South-facing wall died as well. Pommelo, Valencia, two Satsumas and an arctic satsuma are visibly alive. My potted citrus were brought in, if course.
My trees are small, I made wire cages and filled the cage with leaves. It dropped to 22 degrees in north Florida and only some leaves near the edges got burned. Trees are difficult to grow, I spent hours protecting them. I built plywood walls around my two avocado trees and then put heat lamps inside. I knew my small peach trees would be fine but two were in full bloom so I wrapped them in foil insulation. One has five beautiful peaches on it. Next year everything will be larger, it will be more challenging saving them.
First gardening season finally within sight. Your Floridian expat staying in Samara with a family who has two hoop houses on a small suburban plot. Apple, pear and plum trees – no citrus, but intriguing idea for future. Looking forward to learning a thing or two – it has to be easier than the language! Did I mention my host family “dad” distills vodka and fruit schnapps in the garage? Stay tuned for more and muchas gracias for the inspiration!
I got all excited, as I hope to move to a zone 6 or 7, but I will miss my current zone 9 citrus.
But when I read through the article, I can see why this only could be pulled off in an empire with political dissidents slave labor.
It’s *extremely* intensive, alas. Like the Pyramids of Egypt. Like a lot of projects Communist Russia completed. They had no shortage of free/forced labors as the many memoirs of living under the Soviet Union that I have read, attest.
Slave-labor makes that higher-ups’ fancy for oranges a lot more do-able.
“In 1925, following the Russian Revolution and the civil war, citrus growing became the subject of planned development. The Communist Party was determined to become self-sufficient in citrus production, and no efforts were spared. They set up several research establishments and nurseries, as well as test fields in more than 50 locations.”
“and no efforts were spared”
In communist Russia, it didn’t have to be a decent work vs produce trade-off. Because it wasnt’ the farmers or laborers who got to decide that. And if you told your boss it was a bad idea, well then, something happened to you. Engineers were shot for being glum about canal-building projects, that thousands of political prisoners deaths later, and little progress, were then finally given up on, only after the 2nd round of engineers got shot for “sabotage.”
Yeah, it was a terrible system. Still, the feats of engineering impress me. They happened in spite of communism, not because of it.
This reminds me of the Soviet-era attempts to grow tea (Camellia sinensis) in much colder areas. If curious, have a look at https://tea-biz.com/2022/04/15/ukraines-cold-weather-tea/ I think there was/is a Chinese family living near Ithaca, NY also trying to grow tea in a cold region