Fruit and child

Our Expert Tips for Harvesting Delicious Fruit

Oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and plenty of other citrus trees are almost in season! As the year progresses, more and more tree varieties will be ripe for the picking, so we put together this helpful guide to fruit harvesting techniques for Arizona gardeners. Regardless of the variety or quantity of trees you have, timing and technique are everything when maintaining a thriving home orchard. Since trees are such a labor of love requiring plenty of patience, it would be a shame for your bounty to go to waste all because of a few missteps during harvesting!

woman picking apples summerwinds arizona

How to Harvest Fruits

Growing food at home is a fantastic way to save money on grocery bills and reduce your carbon footprint. Here’s how you can start picking like a pro!

When to Pick

Here’s a list of the best tree-grown edibles to cultivate in Arizona, the general timeframe of when they’ll be ready to pick, and the condition they should be in for prime picking.

  • Oranges, Clementines and Tangerines: December – March. Taste is the best indicator of ripeness, but if they’re large, bright, and free of green spots, they should be good to go.
  • Grapefruits: December – March. Wait until they’re at least half-yellow, or half-pink, not fully green. The longer they’re on the tree, the sweeter they’ll be.
  • Lemons: December – April. Taste is the best indicator of ripeness, but if they’re large, bright, and free of green spots, they should be ready to pick.
  • Apricots: May – June. Ready to pick when they’re rich golden orange and slightly soft.
  • Nectarines: May – July. Let ripen on the tree for as long as possible, but pick when they’re still firm and are just beginning to soften.
  • Peaches: May – August. Let ripen on the tree for as long as possible, but pick when they’re still firm and are just beginning to soften.
  • Plums: June – August. Leave to ripen on the tree as long as possible, and pick when they’re slightly soft.
  • Figs: June – October. Allow to ripen on the tree until they’re not too hard and not too soft with just a bit of give when squeezed. Wear gloves when harvesting to protect your skin from irritating sap.
  • Apples: July – September. Check for vibrant color, firm flesh, and smooth skin. If you grip the apple and twist, the stem should separate easily from the branch.
  • Pears: August – September. Pick while still firm, but the tip near the stem is slightly soft.
  • Dates: October – November. Ripe when firm and brown.
  • Key limes: October – November. Can pick while still mostly green, and they will ripen to yellow-green.
  • Pomegranates: October – December. Mature fruit will be firm with a little bit of give when you squeeze. Pull one apart and sample the seeds to check the flavor.

person picking apple summerwinds arizona

Can Apples Ripen Off the Tree?

Yes and no—apples should be picked at peak ripeness to ensure the best flavor, and while they will continue to soften as they age, their flavor won’t improve. To make sure they last as long as possible, store them in the fridge, not a bowl on the counter, to keep them crisp and tangy.

There are, however, a few fruits that can be picked and allowed to ripen off the tree. While this process may affect their taste to some extent, it won’t be the end of the world. These fruits include:

  • Apricots
  • Dates
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Nectarines

Methods of Harvesting

Now that you know when to do it, here’s how to do it! Your ideal method of picking will be dependent on the size of your trees and the toughness of the stems, so it might be worth speaking to one of our experts if you’re a little unsure of which method to use.

The Shake Method

If you’ve got a couple of friends and a big tarp, you can do the shake method! Hold the tarp up by all four corners, keeping it off the ground underneath the tree canopy to catch everything that drops, while two friends shake the trunk of the tree back and forth. Watch your head, and consider wearing a helmet or hard hat!

Picker Buckets

This tool has a long handle attached to a bucket with built-in hooks. Reach upward to latch onto the fruits with the hooks before twisting and pulling the fruit into the bucket.

sheers next to some plums and an apple summerwinds arizona


Hand pruners work for smaller trees, but telescoping pole pruners will help you to reach anything way up at the top of the tree that’s too high to grasp.

Twist and Pull

Sometimes doing it by hand works best, especially if you’re dealing with a tree with really tough stems and branches, like the pomegranate. If you’re on a ladder, remember to work slowly and don’t get too overconfident with reaching!

If planting your own fruit trees is something you’re interested in, visit SummerWinds Nursery to see all of the baby trees that are ready to go in the ground this winter. Milder weather is ideal for tree planting, so the soil temperature doesn’t shock the roots. Ask us for tips if you need any help getting them into the ground!

About SummerWinds Nursery: SummerWinds Garden Centers is a leading high-end retailer of garden and nursery products. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, SummerWinds operates retail nurseries in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, and in Silicon Valley, California, making it one of the largest independent retail nursery companies in the west. SummerWinds appeals to both the serious and casual gardeners, with a broad selection of premium gardening products and a friendly and knowledgeable staff.