Citrus ……. A Must Have in Any Organic Garden
Citrus must be the juiciest, fresh and health-giving fruit on the earth. The gardener can choose from a wide variety, or have a tree of each – Oranges, Grapefruits, Lemons and easy peelers like Naartjies, Minneola’s, Satsumas, Kumquats, Pomelo’s and the list just goes on….
If there is 1 tree that a garden cannot be without it is a lemon tree! This fruit must be the most versatile and useful, a total 1-Stop treasure that just keeps on giving, and all it requires is a little bit of attention to do so. Not only are they full of healthy Vitamin C to boost the immune system, fight colds and soothe sore throats or coughs when mixed with honey – that early morning hot water & lemon to clean the digestive system, a slice or 2 in your cocktail, a squeeze over fish or chicken when cooking, in the laundry for natural cleaning and bleaching, and even a useful beauty aid to slough off dead skin cells and expose a fresh new glow on your face, hands and elbows!
But somehow gardeners seem challenged by the maintenance of healthy productive citrus trees – either the tree does not bear fruit, or fruit drops before maturing or insect control is a problem. The easy secret to healthy citrus trees is correct planting, fertilizing and watering.
Best Conditions for Citrus Trees
Citrus trees can be planted in most frost-free areas of the country, even in cold areas where they are sheltered from cold winds. The soil should be well drained and a light texture and waterlogged or heavy clay is not suitable as this could lead to root disease. The pH of the soil is not a significant factor but planting in soils with high salts (brack) are not recommended. Trees can be planted about 5m apart, check for spread of mature trees when buying from your nursery. Smaller tree varieties like naartjies, rough skin lemons and ornamentals do well in pots if adequately cared for in small gardens. Position in full sun.
How to Plant a Citrus Tree in the Garden
- Prepare a planting hole that will cover the root ball of the tree. Remove the pot of sleeve and position tree in hole.
- Mix the soil dug from the hole with 1 Litre of quality compost and 150g VITA Grow 2:3:2(16) organic fertilizer. Then fill the hole around root ball with this soil mix.
- Water well, then mulch with wood chips placed up to 10cm of stem to prevent root or collar rot.
How to Plant a Citrus Tree in a Container
- Select a suitable size container that will allow for roots to grow to maturity.
- Place small stones, or broken crockery over drainage holes.
- Mix VITA Grow 2:3:2(16) at 20ml for medium pots or 50ml for large containers, into a good quality potting soil. Fertilis Earthworm Castings can be added to enrich potting soil.
- Remove sleeve or pot around citrus tree, position tree in container and fill container with potting mix.
- Water well.
Citrus trees are very productive therefore hungry trees, so they should get a feed of VITA Fruit & Flower 3:1:5(18) organic fertilizer every 4 months in their producing cycle to maintain flowering, fruiting and tree health. Post-harvest feed with VITA Grow 2:3:2(16) to nourish roots and build up energy reserves in the tree for the new season. Pest and Disease attack is usually a symptom of a stressed tree resulting from a shortage of water or food.
Many problems associated with growing citrus can be linked to inadequate watering, especially in summer rainfall areas we tend to neglect trees in the dry winter period. Citrus fruits are full of juicy cells, so require a soaking of water every 2 weeks in dry periods if planted in soil, and at least twice a week if planted in a container. Adjust watering to season and climate.
Common Problems for Citrus
- Sooty mould is quite frequent on Citrus, it is a fungus that grows on honeydew which is produced by insects such as aphids, mealy bugs, and scale insects. These insects are usually placed on dry, stressed plants and farmed by ants which feed on the honeydew. Although it does not cause direct damage to the tree, it may reduce photosynthesis affecting plants food production and most unsightly.
- Citrus Psylla and Aphids are usually confirmed by ant activity up the tree stem and along the branches, and citrus psylla (little bumps in new leaves).
- Mediterranean wooly aphid, wooly white fly or wooly scale, all of these attack stressed lemon or citrus trees, especially out of rainy season.
Organic Cures for Citrus
SPRAY TO CONTROL: The sooty mould, Citrus Psylla, Scales and Mealy bugs are all linked to ants’ activity, so the correct treatment is to spray the base of the soil, up the tree trunk and onto leaves to control the insects with Biogrow Pyrol diluted at 10ml per 1L water. Follow up 7 days later to knock out the problem. Biogrow Organic Pest & Disease control is available from leading Garden Centres.
FEED TO CORRECT: As these are an indication of stress in the tree, feed it with a drench of Biogrow Biotrissol diluted 5ml per 1L (per citrus tree apply 2L of mix) for quick results and apply Talborne Organics Vita Fruit & Flower 3:1:5 Fertilizer 500g- 1kg per tree depending on size and age of tree. Also make sure that the tree is watered at least 1x per week in the hot and dry weather. It takes a lot of water to make citrus fruit.