An essential element for an Australian "Backyard" is at least one
variety of citrus trees. Not only is the home gardener benefiting from a
very desirable fruit tree, but the citrus trees themselves are highly
decorative all year round. They have attractive dark shiny foliage,
fragrantly scented white blossom and fruit in shades of orange and
Citrus are such a wonderfully versatile fruiting family of trees, it
is hard to know quite which ones to plant. Usually people settle on a
Lemon as their first choice as it is the most versatile. Whatever
variety you select, please follow these simple tips noted here and you
should have great success growing citrus trees in your backyard.
The best site for citrus is in a hot and sunny spot, which is
preferably sheltered from strong winds. Excellent drainage is essential,
as water logged roots are undesirable. If you believe there could be a
drainage problem this can be rectified by planting on a slightly raised
mound. Citrus trees plants in half sun location will still grow but
will not bear as much fruit, and be susceptible to insects and disease.
Generally citrus can be planted all year round, except in colder
regions where it is best to avoid planting in the winter months.
- Dig a large hole and incorporate a generous amount of
GreenGold Planting Compost
- If there is clay, remove as much as possible, dig deeper
than required and add gypsum at the bottom of the hole.
- Pour in a bucket of water and check that it drains away
fairly quickly. If the water sits for a while, you MUST improve the
drainage prior to planting.
- Set the plant in the hole so that its soil is at the same
level as the surrounding soil; firm in and water well.
- Treat the soil with a solution of Seasol which will help
settle the plant in and promote strong root growth.
- Do not fertilise until the citrus tree has been in the
ground for a few months.
- If the plant fruits, it is best to remove them, so that
all the energy goes into growing a strong tree.
Feeding and Watering
Never fertilise close in to the trunk of the citrus tree - spread the
fertiliser out to the drip line of the tree. Keep the ground around
clear of all plants. Use organic pelletised poultry manure in early
spring, and then a follow up every 6 weeks, with a light feed until
early autumn. Water in the fertiliser well. A mulch of cow manure in
autumn is beneficial, combined with a surface mulch of chopped Lucerne
added after each application of fertiliser. This will ensure that
moisture is retained in the soil. Remember that Lucerne is a most
important product - it adds nitrogen to the soil, promotes worm
activity, helps keep weeds down, retains moisture and eventually breaks
down to nutritious compost. If you unable to obtain Lucerne, sugar cane
mulch can be used as a substitute, but remember DO NOT use pine bark as
Don't cultivate around citrus trees, as they have feeder roots close
to the surface. Water well during the Summer months - a long deep
soaking once or twice a week is preferable to short daily sprays. When
the citrus begin to bear fruit, watering should be increased.
This is generally done when all danger of frost is past and the
weather is warming up. Keep the centre of the tree open and airy for the
general good health of the plant; otherwise just remove the weak
straggly growth and diseased limbs.
It is best to remove most of the fruit for the first two or three
years to enable the citrus tree to fully establish itself. After this
period you can let the tree hear it’s full crop.
Citrus in Tubs
Any variety may be grown in a tub, providing the container is a
decent size. Cumquats, calamondins, meyer lemon and lime trees are
especially suited to tub life. Once the citrus has grown itself into the
largest manageable tub, consideration should be given to future root
pruning every few years. This will keep the citrus in good health and
prevent it from deteriorating
- Yellowing leaves - This can he caused by
mineral deficiencies in the soil and is identifiable by continued
distinctive pattern of yellowing on the leaves. The common
deficiencies are either Zinc or Manganese which cause mottling of
the foliage. Bring a sample in to your local GreenGold Garden Centre
for further advice and treatment. Foliage may be yellowish during
winter or after a heavy cropping of fruit; this is not uncommon.
Correct with fertilising in spring. Yellowing leaves can sometimes
occur if the ground is too wet. If this is the case drainage must be
improved or the tree will never grow well.
- Bronze Orange Bug - Commonly called the
'Stink Bug'. This develops into a large flat beetle about the size
of a 10 cent piece. They are much more active in the warmer months.
It sucks sap from foliage and emits a foul odour when touched or
alarmed. It is best not to venture too close to these bugs, as if
the secretion they squirt comes into contact with you it can cause
temporary blindness, allergic reactions and a discoloration of your
skin for some time. If you must pick them off wear gloves and
protective spectacles. If you want an easy method a spray such as
‘Baythriod’ can be used.
- Citrus Leaf miner - Squiggly lines on
distorted and twisted new growth in late summer and autumn can make
the tree look dreadful. Spray with Pest Oil, or Eco Oil from
mid-Spring onwards every two weeks as a prevention. This oil is also
excellent for Aphid and Scale control.
- Fruit Fly - If this pest is a problem,
control with Confidor. Ask for further advice regarding Fruit Fly
control at your local GreenGold centre.
- Fruit fall when small - This could be due
to the plant is too young and frail to cope with the large
quantities of fruit, or else the tree is getting insufficient and
irregular amounts of water.
- Leaf drop - Many reasons, but mainly due
to inadequate watering, poor drainage which results in 'wet feet',
and malnourished trees.
- White louse scale – This appears on the
trunk and limbs can only be controlled with Lime sulphur - (white
oil is ineffective against this scale.)
- Seedless Valencia - the best for the home
garden. Thin skinned and juicy. Heavy fruiting in spring and summer.
- Washington Navel - Large, juicy and
seedless, fruiting in winter and spring. Plant one of each for an
extended fruiting season.
- Eureka - By far the biggest seller as it
fruits almost all the year round. Large rough fruit, almost
thornless and ideal for warmer areas.
- Meyer - A good lemon for cooler areas,
growing smaller and suitable for large tubs. Smooth and thin skinned
with an orange colour.
- Lisbon - This is a thorny lemon bearing
large thin skinned fruit from winter onwards.
- Lemonade - This one can be peeled and
eaten raw as it has a delicious sweet lemon flavour. Makes a great
drink and fruits all year.
- Tahitian - Very popular, bearing small
rich flavoured round fruit with some seeds. Most fruit in autumn.
- Kaffir Lime – Is grown especially for the
leaves which are used extensively in Thai cooking. Unusual shaped
foliage, and very thorny.
- Marsh's Seedless - Large almost seedless
fruit with excellent flavour. Crops in winter and spring.
- Wheeny - This variety is ideal for cooler
climates, with very large and juicy fruit. Rather a lot of seeds.
Crops late Spring to early Autumn.
- Emperor - This is large, loose skinned,
with sweet and juicy fruit ripening in winter. About the most
popular of the mandarins.
- Ellendale - This ripens after the
Emperor, with large well flavoured fruit, though rather seedy!
- Calamondin - Round very decorative fruit.
Use for preserves. Ideal grown in tubs. Variegated foliage variety
- Nagami - Oval shaped fruit. Slightly
smaller fruit than the others. Ideal as a tub plant. Preserve the