By MEREDITH KIRTON
Citrus trees are one of the best backyard fruiting plants. They are hardy in most of Australia’s population bubbles, provide tasty fruit high in vitamin C just when you need a boost – in winter – to help fight off colds, and grow to fit most backyards perfectly, with the option of containers also open for those who are on the move or have only and balcony. Add to this their year round beauty, with glossy foliage, fragrant flowers and a dense bushy habit and you have simply a “must have” for the garden.
On the downside, citrus are susceptible to quite a few pests and diseases, and also are gross feeders, so, a regular maintenance plan needs to be put into place in order to have them looking their best, year round. The best thing you can do for your plants to make sure you get plenty of fruits is feed regularly; every few months with a liquid feed like Seaweed solution as well as using a citrus food or extra blood and bone in April will ensure your plant has the goodies it needs to feed you. Yellowing leaves are an indication that you need to feed. Also, don’t let your plants dry out, especially from bud set to fruit set, as uneven watering is the most likely cause of fruit drop.
In June and July you can trim back any straggly branches, diseased (look for galls, or swellings on their stems), or just neaten up the plant so it stays a manageable size. You can’t leave it too late to prune, however, as the new growth is what will have all your blossoms, which grow into fruit, so trim late and you’ll miss your crop.
Lastly, if your citrus tree has scale, use a winter oil on it. The scale will burn off. Pest Oil sprayed regularly over the growing season will also protect your plant from further scale attack, bronze orange bugs (known as stink bugs), aphids, and also that disfiguring growth caused by citrus leaf miner.
When selecting your citrus, think about what you’re likely to use? Do you make green curries? Go for a Kaffir lime. Like Gin and Tonic? A Tahitian Lime is perfect. Have kids? Imperial mandarines are hard to beat or Lemonade trees for fun. And for those who love juicing, what about a Navel Orange. Most cooks love having a lemon tree…the decisions are endless!
- Choose a full sun position with at least 6 hours sun.
- Not much space? Consider espaliering, or growing your citrus flat on a trellis. You might even choose a multigrafted plant that has more than one type grafted onto the same bush. These are marketed as Splitzer.
- Though most types like a frost free position, a sunny wall will often provide the microclimate they need.
- Growing citrus in pots? Use a slow release fertiliser like Osmocote for citrus which will release gently over the growing season. Also, pick smaller growing plants sold as “Flying Dragon” which have been grafted onto a dwarfing root stock. The fruit will taste the same but your plant will be naturally reduced in size, and save you some pruning.
Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS