A lemon tree in the backyard is as Australian as the hills hoist but there’s more to citrus than just lemons – you can also grow limes, oranges, grapefruits, tangelos and cumquats - to name just a few. Getting big juicy citrus fruit from your garden is easy, providing you follow a few simple tips.
SUN - Citrus trees prefer full sun. They will grow in some shade, particularly in hot areas, but produce lots of leafy growth and less fruit if there’s not enough light.
SOIL - They need very well-drained soil. A slightly acidic, loamy soil is ideal. Before planting, dig in a good amount of well-rotted organic matter. In poorly drained conditions, grow citrus in large pots or raised beds.
WATER - Citrus trees are shallow-rooted, so to keep them in tip-top condition give them a reasonably consistent supply of water, particularly when they’re young or when fruit is developing. If not, maturing fruit may split.
FOOD - Citrus need to be fertilised regularly to sustain growth and good fruiting. Apply a complete citrus food or organic fertiliser around the drip line of the tree each month from the first new growth in spring through to December.
Feeding after December forces citrus into late growth in autumn. This attracts citrus leaf miner, which deforms the leaves. Water the tree well before and after feeding.
Also add a layer of compost and well-rotted manure in spring – this keeps uniform moisture around the root zone and helps prevent problems such as fruit splitting.
Most citrus dislike the cold and it’s not uncommon for leaves – particularly on lemon and grapefruit trees – to yellow in winter. A complete fertiliser at the first sign of growth in spring remedies this.
GROWTH - Plants growing directly beneath citrus trees compete for water and nutrients and may encourage potentially fatal stem rot diseases. Instead, apply a layer of mulch a hand’s span clear of the truck and grow suitable companions well away from the root zone.
PRUNE - The height of your citrus tree will depend on the type of rootstock it’s on and your own growing conditions. They can all be pruned to the desired shape and height. Cut off dead and diseased wood and crossing branches once the danger of frosts has passed. They are easily shaped – you can even use hedge clippers. This forces the tree into forming multiple shoots, which form masses of flowers and fruit on their tips.
• Citrus grown in shade will provide less fruit and more leafy growth.
• A good supply of water is essential when fruit is developing.
• To get the best out of your citrus plants, remove young green fruit in the first 2 years. In year 3 you'll have a bumper crop!
www.scottsaustralia.com.au - (fertilisers/ soil conditioner)
www.fiskars.com - (tools)
Boongala Native Gardens and Rainforest
76 Pitt Town Rd, Kenthurst.