Planting citrus trees in your garden will not only add an attractive aesthetic, but it will also provide you with plenty of well-loved and healthy organic citrus fruit that you and your family can enjoy eating and cooking with. They are relatively easy to grow and suffer from few problems – here are some planting, growing and harvesting tips on growing citrus trees in your garden.
From mid-summer, through winter, the citrus family bear many popular fruits, including lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, naartjies, mandarins, and so on. One of the major benefits of citrus trees is that the fruit doesn’t rot quickly – in fact, it can hang on the tree for a comparatively long period of time, only needing to be picked when they are required. In this way, you don’t need to find interesting ways of preserving your harvest like you do with other fruit, but instead you can enjoy fresh citrus fruit for a much longer period of time.
If you are looking to plant a citrus tree in your garden, then the first thing you need to do is to find a suitable location. The position you choose should be well drained, full of sun and protected from any frost. In fact, lemon trees are the only citrus trees that can tolerate frost in any way, so if your garden is prone to frost in the winter, it is highly advisable to cover your other citrus trees with hessian during the cold winter months.
If you are going to plant more than one citrus tree, be sure to leave a gap of approximately 5 metres between each tree. Citrus trees also do very well when planted in containers, so long as they are well fertilised and fed.
To plant, dig a suitably sized hole, one that is a fair size bigger than will be needed for just the tree. Then, to the hole, add a bag of compost, mixed with a large handful of superphosphate, another handful of 2:3:2, and some of the excavated soil. Remove the tree from the bag and lower it into the hole. Fill the hole with the remaining topsoil, firm it down well and water deeply.
Feeding, watering and pruning
You should feed your citrus tree every year in the month of July. Also, make sure that the area around the trunk of the tree is well mulched to keep the ground moist. Also, you should fertilise your citrus tree in July, December and March with suitable amounts of 3:1:5, and approximately 75g of Magnesium sulphate (Epson salts).
Citrus trees need quite a bit of water – ideally they should be watered for about 45 minutes, once a week. Deep watering should begin during the month of July, right through to the end of the summer months in order to ensure that the tree bears a lot of flowers – the more flowers it bears; the more fruit it will produce. Be careful not to over-water however – if, for example, the summer months receive a lot of rainfall, then you don’t need to water at all. The watering schedule can be reduced from the autumn months, from around April, through to July.
With regards to pruning citrus trees can be left pretty much unattended with regards to pruning. All that needs to be done is to cut away any dead wood every so often and prune away the lower branches to aid the circulation of air throughout the tree structure. Any kind of pruning needs to be done during the month of July, and pruning sites should be well sealed with a suitable sealant, such as Tree seal for example. Once the job is complete, the entire tree should be sprayed with Lime Sulphur to kill off any fungus and insects that may be lurking on the tree. – Antonella Desi