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Planting and care of citrus trees
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Citrus likes a warm, sunny
. Most can be planted out in the open here. Frost protection may be necessary on young trees. A few varieties are tender and will
even when they are older. A south or east facing wall will be ideal for these.
best time to plant
citrus trees is when it is warm and the soil is workable. The young trees sulk if their roots can't grow and spread quickly. So wait until the soil isn't soggy, and the nights are warmer than 50F. Anytime from April through October is fine. Citrus are subtropicals: the young trees can be planted very successfully during summer months.
, twice as wide as the container the tree is in. You don't need to dig any deeper than the pot, and it is important that the tree not settle to a point lower than the surrounding grade. Some growers recommend mixing the backfill soil with compost, but we don't think that is necessary here. Just loosen the soil thoroughly so the roots can make quick growth outward soon after planting. Organic fertilizer can be added to the backfill soil, or applied later.
Loosen the roots gently, and straighten and spread out any that are circling. Plant so the root ball is
an inch or so higher
than the surrounding soil. It's ok if the upper roots are visible. Make a basin around the tree so you can water it thoroughly.
Water the nursery soil and the soil around it very thoroughly.
for the next 4 - 6 weeks will be important. It is unlikely that the tree will need water more often than every 5 - 7 days, except during very hot or windy spells. You can't rely on your sprinkler system: check the tree every couple of days! During normal weather here a good, thorough soaking once a week is probably fine. If your soil is heavy with more clay, water more slowly and less often. It is ok for the top of the soil to go dry between waterings. Leaves that are yellowing or dropping may indicate watering too often.
Citrus trees benefit from a
regular fertilizing schedule
(3 - 4 x/year minimum), with a balanced fertilizer that includes some trace elements. Trees that are otherwise healthy may show deficiencies of iron, magnesium, manganese, or zinc in areas with alkaline soil or water. Leaves that are yellow between the veins, or smaller than normal, indicate deficiencies. Soil sulfur can be added to the planting mix or applied on the surface to lower the pH and correct the yellowing. Older leaves yellowing overall (not just between the veins) indicate a lack of nitrogen.
Citrus leaves may curl and cup for various reasons. Most commonly this is a harmless response to environmental stress: a dry wind or unusually cold or hot spell while new growth is emerging can cause the leaves to buckle and become distorted. Aphids sometimes curl the new leaves; check on the undersides to see if any are present. If so, blast them off with water. Beneficial insects usually take care of aphid infestations. If not, neem or light oil sprays are safe and effective.
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© 2009 Don Shor, Redwood Barn Nursery, Inc., 1607 Fifth Street, Davis, Ca 95616
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