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Welcome to New Zealands Plant Portal. Wally Richards Weekly Garden Tips & Advice.


Gardening Articles for week ending
23rd February 2008

Written by Wally Richards. Sorry about the photo


Citrus trees are still the very popular fruiting tree today, as they were in our grandparents time.
It is great to be able to pop outside and pick a few ripe oranges or lemons for the table.
There is little reason that all New Zealanders cannot do so, if they have a few citrus trees.
Growing up in Palmerston North I had an uncle (Jack Franks) who lived in the Awapuni area and on his returned serviceman’s quarter acre, he had a wonderful citrus orchard. I think he had just about every type of citrus fruit and variety available in those days. Big, beautiful, rounded trees about 10 foot tall, with a never ending selection of ripe fruit to choose from. The really amazing thing about the whole orchard was that he had grown every tree himself, from pips!
I remember one time when my mother took me to the movies and during the shorts was ‘Movietone news’ where we saw a feature about oranges being grown on one of the Pacific Islands for export to New Zealand. The film showed a cart full of oranges been taken to the packing house and on the cart, sitting on the oranges, were a couple of native children with bare bums.
After that my mum washed the skins of every orange she purchased, as soon as she got home.
Citrus trees are easy to grow as long as you give them the conditions that suit them best.
They are shallow rooting and resent wet feet, which means the soil needs to be free draining or that a good amount of their roots are above the water table.
If you have a heavy soil such as clay, that is prone to water logging in wet times, then that is not a good place to plant a citrus tree. You can however overcome the problem of wet feet by making a good size mound and planting the tree on the mound.
Another way around the problem is to plant the tree into a large container (50 to 100 litres) and bury the container halfway into the soil in the wet area. Using either method means that much of the root system will be above the wet soil and the tree will thrive.
I have several citrus trees growing in both size containers, 50 litres and 100 litres and have found that the larger container produces a bigger tree faster.
By the way if you have access to 200 litre plastic drums then these cut in half and with some drainage holes drilled, are ideal and cheap too. (often free from places that have to dispose of them)
Citrus trees need sunlight and will do poorly in shaded situations so the more open and sunny a spot the better. While the tree is establishing it is best to provide some wind protection such as a screen of windbreak cloth on the prevailing wind side.
If planting into a large container for either partly burying in the ground or sitting on top of the soil, use a mixture of purchased compost with a little soil or vermicast (worm casts) added.

Citrus trees require a good amount of natural food and it is best not to use Citrus Fertiliser, which harms the soil life and worms. Instead make up your own citrus feed using sheep manure pellets and blood & bone. Another excellent food is Bio Boost which is also available as Break Through.
A monthly sprinkle of Fruit and Flower Power for the magnesium and potash that the citrus require and a small amount of BioPhos (natural phosphate) occasionally caters for their basic needs.
I use old chicken mature around the root zone of my trees and find that it works well also.

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Any Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Email wallyjr@gardenews.co.nz
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz

Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
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Citrus trees are not free of diseases or pest insects so some controls are needed at times.
The common citrus diseases can be prevented or controlled with sprays of Liquid Copper.
A couple of sprays a month a part should fix any diseases that attack the trees or for prevention a spray of the same in the spring and autumn is good value.
The insects that attack the foliage causing black sooty mould can be controlled with Neem Tree Oil sprays. Two or three sprays about a week apart will control aphids, scale and mealy bugs.
If mealy bugs appear you need to also treat the soil with Neem Tree Granules to get the pests in the root zone.
Citrus tree borer is a problem if they attack your trees. I had two of my younger trees attacked this summer and noticed the tell tale sawdust particles from their feeding.
To kill the grubs I made up a solution of Neem Tree Oil at 25 mls to a litre of warm water and watered this mix into the root zone after applying a good sprinkling of Neem Tree Granules on the soil.
It took two to three weeks before the activity stopped so the pests must be history now.
If you have a number of exit borer holes on your tree then these should be blocked with a dab of acrylic paint. Left open they are an invitation for the adults to enter the tree and lay their eggs.
A big mistake that many gardeners make with their established citrus trees is to trim the branches to obtain a nice shape or keep under control.
Trimming branches causes congestion as each branch trimmed will produce a number of branches along its length. The best way to keep a citrus tree in a good shape and open is to remove total branches back at their source which is the trunk.
The ideal time to do this is about now, as the citrus tree borers on the wing should be finished for the season. When you remove a branch seal the wound with a mix of petroleum jelly and copper mixed together or acrylic paint with copper added.
A mature citrus tree can have all of the following, at any one time for most of the year; new flowers, young fruit along with ripening fruit. When you tree reaches this stage ensure you water it regularly during dry times as the tree will take the juice out of the mature fruit for its water needs on the maturing fruit.
A young tree will tend to produce fruit with thick skins but as the tree matures the skins will become normal.
Lack of juice and sweetness is a sign that there is insufficient potash so remember to sprinkle some Fruit and Flower Power every month.
Some old tricks with citrus trees are: throw some steel nails or bolts under the tree. These will rust and release the iron content that the tree needs.
In days gone by one would empty the family po under the citrus tree occasionally. The reason is the nitrogen in urine. As family Po's are not a household item these days then us men should relieve ourselves occasionally out in nature by the citrus tree. (In our PC world this is best done at night so not to be arrested for indecent exposure)
The tea pot was also emptied occasionally under the citrus tree and as many do not use a tea pot anymore, throw a few used tea bags under the tree instead.
For those gardeners that are really keen on having healthy plants then a annual sprinkling of Ocean Solids and Simalith is good value for the mineral content they provide.
Occasional sprays of Magic Botanic Liquid over the foliage and under the tree will also assist greatly.
Young citrus trees can be protected in winter against frosts with Vaporgard.
In the cold of winter immature fruit may turn yellow as if they were ripe, don't be fooled it is just the cold, not ripe fruit.
Lime trees are the most difficult to grow and they are best planted in a container so they can be moved to a warmer sheltered spot in winter.
If you buy a seedless citrus tree make sure that it is planted well away from any lemon tree that bears seeds. Cross pollination will cause your seedless to have seeds.

Problems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz

Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
Shar Pei pages
at www.sharpei.co.nz

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