As our Janet says “If you want the maximum from your plants, don’t give them the minimum”. We recommend using Gardener & Bloome Fruit Tree fertilizer. This is an organic, quick reacting but long lasting fertilizer that features micronutrients that many fruits, including Citrus, require. Feed every 3 months throughout the year for the best quality citrus. If you use a synthetic fertilizer do not fertilize during bloom or until the fruit is larger than your pinky finger. Accidental overfertilizing can cause all the fruit to drop! This is a non-issue with organic fertilizers.
As Kyle said “Some things are better left undone”. Very little, if any pruning is required for citrus. Only prune to shape if needed, remove crossing or rubbing branches, remove dead branches and suckers. That’s it! Suckers, what are those? They are the shoots that occasionally develop at or below the graft union. These are from the rootstock and are not desirable so remove them all the way back to the trunk as soon as they are noticed. Suckers will not produce desirable fruit and will actually “suck” the nutrients and water from the part of the tree that you do want.
Insects (click on the insect name for photos and detailed information of each)
Unfortunately there are a few insects that love citrus trees so be on the lookout for these. Whiteflies develop and multiply quickly when the conditions are right. Extreme cases can stress a smaller tree but are more of a nuisance on larger trees. Severe infestations cause lots of sticky sap to drip from the leaves, this is actually the excrement from the insects. Scale insects are much sneakier than Whiteflies. There are several species and they all look different. There are San Jose Scale, Cottony Cushion Scale, Oystershell Scale and more. These insects do not move once they are mature so find them on the stems or undersides of leaves on the midrib. Just like Whiteflies, long term severe infestations will stress out the tree, even mature trees, and result in poor fruit quality. Citrus Leafminer is a newer insect to California. This insect burrows into the leaf leaving a silver trail inside causing curly leaves. Mostly this is just a nuisance but severe infestations can cause stress to the tree. The insect only does it’s damage in the spring but exact timing is difficult to pinpoint. The best control for this and all the insects listed is a new systemic insecticide that is listed for edible trees and fruits. It is best to apply this systemic anytime in the spring but ideal time is once flowering is complete. For more information, drop by and ask us. If you are an organic gardener then you will need to use a horticultural oil to control these insects. Ask for more details!
It is common that mature citrus trees typically get underwatered and young trees are overwatered. Citrus trees are very drought tolerant and accustomed to our climate (short of severe frosts!) but particular care should be paid to water to ensure the best quality fruit. Citrus trees should be slightly dry between waterings so frequency and how much depends on the size of the tree, soil type and temperature. Kyle recommends letting the tree tell you if it needs water. A tree that has leaves folded upwards is getting overwatered, so reduce the frequency of water. Leaves that are folded down (drooping) indicate lack of water and the tree is ready for a drink. Citrus trees (as with any fruit tree) should not be watered with lawns or flower beds. They need much deeper but less frequent water especially as the tree matures. For example a new tree may need 3-5 gallons of water 3 times a week but a mature tree needs up to 24 hours of slow running water only every couple weeks. Ask us for more information on your specific watering situation.
Those are the main topics when it comes to growing Citrus. They actually are very easy Edible Ornamental trees! If you have any further questions, feel free to leave a comment or drop by the nursery and ask us!