How to get the best from cit­rus

Con­trol­ling pests and giv­ing trees space can pro­duce many great crops

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE -

While many cit­rus trees fruit dur­ing win­ter, some, like Meyer, Lis­bon and Yen Ben lemons are fruit­ing now. Limes will start fruit­ing from around March, if you pick them green, while many man­darins and grape­fruit are picked from April or May. But even if your cit­rus is not fruit­ing now, care should be taken to en­sure a good crop later down the track. Deal to pests, such as aphids, scale, mealy bugs and white fly. Large in­fes­ta­tions of th­ese sap­suck­ing in­sects will re­duce the vigour of your trees as well as fruit size. They’re also re­spon­si­ble for sooty mould. Although th­ese pests are best dealt to in spring when they’re at their most vul­ner­a­ble, a cou­ple of sprays now will con­trol their num­bers. A light in­sec­ti­ci­dal oil will kill scale, and a spray with some­thing like Ki­wicare Or­ganic In­sect Con­trol will deal to the oth­ers. Make sure you water well. Lack of water can cause fruit drop or lit­tle or no juice, so a good soaking ev­ery cou­ple of days is ben­e­fi­cial. Lack of water dur­ing sum­mer may also con­trib­ute to small fruit. Ap­ply a layer of mulch to con­serve mois­ture in the soil af­ter wa­ter­ing, but keep it away from the trunk or it may rot. Clear away any weeds too as th­ese com­pete for water and nu­tri­ents. The roots of cit­rus are shal­low, so they need all the water they can get. Mulch will also keep weeds down. Lack of juice may also be an in­di­ca­tor of too much ni­tro­gen, while thick skins may in­di­cate a de­fi­ciency in phos­pho­rus. Feed your plants with a spe­cial­ist cit­rus fer­tiliser to keep on top of de­fi­cien­cies and to give them the right amount of nu­tri­ents. While cit­rus are heavy feed­ers, lit­tle and of­ten is best. Feed cit­rus in the ground with a spe­cial­ist cit­rus fer­tiliser ev­ery six weeks from Septem­ber to March. Cit­rus in con­tain­ers can be given a slowre­lease fer­tiliser in Septem­ber and again in sum­mer (now if you haven’t al­ready), with amonthly ap­pli­ca­tion of liq­uid fer­tiliser. Cit­rus trees are self-fer­tile, so lack of fruit is prob­a­bly be­cause of not enough food or water. Prune neigh­bour­ing trees if they’re shad­ing your cit­rus. Cit­rus like a warm sunny spot; they don’t care much for shade. If they’re grow­ing tall and scrag­gly their sun may be blocked by their neigh­bours. They may also grow scrag­gly if other shrubs and trees are planted too close. One last pointer. When plant­ing a new lemon tree, keep it away from other cit­rus trees if pos­si­ble. If planted be­side an­other cit­rus tree, that cit­rus will pro­duce more pips if it’s cross-pol­li­nated by bees. Even a seed­less man­darin or or­ange will pro­duce a few pips.

Sum­mer crops: Cit­rus fruits like th­ese Meyer lemons are fruit­ing now.

Cit­rus awinner: With care, you can en­sure a good crop.

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