How to get the best from citrus
Controlling pests and giving trees space can produce many great crops
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.