Wild About Citrus
Authentic Florida nirvana is growing citrus in my backyard. I am new to citrus gardening and have been learning to plant, water and care for my new trees. Recently, I purchased the following trees recommended by a citrus nursery specialist:
- Bearss Lemon – bears fruit July-Dec
Ponkan Tangerine (Chinese Honey) – bears fruit Dec-Jan
Minneola Tangelo (Honeybell) – bears fruit Dec-May
Key Lime – an everbearing tree (several crops throughout the year)
The tips I have learned from my Yard Master, Jan Benedict, the UF Extension class and assorted gardening literature follow:
- Provide full sun if at all possible (4-6 hrs of full sun)
- Don’t over water
- Don’t over fertilizer
- Use well-drained soil, but not overly composted
- Use your Extension Office to help you troubleshoot issues when they come up
- The depth of your citrus planting is critical. The hole should be 2-3 times the diameter of the root-ball. Measure the distance from the bottom of the root ball to the top (where the trunk surfaces from the soil). Dig the planting hole 1″ less than the root ball depth. Make the bottom of the hole flat and the sides rough, not smooth.
Back fill with dirt about ½ way, then water and let it settle around the roots. Fill the hole, pat the soil lightly. Cover the ball with 1/2-1″ of soil. If your soil is mostly sand you may amend it with compost before filling the hole.
Build a soil berm around the tree with a watering ring. Recommended: 5-6 inches high – and 6-8″ thick making the ring wider than the planting hole.
Fill the water basin with water.
- Watering young trees is critical.
Week 1: Water daily; Week 2: Water every second day; Week 3: Water every 3rd day gradually decreasing the watering until Week 8.
First growing season: 5-10 gallons of water at each irrigation.
After Week 8: Winter watering: Every 7-10 days; Summer watering: Every week.
- Wait 6-8 weeks to fertilizler
Use fertilizer when the buds show new growth (late Feb-March).
Use slow-release granular citrus fertilizer (8-8-8)
Apply to root area, away from the trunk.
Fertilizer recommendation: 1/2-1 lb. Per tree, applied 5-6 times per year; for the second year: add 1-1 ½ lbs. per tree, 4-6 times annually; for the third year, use 2 lbs. Per tree and increase by 1 lb. During the 4th & 5th year. By the 4th year, the tree should be mature and bearing fruit.
- MRT Lawn & Garden Center, Venice
- University of Florida, Dept. of Environmental Horticulture, FCES, Institute of Food and Agriculture Services
- Texas A & M University, Juilan W. Sauls, Extension Horticulturist