Citrus trees are a great addition to any landscape. They are easy to grow and take very little care. (Anyone who thinks it takes a lot of care to reap the rewards of citrus unnecessarily induce most of the problems.)
If you’re considering planting a citrus tree, go to a reputable source. I like Greenfield Citrus — you can look at all the varieties. And this time of year, you can even taste the actual fruit from the trees.
When searching for a tree, keep in mind the size of your yard. Make sure you have room to plant a full-sized tree. Otherwise, you should probably choose a dwarf variety of your favorite citrus-bearing tree.
Most of the trees can be planted in our native soil with few, if any, additives combined with the backfill mix. There are four important points to remember:
Do not break the root ball of the tree; this will stress the tree and greatly reduce its survival rate.
Plant the tree slightly above the soil level. This will keep water from accumulating around the tree trunk, which is one of the biggest causes of citrus problems.
Fill the hole with water before planting. Make sure the water is absorbed within 5 to 12 hours. If not, follow the directions for a drainage chimney in my book, “Extreme Gardening.”
Plant citrus trees in full sun.
Citrus trees like to be left unpruned. The more foliage and dead wood on the tree, the more sun protection the tree trunk will get. This is an important consideration during our hot summer months.
On young trees, it is necessary to paint the trunk with a 50 percent white latex paint and 50 percent water mixture to avoid sunburn.
Avoid using gravel under citrus trees. Gravel increases sunlight reflection onto the trunk and leaves of the tree and increases likelihood of sun damage.
To fertilize a citrus tree, apply composted manure three times per year. The schedule I recommend is once in February or March, once in June or July, and sometime between August and September. On a full-sized tree, use 1/4 to 1/2 of a bag of the composted manure each time you fertilize. On smaller trees, use 1/4 to 1/3 of a bag.
How much and how often to water are some of the questions I get asked most often. Citrus trees are desert adapted and require less water than you might think. Make sure the moisture penetrates at least 2 feet to 3 feet every 20 to 30 days during the winter. In the summer, water 2 feet to 3 feet every one to two weeks. Remember these are just general guidelines. Sandy, rocky or clay soil conditions all demand different amounts of water.
I also recommend aerating the soil around the drip line of the tree every two to three months. Using a pick or shovel, turn over 4 to 6 inches (deep). This will allow you to introduce oxygen into the soil. Aerating the soil will increase the size and vitality of your citrus trees and their fruit.