Plant your new citrus trees this spring
TRACY HODGECentral Florida is the perfect place to grow a variety of vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubs. Our moderate winter climate makes our growing area the perfect place to raise a variety of citrus. Orange, lemon, grapefruit, lime, tangerine and kumquat are a few types of citrus that thrive here.
Published: February 20, 2013
Published: February 20, 2013
Spring is an ideal time to plant new citrus because it gives the root system time to become well-established before winter arrives. It is a good idea to plant self-pollinating trees, if possible. Just how successful your citrus will be often depends largely on the location in which trees are planted.
The best locations have moist, well-drained soil and full sun. If possible, choose a location that provides a bit of shelter from the wind, as well. Before planting your new citrus trees, consider their size at maturity to avoid over-crowding. The University of Florida, IFAS Extension recommends placing new citrus trees on the south side of your landscape setting to help reduce winter freeze damage.
Once you have decided on the variety of citrus and the planting location, it is time to prepare the site. As a general rule, dig the hole two times the width of the tree's root ball. After removing the tree from its container, examine the root ball and cut away any broken or damaged roots.
About two hours before planting, place the tree in a bucket of water. When you are ready to plant your new citrus tree, sit the tree down into the middle of the hole and spread out roots. Add soil to the hole until your bud union is sitting above ground level. Fill the hole with soil until it is full, firming the soil to remove any pockets of air.
Using left-over soil, make a ring around the tree wider than the planting hole to form a barrier at least 6-7 inches in height that will hold in moisture. Thoroughly saturate the hole with water, making sure the root ball is not exposed. If you can see the root ball, add more soil until it's no longer visible.
Placing a layer of mulch three to six inches deep around the tree will regulate soil temperature and help the soil retain moisture. Just be sure to keep mulch away from the tree's trunk. For best results, water your new citrus trees three times each week, completely saturating the soil. As summer approaches and our weather turns warmer, it is necessary to check the soil frequently for signs of drought.
Your new citrus trees will benefit from regular applications of fertilizer. Wait at least 14 days after planting to apply fertilizer products. For best results, apply an 8-8-8 fertilizer during the months of February, May and August. Always follow the directions on the product label exactly and water in if necessary. During the first year, your citrus tree will only require minimal pruning. After the first year, trim the branches and remove suckers. Take care to avoid wounding your tree during pruning, as these types of injuries may allow pests and diseases to enter the tree and compromise its health.
As a home gardener, you must monitor your citrus for signs of pests and diseases year-round. One of the most common diseases of citrus is greasy spot. This is a fungal infection that causes brown or yellow spots to appear on foliage, especially underneath plant leaves.
As greasy spot continues, the spots become greasier and the tree may become defoliated. Greasy spot is carried on the wind to other trees, so be sure to collect any fallen leaves to reduce infection in other trees nearby.
Florida is a haven for a variety of insects that can attack your citrus trees. Whiteflies are common in citrus and can be difficult to control. These tiny insects often have a powdery appearance and are usually seen on the undersides of plant leaves. These pests feed on plant leaves, extracting sap with their mouths. As infestations grow larger, citrus trees often develop curled leaves and black sooty mold may appear.
Citrus bud mites are another Florida pest, especially in lemon trees. These mites are usually seen during the summer months and can be found in the fruit. Eventually, citrus mites cause leaf distortion and reduced fruit yields. Both citrus whiteflies and citrus bud mites can be treated with applications of insecticides.
You can find healthy new citrus trees in a variety of nurseries in central Florida. With hard work and a little luck, you could be enjoying the fruits of your labors very soon.