Planting citrus in South Valley

Lemon and other citrus trees can do well in this area.

Locals don’t often think about growing citrus in our area, and
that’s too bad because almost any type of citrus can successfully
be grown here. Plus, if space is limited, you can grow dwarf citrus
in containers where they won’t get any bigger than a few feet, but
still produce full-size fruit.
Locals don’t often think about growing citrus in our area, and that’s too bad because almost any type of citrus can successfully be grown here. Plus, if space is limited, you can grow dwarf citrus in containers where they won’t get any bigger than a few feet, but still produce full-size fruit.

Don’t mix up citrus and fruit trees. Fruit trees are obviously things like apples, cherries and pears. Even dwarf varieties of fruit trees are much larger than dwarf varieties of citrus. Fruit trees also are deciduous, meaning they drop their leaves in fall and winter. Citrus trees, meanwhile, retain their leaves throughout the year, although they’re probably a bit yellow this time of year.

The more popular types of citrus for our area include: “Eureka” or “Meyer” lemon, or “Washington” or Robertson” naval orange. However, many types of grapefruit also do well, as well as lesser known citrus like “Bearss” lime, and “Satsuma” mandarin and kumquat.

It should be noted that lime and lemons are the most sensitive to frost in our area. Severe winters have been known to kill or damage limes and lemons. However, the other citrus listed are all winter-hardy. Also, if you can get lemons and limes past a couple winters, they are usually hardy enough to survive any unusually cold winters that might pop up.

As mentioned, dwarf citrus can easily be grown in containers. And, we’re not talking about the need for huge containers like half wine barrels. I have a lemon and kumquat growing in 16-inch containers on my patio right now.

This time of year, their leaves tend to get quite yellow. You can green them up by adding a little nitrogen, such as sulphate of ammonia, or iron, such as iron manganese or chelated iron. There’s also packaged citrus fertilizers that can be used.

Quite truthfully, it’s a little too early to plant new citrus. The best time of year to start them is late spring or early summer to take advantage of the fast growth that comes with warm weather.

For container plants, use a premixed, sterile potting soil designed for container plants. Never use ordinary garden soil for containers. What is fine in the ground just won’t work for containers. Once confined to a container, most garden soils are too dense and water drains too slowly.

Frequent watering causes nutrients to wash through the soil more quickly than is typical in most soils. That’s why container citrus will need to be fertilized more often than normal. Controlled-release fertilizers, such as Osmocote, are less apt to wash through soil immediately. However, it’s also a good idea to supplement feeding since citrus are prone to deficiencies of the micronutrients iron, manganese and zinc.

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