The Q&A Archives: Citrustrees

Question: I am having trouble adjusting to gardening in a new climate. The house I have bought has several Mature citrus trees Two which appear to be oranges in the front and Two which seem to be limes in the back. I have no Idea how to care for them (ie: when to prune, fertilize) Both of the oranges and one of the limes are bearing fruit although the fruit falls off before it becomes ripe and one of the limes does not have fruit at all. I would appreciate any advice.

Answer: Gardening is very different here, but it can be extremely rewarding when you understand a few basics. There is a brand new book out that I would recommend to you. It is called "Desert Landscaping for Beginners" and it covers all the basics of planting, pruning, irrigating, etc. as well as chapters on the specifics of growing citrus, wildflowers, cacti & succulents, wildlife habitats, roses and turf. It is put out by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension's Arizona Master Gardener Press (ISBN 0-96571987-3-1) and the info is specific to this area. In the meantime, citrus drop is a common and normal occurance; the tree sets far more fruit than it can grow to maturity, so it will drop many of the small fruits. Rake them up and put them in the compost pile. Correct watering is crucial for citrus. Mature citrus should be watered to a depth of 3 feet. Apply enough water slowly and deeply to thoroughly soak the root mass. How often to water depends on your soil characteristics, rainfall and weather. For mature citrus during hot weather, it may be as often as every 10 days to 21 days. During cooler weather mature trees can go up to 30 days. Use a soil probe to help determine how often to apply water (such as a pointed stick or metal rod) and poke it into the soil. It will move easily through moist soil and stop at dry soil. As trees mature, be sure to water out to their canopy or drip line, where new roots are growing. To keep water from evaporating too quickly, mulch over the root area. This will also help suppress weeds. Citrus are also heavy nitrogen "feeders." Apply fertilizer three times per year, using 1/3 of their total annual nitrogen requirements. Apply in Jan/Feb, April/May, and Aug/Sept. Follow package instructions and water thoroughly before and after fertilizing. The above-mentioned book contains charts for both watering and fertilizing that are very handy until you gain more experience on what works in your particular microclimate. I hope this info helps!

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