Some helpful hints on growing citrus in your garden

VERSATILE: Citrus don't necessarily need a lot of space and can do well in backyard gardens.
VERSATILE: Citrus don't necessarily need a lot of space and can do well in backyard gardens.

Winter is an ideal time in which to plant out new citrus trees, except in areas frosts, when late September and early October would be preferable.

The most common varieties of citrus that are planted in home gardens are lemons, oranges and mandarins. New varieties that are ideally suitable for smaller garden beds or courtyard planting have recently become available as dwarf-growing versions of the more traditional trees forms.

Lemons are available in several varieties that can be selected according to tree size as well as fruit production time.

The Meyer lemon is a small growing tree with deep-green leaves and large, thin-skinned fruit in a rich yellow colour. The fruit is produced during the winter months and is very good source of juice. Meyer lemons are quite suitable for colder areas.

Lisbon lemons grow into large trees with pale green leaves. The fruit, produced mainly in winter but also at other times of the year is large and thick-skinned.

A large semi-weeping tree is the growth habit of the Eureka lemon. The trees are thornless, making them ideal for areas where children are active. Large thick-skinned fruit is produced throughout the year, but mainly in summer. yellow fruit during the winter months,

One variety of citrus that is available now but is less common than other types is the tangelo. Tangelos are a cross between mandarins and grapefruits. They are very juicy fruits, producing an abundance of sweet juice despite their grapefruit origins. They have a rather thin reddish-orange skin and a thinner neck, similar in shape to a pear. Two of the more common varieties are “Seminole” and “Minneola”. Minneola produces fewer seeds.

Seminole can be ready for harvesting in mid-June.

Tangelos can be used in traditional citrus-based marmalades as well as a juice source for savoury dishes and muffins. The flavour of stir-fries, dressings and soups will also be enhanced by their juice. Recipes that use oranges can have tangelos used as a substitute.

CUT AND CLEAN: After pruning your roses, it's important that you remove pruned pieces.

CUT AND CLEAN: After pruning your roses, it's important that you remove pruned pieces.

PRUNING TIPS

Following the pruning of rose bushes, it is important to remember to clear away any pruned pieces, as these can harbour fungal diseases that will cause problems later on. An application of fertiliser to the pruned bushes will help them to produce vigorous new growth. This will be particularly beneficial if rain follows the application.

As the plants produce their shiny, reddish new growth, an application of a rose-specific fertiliser will be beneficial, as well as mulch being placed around the plants. Oaten or wheaten straw or Lucerne hay are all suitable. The mulch should be kept at least 5mm away from the stem of the plant. Any weeds that appear can just be pulled out and left on top of the mulch. Pine or tan bark mulches provide little in the way of organic matter to the plant.

As well as keeping the plants cooler, mulching helps to build up healthy soil and also encourage earthworms to work through the soil and organic matter. Animal manures add moisture and nutrients to the soil. It is also important to maintain water levels to the plants.

Tender new shoots are very attractive to aphids. These are small insects that cover the new stems. Aphids feed on the sap in the new shoots. They can be removed by gently rubbing between fingers, or watered with a strong stream.

AZALEA CARE

As azaleas begin their beautiful spring display it is important to try to avoid watering the flowers and foliage of the plants as this may encourage the spread of petal blight disease. Instead, apply the water to the soil under and around the plant.

Azaleas come in four main types and can be chosen to suit most garden situations and purposes.

Indica hybrids are evergreen plants with glossy leaves, generally intolerant of heavier frosts and have a growth habit that is wider than it is higher.

Evergreen Kurume azaleas have small leaves and large, usually single flowers. Their compact growth habit makes them ideal for use as hedges. Kurume azaleas are more tolerant of colder conditions.

Satsuki hybrids produce smaller, low-growing shrubs that bloom in late spring.

The above varieties come in shades of red, pink, white and purple.

A fourth variety, Mollis azaleas, are deciduous and produce flowers in shades of yellow and orange. They are intolerant of heat and humidity and only suitable for colder regions.

BEATING SCALE

Indoor ferns often become infested with scale during the winter months.

Scale presents as small, round mounds that appear on the surface of plant stems. This will result in the fronds becoming brittle and dry. If it is a large infestation, it may be advisable to throw out the entire plant.

In the case of small infestations, the fronds can be cut back very hard, almost to soil level, and any debris removed. An application of soluble fertiliser will assist the plant.

ODD JOBS

As the weather begins to warm, and plants respond by producing new growth, there are various tasks that need to be carried out.

Many vegetables that were planted out in early autumn will have commenced cropping. A weekly application of a soluble fertiliser will maintain vigour in the plant. 

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