A citrus tree is one of the most useful fruit trees that can be included in the average garden. Lemons are generally the most popular choice, although the new Australian finger limes may also be considered.
Different varieties of lemons, oranges, grapefruit and cumquats are available, according to individual needs and growing conditions. For example, ruby grapefruit are particularly useful when making marmalade.
Double-grafted citrus trees, where two different varieties are growing on the one tree, are now available. These include combinations such as: “Washington Navel” orange and “Meyer” lemon; “Washington Navel” orange and “Tahiti” lime; and “Meyer” lemon and “Tahiti” lime.
Double-grafted citrus trees are ideal for many gardens as they require much less space.
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Selecting one of the increasing numbers of dwarf citrus varieties is also a good way in which to save space, while still being able to enjoy the freshly-picked fruits. Dwarf citrus trees are the same as the more traditional bigger growing trees except that the plant material has been grafted on to under stock that will only grow to a metre or two in height.
The lemon variety “Lots a lemon” is an example of this and will grow very successfully in a pot on a balcony or in a courtyard, provided the plant receives several hours of sunlight each day.
Cumquat varieties also make good tub specimens.
A good quality potting mix should be used when planting citrus trees into pots.
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Citrus trees are usually purchased in tubs or pots, making transplantation relatively easy. A position with good drainage is essential. Soil that has a heavy clay base and drains slowly may require plants to be grown in large pots or to have a raised bed constructed. Well-rotted manures and compost should be dug into the soil prior to planting time.
The hole that is dug for the new tree should be large enough for the new rootball to fit into it comfortably. It is important that the hole is not so large that the trunk of the plant will be below the soil of surface of the surrounding soil. The original soil surface in the pot should still be visible after planting. This may require some adjustment of the depth by adding soil to the bottom of the hole. If a plant is placed below the surface of the soil it will soon be subject to collar rot of the main trunk.
Once the tree has been placed in the soil, the soil should be well watered with a seaweed solution. A layer of organic mulch can then be placed over the new soil, keeping it away from the tree trunk.
May is a good time of the year in which to move plants that may have been planted in a position that has not been ideal for growth, or plants that need to be moved because of garden redesign or building projects.
Plants that are moved now will benefit from the soil that is still warm enough to encourage the growth of new root structures, before the colder weather of winter becomes established. Shrubs such as azaleas and gardenias are ideal for this treatment, while smaller conifers may also be transplanted now.
Prior to removing the plant from its original position, a trench should be cut around the plant in order to sever the main root system. Roots should be cut through cleanly. Removal of some the plant’s outer branches will assist the plant to compensate for the severing of its room system.
Spraying the plant’s foliage with Stressguard will reduce water loss as this chemical has anti-transpirant properties.
The new area selected for the plant should be dug out to a volume of about twice the width and depth of the plant. Once the plant has been placed, a good quality soil mix should be placed around the root system, and the soil should then be watered in well to assist in the removal of pockets of air. Soil wetting products, such as crystals, should then be watered over the new area of soil.
LOOK FOR SPIKES
Cymbidium orchids will soon be showing the early stages of flowering spikes, if conditions have been favourable for the production of these spikes.
Flower spikes will appear from near the base of the leaves. At first, they might be mistaken for new leaves, but it will soon become evident that they are flower spikes as they begin to thicken and change in appearance. The flower spikes will become quite heavy as they develop and so it is advisable to insert thin stakes as supports while the spikes are new. The stakes can be pushed down into the pots.
Snails are one of the main problems with orchid spikes. Preventative measures should be taken before the damage is done. Remember to take great care if using snail baits as they can poison pets and native animals.
The baits can be placed under covers so that the snails can access the baits, while animals are prevented from doing so.
Plants that have developing spikes can be safely moved out of the shady areas and placed into full sun until spring. Once the flower buds begin to reveal their flowers, the pots can be moved indoors for short periods.
The monthly meeting of Maitland and District Garden Club will be held on Friday, May 25 in the Community Hall of Green Hills Retirement Centre, Stronach Avenue, East Maitland, from 7pm. The guest speaker will speak on smoke alarms, their care and installation. Visitors are welcome.