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It's now the perfect time to pop on a warm jacket and head down to your local nursery to check out the fantastic range of citrus trees available.
Citrus trees fill the gap for nurseries until their bare rooted tree stock becomes available once we're into winter proper. If you haven't had a close look in the citrus section for a few years I think you'll be amazed at the variety of trees that are available. Old backyard favourites such as Eureka and Lisbon lemons are joined by the more recent Meyer variety - great if you're more interested in the sweeter juice and hate thorny trees!
There’s a myriad of orange varieties and mandarins available, including my favourite at the moment - the blood orange. A recent discovery, blood oranges have an almost strawberry/orange taste and look great in desserts and mixed drinks.
Try fitting this into your Corona…a great example of a Lisbon lemon
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I've grown two tahitian limes in Geelong and they love our frost free urban micro-climates and I've also had good results from a so called native lime which I actually think might be a 'Kassia Lime' as its flesh was a yellow/orange colour - not the usual green flesh. Citrus trees make great sustainable gifts for weddings, new family editions and look spectacular in pots and who wants to part with $1 every time they want an organic lemon!?
Location, location, location - getting the most out of your citrus trees.
Citrus work really well in pots, as well as the ground. The most important thing to remember is that their fruit often takes twelve months to ripen. So unlike our stone fruit which are quite happy to be in shade all winter, your citrus trees need FULL SUN over the winter. Just take a wander around your neighbourhood with a compass and I'll guarantee the healthiest looking lemons are coming from trees with lots of access to the northern sun.
Even better is siting them in a courtyard or against a north facing masonry wall. Remember the reason these varieties are grown commercially in Mildura is because of the long clear sunny days which aid ripening and help them get to market earlier.
Here's a very happy looking Valencia orange backed onto a north facing wall
With the below average rainfall we experienced in recent history, the idea of planting new trees was met with some trepidation. Would it survive? Can I be bothered keeping the water up to the new tree with prohibitive restrictions? Well after almost two years of fantastic rain, sub soil moisture is back and water restrictions have eased. Of course we need to continue to be careful about our water use, but I also think we need to take advantage of the much improved growing conditions and get some trees established while the going's good!
A good technique before planting is to dig the hole to the required size (usually twice the width and at least the depth of your pot) and to fill it with water. See how long it takes for the water to drain. If it's several hours or more then you will have drainage issues and your tree may not survive - especially as we have nearly 6 months of rain ahead! You can mix in some gypsum sand, compost and see how that works. If still no luck then build up the soil and essentially plant close to ground level.
Lemons are also beautiful ornamental trees with scented flowers and lush foliage.
Troubleshooting with citrus
Ants are usually a sign you've got scale or whitefly as they're chasing the sweet secretions from other pests - use the white oil recipe below and make sure you cover tops and bottoms of the leaves. The ants will be grumpy but it won't kill them!
Prune any dead wood at the end of winter and fertilise around now (Autumn) with an organic based fertiliser or manure. Oh, and if it's acceptable in your household and not going to upset your neighbours, yes wee on your tree. It provides liquid urea fertiliser…why give you nutrients away for free!
Most problems with citrus can be fixed using a homemade white oil recipe:
1 cup of vegetable oil
1/2 cup of water
Teaspoon of washing detergent
Mix vigorously in a bottle until white and cloudy. This becomes your concentrate which you mix 1 part to 40 parts water in a sprayer bottle.
Look after you citrus trees, plant a few varieties and you'll have access to your very own fruit all year round
Andrew Lucas comes to BayFM.com.au with a wealth of fruitful gardening experience!
His interest in food gardening started as a cook, but whilst on a trip through eastern Europe in 1999 he became fascinated with the incredibly productive and beautiful urban veggie patches present in most communities. Returning inspired, he dug up his own back yard upon returning and hasn't look back since! Specialising in kitchen gardens it's no surprise our gardening guru lives in Geelong's north-west where he picks up tips from the locals - many of whom bring decades of productive gardening knowledge from Europe and Asia.
You can read his full profile here.