Success with citrus plus top 5 varieties for the home garden

<p><i>From GARDENA and YATES Brand Ambassador Sarah the Gardener</i></p><p>Lemons seems to be one of the kiwi backyard staples and just driving around your neighbourhood you will see plenty of abundantly loaded citrus trees with their cheerful yellow fruit.</p>

This can create the perception that they are super easy to grow, however for some gardeners they can be a bit of a struggle.

A top tip is to start with plants suited to your environment:

  • Meyer is one of the most popular varieties and is cold hardy so grows well in frosty areas and can produce fruit all year round.
  • Eureka is better suited to warmer areas and will also produce fruit all year round. It can be more juicy and more acidic than other lemons.
  • Tahitian Lime can tolerate the cold and create bright green aromatic fruit that turn to yellow when fully ripe.
  • Clementine is a popular mandarin that will do well in warm and cold environments and produces an abundance of sweet fruit.
  • Navel oranges are a sweet juicy easy peel orange; however, it won’t tolerate frosts.

There are many other varieties of citrus available that would grow well in your environment, grow to the size you need and to suit your tastes, so visit your local Mitre10 garden centre to find the right one for you.


Growing tips

Citrus can be quite particular about the soil they will grow well in. They like a rich free draining soil and won’t tolerate a soggy situation. If your soil is heavy clay or too wet you can grow them on a mound, in a raised bed or in a large container.

They also like to be in full sun and out of the wind. A strong wind can easily blow all the leaves off a young citrus. Young trees will also need protection from frosts until they establish.

To establish a strong and healthy plant, remove the fruit in the first season.

Water citrus trees well, especially during the warmer months, especially if you are growing them in containers. Inconsistent watering can cause the fruit to become dry, split or even drop off.

A good thick organic mulch will reduce the weed competition and help keep an even soil moisture.

Harvest the fruit by cutting them off at the stem, avoid pulling or they won’t keep very long in your fruit bowl.

Citrus trees shouldn’t need pruning except to remove any dead, dying, or diseased branches and to remove any shoots that appear from below the graft.


Keep citrus well fed

Citrus are extremely hungry plants and will soon let you know if they need a feed. To keep them happy, apply a slow-release fertiliser formulated for the specific needs of citrus trees, that will provide a controlled release of nutrients for up to 3 months in early spring, summer, and autumn. Tip – if you are growing citrus in a pot, double check the fertiliser packaging to check it’s suitable for pots (if it’s not suitable the fertiliser could burn the roots).

Citrus like to have high Nitrogen (N) for strong stem and leaf growth, and high Potassium (K) for larger, more prolific fruit.

Also look for a feed with added magnesium to help prevent leaf yellowing, which is a common problem found in hungry lemon trees – look for the tell-tale sign of dark green inverted V shape on a yellow leaf.

A natural citrus liquid feed is a quick pick me up for a hungry citrus plant as the nutrients are just what they need and readily available for the plant to absorb. The addition of seaweed to the feed will help the plants cope in stressful conditions and improve resistance to potential problems. Tip – check that the fish and seaweed are sustainably sourced.

Trouble shooting tips

One of the most common problems for lemon trees is an unsightly black coating - Sooty Mould. However, this isn’t the cause of the problem. If you look deeper into the plant you will find scale insects – small limpet like insects clamped tightly to the leaves and stems, sucking the goodness out of the plant. After sucking on the sap, they excrete honeydew which drips onto the leaves below and becomes mouldy. You may also find ants farming the scale insects to harvest the honeydew. To take care of the problem (for organic gardeners too), treat the insects with Conqueror Oil to suffocate the insects.