How To Grow Great Citrus

limeCitrus are fussy darlings, deeply sensitive to wind, wet feet, dry feet and frost. The foothill’s of the Tararua’s is not their ideal which means I need to work harder to drum up some citrus action.

How to Grow Great Citrus

Best time to plant is when you are sure of no more frosts – I start to feel pretty safe from now on in. Don’t plant in the dreary cold of winter that’s for sure, citrus are not one with the cold.

Be sure of really good drainage. Those of you on heavier soils with drainage issues need to get your drainage sorted and/ or go up. Make a mound or a raised bed. For the very best start make your mound a compost pile, one containing plenty of manure or seaweed. Leave it to rot down for a good few months before planting.

Beach dwellers can crow – no drainage issues for you! Best for you to go down. Scoop out the sand, lay wet newspaper in the bottom of the hole and make a compost pile on top. Once its rotted down – plant away.

Heat. The Lemonade is on the north side of the compost loo, the Kaffir Lime is tucked in close to the house. Use reflected heat from north facing walls, hedges and buildings to fake up some extra warmth. Plant where the winter sun shines, in fact make that year-round sunshine, but be super sure of at least 10am – 2pm winter sun. If you get snow and ice then it’ll have to be the poly tunnel for you, or dwarf varieties in pots that can be moved indoors in winter.

lemonade frost protectionShelter. Delicate crew, citrus. Too delicate for wind and frost. The most vulnerable years are the early ones so build them a shelter to get them through. Bang four sturdy stakes around the tree (leave room for growth so you don’t have to rebuild your structure next year). Cover with frost cloth top and four sides winter through spring. Remove the covers summer/ autumn and tack them on again for winter/ spring. Do this until your tree has a decent canopy.

yummy soil

Yummy soil. Dark, aerated and wormy. Here’s a scoop of the dirt beneath my lime. Instead of artificial citrus fertiliser go for dollops of manure, covered (as always) with mulch on top. Rok Solid (or other full spectrum mineral fertiliser) is a smart idea to avoid deficiencies.

A spring feed at my place looks like this – a layer of compost plus dollops of rotten manure. If you are a beach dweller kelp seaweed can replace the manure. Dollops of manure/ seaweed added through the summer will keep feeding the worms.

If your soil is not yummy then never fear – make it so! Aerate the soil, then build a compost on the spot of the future citrus or sow a legume greencrop (or do both!). If it takes a year, then so be it – it’s worth the wait (chances are you’re also waiting for shelter to grow).  Take the time to create the perfect environment then plant it out and watch it fly.  Or rush in and well, there is no good ending here…

The Right Variety

No Blood oranges for me, but Navels are all good, as are Tangelos, Grapefruits, Satsuma Mandarins, Bears or Tahitian Lime, Yen Ben and Meyer Lemons – tick, tick, tick.

As for rootstock that hardy Trifoliata (includes Flying Dragon) will do you well – small, tough and productive.