Growing Great Citrus on the Fringes


A fringe (also called a marginal growing area), refers to an area outside of ideal. Living at the base of the Tararua’s sets us firmly on the fringe for citrus. Head 12km west to Levin and it’s a whole other story – oranges flourish. Fringe areas for citrus are either colder, wetter, heavier, windier or sandy.  We can do it – we just have to work harder to drum up some citrus action.

How to Grow Great Citrus in Marginal Areas

  1. Best time to plant is when you are sure of no more frosts. For me that’s now (could’ve been last month if I’d been more organised) Not in the dreary cold of winter, citrus are not one with the cold.
  2. Be sure of really good drainage. If you’re living in a swamp then grow a banana! Those of you on heavier soils with drainage issues need to go up, make a mound. 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.
  3. Heat. The Lemonade is on the north side of the compost loo, the Lime is tucked in close to the house. Use reflected heat from 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 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.

shelter for citrus

4. Shelter. 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). Depending on your situation (and what you have lying around) attach plastic on the south side (making a sun trap), frost cloth top to bottom through the frosty season; and hessian, plastic or windcloth on the windward side(s). Remove the covers over summer/ autumn and tack them on again for winter/ spring. Do this until your tree has a decent canopy.

yummy soil5. 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. When it’s time to feed, pull back the mulch and spread the feed on, put the mulch back on top. 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 – yes its as simple as that feed them and they will come.

If your soil is not yummy then never fear – make it so! Aerate, then build a compost on the spot of the future citrus; or aerate it and sow a legume greencrop or a mixture of the two. If it takes a year, then so be it – it’s worth the wait (chances are you’re also waiting for shelter to grow) That winner of a citrus is now within your grasp.

Correcting yellow leaves.

This here is my most oft asked question – yellow all over, yellow and curled, green veins yellow everywhere else….. one form or another of yellow. If I had a penny …..

Here’s my answer – take care of all of the above plus use a full spectrum mineral fertiliser. Minerals need each other to function.They need each other in the right amounts. Too much or too little and they get locked up, confused and nothing works right. Minerals used in isolation without testing first is not very wise. It’s oh so easy to upset nature’s fine-tuned balance. A living, balanced brew of minerals corrects imbalances over time. It’s also the perfect way to heal soil that’s had artificial fertilisers thrust at it and is needing to wake from its sleep. This is the simple, no test required way to right the wrongs. Check out Agrisea or Environmental fertilisers.

Or go the soil test way and work out precisely the amount of precisely the type of mineral you require.

(Over watering also turns leaves yellow so check this one from your list)