Give Citrus A Midsummer Feed

lime2Mid summer is citrus feeding time. This feed is especially important for young trees to get them growing strong while its warm, so they are bigger and bolder for when they need to take on winter. Be sure to nourish poorly citrus too, though all citrus will benefit from a dose of goodness sometime soon.

Natural feed

fish fertiliser

Natural stuff that the soil knows and understands builds hummus and a strong varied population of soil life. This in turn provides nutrients in a pick and mix style for your trees – when they need them they can dip in.

As opposed to artificial fert which shuts down all the natural responses in the soil and mainlines the tree (whether it needs it or not) creating trees that rely on you for their feed. Aphids are a common side effect here too. Give me the resilience of natural farming anyday, if for no other reason than circumventing another plastic bag.

miracles happen

Rotten manure or seaweed and/ or homemade compost are my top picks here. Buried fish waste also features strongly in my soil management plan because we get alot of it from our diving and fishing buddies. Fish heads and carcasses are the way to my heart! Use what you’ve got and recycle everyday wastes to limit the buy ins = resilience for you too. Yay!

Liquid foliar feed is an immediate way to get nutrient into your trees. I recommend a seaweed spray once a month if all is green and glossy and fruity, if not then as often as once a week. Add Neem to this if sooty mould (aphids in disguise), whitefly, scale or thrips are aboard.

Develop a strong frame

As well as feeding youngsters, you should be removing any fruits that are setting on trees less than two years old.

Trees 2 – 4 years should have fruits thinned. Leave a ratio of 1 fruit per 7 leaves – ish. Please do not spend all day counting!, the idea here is to have more leaves than fruits to keep your trees stress free and their focus firmly on a strong frame and root system. Thinning pays out in dividends (or should I say lemons), in the years to come.

I give you these years and numbers as something to hang your hat on. Let the trees health and vitality guide you here. You can’t go wrong taking fruit off for a year longer, but you could by leaving it on too soon. Trust your gut.


Buckwheat, meadowsweet, yarrow homemade mulch

Mulch is key. It adds another layer to your soil health by bringing in another guild of microbiology, moderating temperature, holding moisture and reducing weeds. So much goodness here.

Citrus don’t do as well when grass and or weeds compete with their shallow feeder roots. Lay wet newspaper or cardboard on top of grass then spread on compost and any other organic matter. Top it all off with a generous layer of homemade hay (lawn left long) or homemade mulch.

Water + Ola pots

Citrus must not dry out.

Humus rich soil holds water for a goodly period of time. Even so, in ferocious summers/ autumns you need a way to keep the soil moist should it dry out. Create an easy way to do this. A hose nearby. An outside bath alongside. A bucket by your tree to capture rain.

I love Ola pots, and use them in parts of the garden that are a long way from irrigation. Ola’s are unglazed terracotta pots  with a lid that you bury beside your tree/ shrub/ plant. Fill them with water as required for a slow, cooling drink.

My styles

young mandarin

This young Mandarin is on a north-ish facing bank, well protected from wind. Lumps of log around the edge call in a tribe of microbes and worms adding to the soils diversity and strength. Grass free beneath the citrus, but the bank itself is left wild. I’ve sown a mixture of plantain, grass, chicory, yarrow and dandelion which provides mineral rich mulch when I need it and adds to the overall diversity, bringing bees for pollination and beneficial insects for pest control. An Ola pot is buried above for slow, steady water release through summer and autumn.

Easy peasy for me. Heavenly for the Mandarin.


  1. Hi Kath. Thanks for the citrus tips. I am new to the care of citrus trees having only just purchased my property recently. I have been away for a couple of months and have come back to find my citrus covered in borer holes and some have small white eggs all over the branches. In another blog you mentioned injecting kerosene into the holes. Is this ok if you are trying to keep your trees organic? I was also told to use neem oil and got some organic eco neem but when I read the closer instructions it says not to use it on plants with edible fruit. Very confused as to how to treat the pests without toxicity and organically. Any suggestions?

    • Yes it is confusing! The Neem I recommend is – no withholding period. Neem is not a contact killer – it works when its ingested which means the grubs will need to eat it for it to work. That means you’ll need to spray the wood around where the eggs are. Neem is awesome – I’d def give it a go. Even if it impacts a few it’ll be worth it. You’ll need to spray as often as you can – perhaps weekly, as you wont know when they will be hatching.
      Kerosene is the perfect thing to knock those grubs out ok so get it into those holes! Dont prune your tree at this time of year as the adult borers are out and about and the fresh pruning wound creates the perfect place for them to lay their eggs. Lemon trees will live alongside some borer so as long as you keep up with injecting the holes and plugging them – you’ll keep it managed. Support your tree with all the things I mentioned in my blogpost to keep it in top health and all will be well 🙂 Kath

  2. Hi Kath
    Thanks for all this helpful stuff!
    My question is how to use the fish heads and guts: dig them straight into the soil near the tree? Or bury them in the compost? Or something else?

    • Either or works perfectly Miranda 🙂 Dig some into the ground and every now and then have a look to see the miracle of decompostion happening and all the worms and life that come – its amazing!

  3. Jane Bennett says

    Hi Kath. The discussion around our table right now is whether its 2yrs in our garden, or two years from when the seed was planted? Ie do i go removing all the fruit from my citrus which i planted last year or not? They look more than 2yrs old to me!

    • I’d be removing them still – remove fruit for 2 years from planting … atleast. Although it depends on how big the tree is overall Jane. The idea is to let the tree put its energy into roots, trunk and canopy for long term strength. Growing fruit takes alot of carbs, leaving not much for tree growth at this young stage. The longer you can hold off on fruit production the better your tree. Patience grasshopper!

  4. Lesley Summers says

    Hi. We have kikuya grass & just covering over with wet cardboard/newspaper, compost & mulch, the kikuya & oxalis continues to come through.
    So if I was to try to clear the areas under the orange, lemon, grapefruit trees, to help them & possibly even create a companion lay under, what should I do?

    • Yes the card and mulch doesn’t get rid of them instantly, it takes time for the soil to change and the weeds to move off. Keep on covering them is the best way and try to regard with less distaste also helps though its not always easy I know! A companion layer beneath citrus is only good if your trees are tall and have a big gap between the lower set of branches and the ground and you live somewhere hot with low rainfall, otherwise the companions block airflow and you invite another set of problems along. If it was me, I’ be sure to have a lovely pile of ramial woodchips nearby (mulch from the tips of branches – either made yourself or the guys working the lines create)and a stash of card so that whenever the kikuyu grows in force its easy to slash it back and put another layer on top.

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