Growing fruit in your own backyard can be fun, rewarding and just plain delicious. Suited to most climatic zones in Australia and easy to grow, citrus trees are the pick of the crop.
Citrus trees are well suited to home growing and with minimal care will reward you for years with juicy, delicious fruit. Now is a great time of year to plant them. The trick to successfully growing citrus is to plant them in the right position and the right soil.
Planting citrus trees
Citrus need a full sun position and need plenty of room to grow in all directions. Ideally, they should have a 2–3 metre gap all around them. If you plant them in a position where they are overcrowded or shaded by other trees they will not grow or crop well. Therefore, it is important to choose the right position from the start. When planted in the right position, citrus trees will grow and crop beautifully and cause you very little trouble.
For citrus trees to grow well and produce delicious crops, they need a rich, well drained soil. To give them an excellent start, dig a hole at least two to three times the size of the pot they are growing in and dig in Searles Fruit, Citrus & Rose Specialty Mix. Plant your citrus tree straight into the hole. Because citrus like a well drained soil, it could be beneficial to mound up the soil before planting. Beware of planting citrus trees too deep, especially in heavy, clay soils.
After planting, mulch all around your citrus trees with mulch. Mulch placed right up against the trunk of the tree can encourage collar rot, so keep the mulch about 10cm away from the trunk of the tree. Mulching is highly beneficial for citrus trees. Mulching saves water, adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down, keeps the root system cool and promotes stronger growth (which means more fruit).
Watering citrus trees
Another trick when caring for citrus is to water them deeply and thoroughly. Occasional, deep watering is more beneficial than frequent, light watering. Give them a good, deep watering about once a week.
Fertilising citrus trees
Like all plants, citrus trees need regular fertilising to promote strong, healthy growth which in turn will help it to produce better crops of fruit. Citrus trees are known as heavy feeding plants, especially once they are old enough to bear fruit.
In late winter or early spring, apply Searles Fruit & Citrus Plant Food to the soil out to the drip line (the area of soil immediately underneath the branches of the bush) and thoroughly water afterward.
Many plants can absorb nutrients through their leaves even more quickly than they can through their roots. For immediate results, it is therefore advisable to liquid feed over the leaves of the plant as well as onto the soil. This is commonly referred to as ‘foliar feeding’. A handy tip when foliar feeding is to apply the fertiliser early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Avoid foliar fertilising in the middle of the day as this can cause leaf burn. We recommend SeaMax® Fish & Kelp Organic liquid fertiliser. For instant feeding to provide essential nutrients for flower and fruit production use Searles Flourish Fruit & Citrus Soluble Plant Food.
Caring for citrus trees
Citrus trees have been bred for their prolific ability to bear fruit, and it can be exciting to see some freshly planted young trees bearing their first flush of flowers and fruit within the first year of planting. However, it is advisable to remove this early crop before it is able to develop. A young tree needs to focus its early years on increasing its size and establishing a healthy root system. This will help it to anchor itself in your garden and will make it more resistant to winds and drought. Bearing fruit can be a considerable strain on its resources, so allow the tree to grow to a healthy size before it to bears a crop of fruit. This way, your tree will be hardier and more prolific in the long term.
Pest & Diseases on citrus trees