Column: The Garden Girl – Citrus Care

May 11, 2014 14:00 pm · 3 comments


The heavy bloom display this year on Claycord’s citrus trees and shrubs has left them looking tired with yellow leaves. Citrus trees and shrubs consist of lemons, oranges, grapefruit, limes, mandarin or tangerine. Such a flower display was taxing on our citrus plant’s energy. It is up to us to fertilize as necessary to help our plants replenish what is missing.

This time of year we need to feed our Citrus’s flower so that it can mature to become fruit. Doing this means we have to read product labels to make sure we aren’t giving our citrus trees and shrubs too much nitrogen. Nitrogen is the first number listed on a container of fertilizers label. Nitrogen given this time of the season can actually make our plants drop their flowers and young fruit. What you are looking for is a product with a lower first number in the sequence, followed by a higher second and third number. Look for fertilizers with 0-10-10, 2-10-10, 2-8-4 or 3-20-20 on their product labels.

Fertilizers are found in granular, dry water-soluble and liquid concentrate selections. What you choose to use depends on the way you irrigate your citrus. Sprinkler irrigators have the luxury of using a granular type fertilizer. Granular fertilizer breaks down and feeds your plants a little at a time, with each watering. If your citrus is irrigated by sprinkler and looks very yellow today, you may choose to use a dose of water-soluble fertilizer in combination with a granular dose of fertilizer. The water-soluble fertilizer will be available faster and start to work while you wait for the granular to break down and start to supply your plant.

Drip system irrigators need to feed using water-soluble fertilizers or liquid concentrates. Follow all package direction when feeding with these types of fertilizers. Some will say to feed every other week and others every other watering. You want to use what is recommended and not to overfed. Fertilizing too much will burn your plants.

It is important to never fertilize dry citrus. It doesn’t matter what type of product you use. Make sure your citrus, is thoroughly watered before application of fertilizer, and follow up with an additional watering after application. This rule is true when fertilizing all plants!

Citrus needs iron and sulfur at this time as well. Iron and sulfur will keep your citrus leaves green. Again, granular and liquid concentrate selections of these products are available, you will use what you need depending on how you irrigate your citrus.

Young citrus (under 5 years old) shouldn’t be allowed to have too many fruit. One or two on each branch is enough. Too many fruit on too young of a plant causes stress.

Do not over-water your citrus. Deep watering every third day for container grown citrus is good. In-ground citrus should be watered 2-3 times a week depending on the wind in your neighborhood and the condition of your soil.

Watch for ants on your citrus this time of year. They usually indicate the presence of scale in your citrus. Sale is a problem, and needs to be controlled. Scale looks like small, brown bumps that line the wood of the citrus. Use products like Neem oil, or Sevin to control scale.

Happy Gardening.

Nicole Hackett is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio and Gardens, located at 6780 Marsh Creek Road in Clayton, 925-672-0207.

Nicole writes for the Clayton Pioneer Newspaper, and She is also the Clayton Valley Garden Club 2012 President.

photo credit: Barry Hart

1 Silva May 12, 2014 at 8:56 AM

Thanks for the reminder! I went and picked off a whole bunch of little lemons off of my baby.

2 Pucky May 12, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Some wonderful information there…Thanks..A bit late for me. I now know where I messed up again. Is the Garden Club free? I need some schooling/refresher’s as I get older…LOL

3 Original G May 12, 2014 at 11:53 AM

My orange tree is about 50 years old and thrives, producing fruit 5 – 6 inches across, despite my neglect. Do make it a point to plant part of the garden near it.
Mystery of some of my Fordhook (green) zucchini having pregnant bulges may have been solved, may have planted my 8 Ball zucchini too close. Have two more in the green house still to plant out, think I’ll just plant one an give other one away to a good home.

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