From the ubiquitous lemon tree in the corner through to a kumquat in a pot on the balcony, citrus has so much to offer home gardeners. We show you how to grow citrus at home.
As well as providing nutritious food during winter, citrus offers many advantages to a permaculture garden. Hardy, compact and evergreen, citrus can perform tasks like windbreaks and shelter, and dwarfing varieties means they can be happy in a pot which can be moved to suit your needs.
How to grow citrus: Varieties
Lemons are the most common and often the most vigorous citrus trees found in Australian gardens.
They’re available in several tried-and-true varieties:
- Lisbon, which has both a winter and a summer fruiting;
- Eureka, which fruits year round;
- Meyer, a mandarin cross which also fruits year round and is the most cold-tolerant lemon variety;
- Lemonade, another mandarin/orange cross.
Oranges fruit better in warmer climates, with the ripening process taking much longer in the southern regions of Australia.
Popular varieties include:
- Washington navel;
- Blood orange.
Popular varieties include:
- Tahitian, which fruits from autumn to spring;
- Makrut limes (also referred to as kaffir limes) are grown for their aromatic leaf and skin zest;
- Australian native finger limes, which are becoming increasingly popular.
Common varieties include:
- Imperial, which fruits in late autumn into winter;
- Emperor, which fruits mid-winter;
- Robby Engall seedless, which is a satsuma variety, is popular and fruits early in autumn;
- Clementine, which produces a small and sweet fruit;
- Ellendale, which is an Australian variety dating back to the late 1800s.
What and when to feed your citrus
Citrus prefers a soil pH of between 6.0–7.0, so use high-acidic coffee grounds sparingly and ensure poultry manure is well composted before adding in large quantities. Comfrey tea is rich in potassium and calcium which can be applied as both a foliar and root fertiliser.
Pests and diseases
Citrus gall wasp has become the most common and invasive pest of backyard citrus. The damage is done when wasps lay eggs in the soft shoots before larvae develops in the stem creating visible swellings, or galls, from which wasps emerge around the end of spring.
Pruning out galls or slicing them to expose and kill the larvae – a vegetable peeler works well – should be carried out before October. A preventative control method is to cover the tree with a film of diluted kaolin clay. This stops the wasps being able to lay eggs in the new shoots. It’s safe for pollinators and can be used up until the day of harvest.
Kaolin clay is also effective in controlling leaf miner damage caused a small black fly whose larvae travel and feed under the surface of the leaf.
Other common problems include sooty mould, fungal diseases and collar rot. We go into this in much further detail in Issue #20 of Pip Magazine.
Want to know more about how to grow citrus?
In the new issue of Pip Magazine, we delve into how to grow citrus in more detail, including what and when to feed your citrus, dealing with nutrient deficiencies, and how to prune citrus correctly.
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