Citrus trees would have to be one of our most questioned about plants at Barossa Nursery.
They grow really well here. However, can be a little temperamental if not treated right or not in the right position.
In this article I will try to give a bit of a guide to growing citrus in the Barossa.
Firstly, it is important to remember that citrus trees are a subtropical plant.
They will tolerate our cold, frosty winters here; however winter is their most stressful time.
Therefore, we do not recommend planting citrus in winter.
Rather plant them in Mid-Spring right up to Mid-Autumn for optimal results.
It can be a bit confusing because winter is the best time to plant all of your other fruit trees (stone fruit/apples, etc), so naturally people think it is the best time to plant citrus too.
We do though, recommend holding out for warmer temperatures.
In terms of position, citrus require an open sunny position (full sun is best).
They also need a well-drained soil.
One thing citrus hate is heavy clay soils that don’t drain well.
This can lead to an unhappy citrus or even death. So if you have a heavy clay soil make sure you dig in plenty of compost and gypsum to help break up the clay.
Just remember, even though citrus don’t like a poorly drained soil, doesn’t mean they don’t like/need water.
They enjoy a good soaking (especially over summer) like most other fruit trees. The best way to water citrus trees in the ground is via a dripper system.
Long, slow soaks less often – overnight is best on a 4L/hour dripper or so.
This way the water soaks down nicely and deep into the soil and their roots will follow this water and grow deep, meaning a much hardier tree.
One thing I always try to tell customers when buying citrus, is to not tease the roots at planting time.
There are some gardeners out there who recommend this, but in our many years of experience we have found this to be the worst thing you can do.
Citrus hate being transplanted at the best of times and teasing the roots just stresses the plant out even more and as a result they can sit there and ‘sulk’ for years!
Water in well with Seasol at planting time – Seasol is a great plant starter and reduces transplant shock while stimulating root growth.
Dig in compost or cow manure at planting time as they like a nice nutrient rich soil – but remember, no fertiliser down the hole as it can burn the roots. Fertilise on top of the soil only.
Citrus in pots – Yes you can grow citrus in pots, however make sure you only use a good premium potting mix.
Never use garden soil in a pot. Over time it can compact like cement and your plants will never thrive.
A good premium potting mix will provide good nutrients, good drainage and a good basis for a healthy tree.
Pot size matters too. The bigger the better! For a dwarf citrus nothing smaller than a 40-50cm pot (at the very smallest!) but bigger if possible.
Full size citrus grow best in the ground. But if you do need to plant one in a pot, nothing smaller than a half wine barrel size.
Both potted citrus and citrus in the ground are hungry plants and can turn yellow when they need a feed.
So fertilise them regularly with a good citrus food every season – especially in early spring.
During winter, it is too cold for them to take up nutrients, so often a citrus will turn a bit yellow or get curled leaves over the winter months and come Springtime they are starving!
And a good feed in Autumn, before Winter, helps too so they are well fed before the cold hits.
If you follow these tips, citrus are really easy to grow and will reward you year after year with an abundance of juicy, delicious fruit.
Available as full size plants or dwarf to suit any size garden, they are a must have for fruit lovers.
If you have any gardening questions for Kristee, feel free to leave a comment below…
In the meantime, happy gardening!