Thrifty Gardening
Following the Edible Garden Trails

Homegrown Citrus

CitrusEveryone has room for citrus these days will a vast array of offerings to suit all garden sizes available from our local nurseries. Select a tree that you know you will use and that will be compatible with your area and environment. Grafted varieties will generally be hardier as they are clones of desirable plants that are grown upon strong, disease resistant rootstock that is suitable for your area. There are a large variety of sizes so make sure that your intended spot can accommodate the growth. While you can grow a tree from a seed, they probably won’t grow true to the type of the fruit they came from and though you may be pleasantly surprised, you will probably end up with sometime inedible. As it will take about seven years until you see the fruit, you will be better off having faith in a grafted tree of the type you are after.

A few of my juicy selections for Central Coast/temperate regions include Lemon: Eureka, Orange: Valencia, Lime: Makrut, Grapefruit: Ruby Red Grapefruit, Mandarin: Imperial, Cumquat: Nagami. Australian Native:  Finger Lime (any they are all wonderful!) 
Buddha-fruitSomething Unusual: Buddha’s Hand

How to Grow a Citrus Tree
Citrus will require at least six hours of full sun every day. The soil needs to be deep, rich and loamy, with free draining qualities being an absolute must. It won’t want other plants, or a lawn, sharing its space at all and a sheltered spot is best as they don’t fare well in strong winds. Planting time is early spring but planning time is right now, in the middle of winter, because a well-prepared bed will mean a happy, healthy long-lived tree.
Chose you spot and dig in. If your soil is heavy, add compost and lots of it and some sand can help as well. Dig your hole right out to three metres wide and as deep as you can manage.  Enrich the soil now with a little well-rotted manure if you feel your soil is depleted as fertilising during planting will burn the sensitive root structure of citrus. The preferred pH level for citrus is 6 - 7.5 and so you may need to toss in a little lime to bring up the level. When it is time to plant, ensure you mound up earth in the planting hole and spread roots out over it before filling. Water in well and mulch the surrounding area with an organic material and leave at least 12cm away from the trunk.

Citrus Care
Citrus are hungry garden buddies, so you need to feed them well. To leave no doubt there are specialised citrus fertilisers that are brilliant and take the guess work out of things for beginners. The usual pattern for feeding is mid-winter, late spring and late summer. Watering is essential once a week for newly planted trees and then only once every couple of weeks except if the weather is very hot. Container grown plants will naturally need additional watering and just remember that they detest soggy feet. Pruning may seem a bit daunting but in all honestly, it’s relatively easy with most citrus. Just trim back after harvest should you wish to shape your tree and remove dead branches and any that may be diseased but never cut away more than 20% of your tree canopy. You should be able to reach the trunk of the tree without being too obstructed by branches so keep the centre clear. When it comes to harvest, leave fruit on the tree until they have fully developed to ensure best flavour.

What’s Wrong with my Citrus?
Holes in my Tree: Probably Tree Borers and they can be removed by digging out with a skewer and a pyrethrum-based spray can knock them down as well.
Wiggly Lines on Leaves: The Leaf Miner is usually the culprit and can be controlled with an organic pest oil.
Sooty Mould & Honeydew: The sticky dew is created by insects, and it can lead to the sooty mould fungus issue. It can be controlled by washing the plant with a horticultural soap and then treating the tree with an organic insecticide.
Healthy Leaf Drop: This happens in most cases due to lack of water but can also indicate a health issue with the tree so give it a close examination.
Yellow Leaves: These will usually also drop and indicate too much water and poor drainage. Reduce watering and the tree should return to good health.
Stink Bug Infestation: This is a big one, and dreaded, as the fruit is punctured and drops off and tree slowly dies. If they are known in your area, my advice is to get a jump on them by spraying your trees completely in early spring with an organic horticultural oil but if they are already there then you will need program of organic insecticide as per the manufacture’s recommendations.

No Room Citrus Tips
Why don’t you try growing citrus in pots? This is also brilliant for those who are renting as you can simply take your ‘movable orchard’ with you and there are lots of dwarf citrus available. You will need as deep a pot as possible and repot every two years. An old but clever way to grow citrus in limited space to train it to grow up a wall. Espalier style, as it is called, needs careful planning and constant maintenance, but if you have the time, it’s an easy way to make use of tight spaces and provide a stunning backdrop in a courtyard or garden.

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Long Jetty Produce Swap 10 – 11am, Saturday 1st July, Bateau Bay Community Garden
Share excess (chemical free) edible produce and creations from your garden. Come together with minded locals and make some new friends. It’s an opportunity to share produce, knowledge, and skills locally - find out what grows best here. Make sure your garden produce does not go to waste. Find plants and produce that you won't find in the shops. Feel free to drop in and have a chat to see what it is about. Haven't got a garden? We usually have some cuttings/seeds/plants on offer or why not bake something and bring it along.

Christmas in July Workshop, Burbank at Saddles, Mt. White, 1pm, Sunday 2nd July
Get into the festive spirit with our exciting and creative Kids Christmas Terracotta Pot Workshop! Let your little ones unleash their artistic talents and create beautiful, personalized Christmas decorations that will add a special touch to your holiday celebrations. All materials provided. Bookings a must phone 43701010





Winter - temperate areas
You can plant the following now: Culinary herbs, artichokes, broad beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, cress, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, shallots, spring onions, silverbeet, spinach, ageratum, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, carnation, cineraria, columbine, cornflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, honesty, larkspur, linaria, lobelia, nigella, pansy, poppy, primula, snapdragon, statice, stock, sweet pea, viola, wallflower


Cheralyn is a horticulture author and along with Pete Little,
hosts ‘Home with The Gardening Gang’
8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM96.3
contact via:

She also writes the weekly 'DOWN IN THE GARDEN' page for the Coast News Newspaper and this originally appeared in The Coast News