edible trees & shrubs
planting citrus trees
Citrus trees (lemons, oranges, grapefruit etc..) require more care to plant than most other fruit trees as they are a little more sensitive to environmental conditions. On this page are some pointers to help you plant them.
Where to plantCitrus trees require hot Summers and relatively mild Winters to thrive. They can handle some frost in the Winter but do not like being exposed to wind. They also do better in light well drained soils.
The best place to plant a citrus tree is in a sunny but sheltered spot, such as on the North side of a house (South side in the Northern hemisphere). Having large shrubs or small trees either side will also help shelter it from the wind. Do not plant citrus trees in a boggy area as they don't like wet roots.
When to plantCitrus trees are generally planted out in Spring after the threat of the last heavy frost has passed. But try not to leave it too late in the season as any young tree has difficulties establishing itself in hot weather.
How to plant
A. Dig hole and flood with water. Remove the tree from it's pot and soak it in a bucket of water.
B. Fill the bottom of hole and place the tree in it so that the top of the pot bound section sits slightly above ground level,
C. Cover the base of the tree with sand and the rest of the ground with mulch.
If you have heavy clay soils then plant the tree virtually on top of the ground and mound your compost, soil and sand mix around it.
Tap the side of the citrus tree's pot to loosen the roots. Gently remove it from the pot and stand it in a bucket of water. It's best to do this about an hour before you plant it to allow the roots to get a thorough soaking.
B. Mix some of the soil removed from the hole with sand and compost. You can also add a small amount of manure or blood and bone but not too much as there is a risk of burning the roots.
Fill the bottom of the hole with this sand/soil/compost mixture. Remove the tree from the bucket, tease out it's roots with your fingers and place it in the hole so that the top section sits about 5cm (2 inches) above the level of the ground.
Fill the rest of the hole with the remaining sand/soil/compost mixture to ground level.
E. Place pure sand around the base of the trunk. This is to reduce the risk of collar rot which can occur if you run mulch right up to the trunk.
Cover the rest of the ground with mulch. Drive a stake into the ground next to the tree and tie it. Give the mound a thorough watering to make sure that the roots are not exposed to any air pockets.
Planting in heavy clay soilIf you have heavy clay soil or ground that is prone to being wet then consider planting the tree virtually on top of the ground.
The same steps are taken as above except the potted section only just sits in the ground a little way and the sand/soil/compost mixture is mounded up around the sides. The tree can even be placed right on top of the ground if the clay soil is very heavy.
The main disadvantage of this method is that the tree is more prone to falling over in high winds as a mounded tree takes longer to establish roots strong enough to withstand such winds. If you use this method then it might be worthwhile staking the tree with two or more stakes for extra strength.
It may also be worthwhile laying out agricultural drainage pipe to let excess water drain away.
Post planting careWater the tree regularly for at least six weeks after planting. Applications of some liquid manure will also help. Citrus trees are shallow rooted, so try not to cultivate the ground under the tree and don't plant any ground cover near it.
Once established citrus trees can get by quite well without fertilisers but, of course, they will do better if some is applied. I usually give mine a couple of spadefuls of chook manure each year.
extra protectionIf your area is marginal for Citrus then consider building a temporary frame with plastic over the top and on at least two sides to give your Citrus tree extra protection for the first couple of years. This is especially worth while doing if you have heavy frosts in Winter or your trees will be exposed to high winds. Once a Citrus tree is mature it can withstand much tougher conditions.