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PLANTING Choose a sunny, well-drained location. Dig a hole one and a half times the size of the container. Add composted cow manure to amend the soil. DO NOT use top soil or peat humus as it may compromise the drainage of the soil. Citrus trees do not like "wet feet" and like to dry out between waterings. Make sure to plant the tree no deeper than it was in the container. It is often beneficial to plant the tree with the top of the root ball an inch higher than the existing soil to ensure that it does not settle too deeply. Backfill around the root ball and water well to ensure that there are no air pockets. DO NOT use mulch around the base of citrus trees. Mulch can hold in extra moisture which is unacceptable for citrus. It is best to keep the area around the base of the tree clear of grass or any other plant life to help with the uptake of fertilizer. Using excess soil, make a "bowl" around the newly planted tree. Water the tree once a day for the first 3 to 5 days by filling the bowl with water and letting it drain. Repeat this 3 or 4 times until you're certain the water has reached the bottom of the root ball. After the initial 3 to 5 days, water the tree once or twice a week during winter, and 2 to 3 times a week in summer, depending on rainfall.
FERTILIZATION AND MAINTENANCE After 3 to 4 weeks, apply citrus fertilizer. Burnett's Nursery recommends Florida's Finest Citrus Fertilizer (4-6-8), suitable for all other fruit-producing plants and trees as well as citrus. It may be applied up to once a month but at least 3 times a year (spring, summer, and autumn). Water soluble fertilizers such as 20-20-20 or 12-48-8 may also be used up to once every two weeks. Mix these at a rate of 1-2 TBSP per gallon of water and use about 5 gallons for a ten gallon tree size. Controlled release fertilizers such as Osmocote or Nutricote may be applied and are generally good for anywhere from 3 to 8 months. Controlled release fertilizers will maintain the health of the tree. Use granular and/or water soluble fertilizers to enhance the feeding program or to obtain quicker results. If the tree is yellowing, water soluble or granular fertilizers will green it up more rapidly than controlled release fertilizers. IMPORTANT! Water the tree in well before and after the application of any fertilizer. Broadcast the fertilizer at the drip edge of the tree (ends of the branches), and water again. Applications of fertilizer to dry soil or too close to the trunk may result in fertilizer burn.
SPRAYING Spraying fruit trees will help with fruit production and pest control. Young trees especially will benefit from routine spraying.. Neem Oil (2 TBSP. per gallon of water) rotated with a mixture of Liquid Copper (2 tsp. per gallon of water) and 50% Malathion (2 tsp. per gallon of water) should be used in the spring, summer, and autumn. Spray your fruit trees at the onset of blooming, when the first flowers open (usually in the spring). DO NOT spray if there are a lot of blooms already open as this may interfere with pollination necessary for fruit production. This spray will help set the bloom. The next spray should take place when the fruit is about one quarter of an inch in diameter. This is usually in the late spring or beginning of summer. This spray will help to set the small fruit. A final spray should be done as the fruit is close to ripening, usually in beginning to mid-autumn.
HARVEST Each type of citrus has a particular time when fruit ripens. Lemons and limes will produce all year round (everbearing), grapefruit will produce 3 times a year (fall, winter and spring) and oranges, tangeloes, tangerines, and mandarins produce once a year. Fruit is generally ready when it pulls easily from the branch but if not completely ripe it will ripen off of the tree as well. Temperature can affect fruit color. Some oranges turn orange as a result of cooler temperatures. On occasion the fruit will remain green but still be ripe, especially in the case of fruit ripening during a warmer than normal autumn or winter. Prune your tree as you harvest the ripe fruit. This will help to maintain the shape while giving the tree enough time to regenerate for the following season. If possible, keep the tree lower and wider to make harvest and maintenance much easier. Keeping a tree smaller and more compact will also reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizer needed by the tree. Shorter, compact branches will also enable the tree to hold on to a greater quantity of fruit.
COLD TOLERANCE Citrus trees themselves (except for some lemons and limes) are generally cold tolerant. Trees can sustain branch end damage in severe cases, but it is mainly the fruit that is more at risk. As a general rule, citrus can handle the temperatures listed below for 8 to 10 hours before suffering any branch end damage.
Freezing temperatures can make fruit dry and pithy. For a homeowner, the best bet is to cover your tree with a thick quilt or blanket. Frost cloth, which is lighter and easier to handle, can be purchased from most landscape supply shops. Watering the tree thoroughly early in the day before a cold night will also help prevent against branch end and fruit damage. If the tree is damaged by cold, resist the urge to trim the dead branches until spring (late March to early April). The damaged areas will actually help to absorb the brunt of future cold spells through the winter season. Removal of dead wood should be part of spring time maintenance, along with fertilization and spraying.
Burnett's Nursery 941-755-4962
Member of Manatee Chamber of Commerce and Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association