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Planting Citrus

Now is a great time to plant citrus in your garden, but with so many varieties how can you be sure which ones are going to grow the juiciest lemons, the tangiest limes, or have mandarins which are easy to peel? This week, Tony took out the guess work for us, and revealed his planting tips to get the most out of your citrus. 

In the ground:

Tony chose the following citrus to plant in the ground thanks to their hardy nature and the fact that they can be grown throughout NZ.

Lemon, Meyer:

This is the most popular lemon for the home garden. It's also the hardiest lemon variety and fruits heavily year after year. Once the tree is established it will fruit all year round.

Orange, Harwoods Late (a variety of Valencia):

In NZ, Harwoods Late is the main commercial-variety of Valencia orange. It has high yields of juicy, thin-skinned fruit with excellent flavour. Full size trees will grow to approx. 4m high. Fruits Nov-March (spring through to early autumn)

Grapefruit, Golden Special:

This variety produces big fruit with juicy sweet flavour and not too many seeds. It produces lots of fruit from July-November.

Process of planting in the ground:

  1. Dig a hole approximately twice the depth and width of the root ball of your tree and partly fill with Tui Garden Mix
  2. Fill a bucket with water and add two capfuls of Seasol - a seaweed based plant tonic which will promote strong root growth and reduce transplant shock
  3. Place the tree (still in its bag) in the bucket of Seasol and soak for a few minutes until bubbles stop appearing
  4. Remove tree from the bucket, remove it from its bag or container and then gently loosen the root ball of the tree
  5. Place the tree in the centre of the hole and fill in with Tui Garden Mix
  6. It's a good idea to stake when planting as citrus don't like having their roots disturbed, so staking will help support the tree
  7. Press soil firmly around the tree
  8. Water your tree well
Planting Citrus Planting Citrus Planting Citrus

In pots:

All types of citrus trees can be grown in a pot, but for the best results grow dwarf varirties. This is particularly suitable if you live in colder parts of NZ as you can move the pots around to catch the sun, then move them under shelter or inside to avoid frost.

Mandarin, Satsuma, Miho:

There are several varieties of Satsuma, but Tony chose to plant a dwarf Miho because it has heavy crops of sweet, juicy, mild flavoured, seedless fruit. Even on a small plant it can be smothered in fruit. They're also easy to peel so perfect for the kids to pick off the tree and straight into the lunchbox. As an added bonus, it fruits in winter.

Lime (Tahitian):

This is not the only variety of lime that can be grown in a pot - all dwarf limes can. The fruit is great for both refreshing drinks and for cooking, with the extra benefit of highly scented flowers and foliage. The fruit gradually turns yellow when fully ripe - this is when it's at its juiciest. But if you want that really tangy-lime flavour, pick the fruit when it's green. Fruits in June-August (winter) 

Process of planting in pots:

  1. Fill a bucket with water and add two capfuls of Seasol -- a seaweed based plant tonic which will promote strong root growth and reduce transplant shock
  2. Place the tree (still in its bag) in the bucket of Seasol and soak for a few minutes until bubbles stop appearing
  3. Partly fill your pot with Tui Pot Power
  4. Remove tree from the bucket, remove it from its bag or container and then gently loosen the root ball of the tree and position the plant in the centre of the container
  5. Fill your container with Tui Pot Power up to 3cm from the top
  6. Tap the container gently on the ground to settle the mix
  7. Press soil gently around base of plant
  8. Water your plant well
Planting Citrus Planting Citrus Planting Citrus

Points to note about citrus:

  • Citrus prefer sunny, sheltered, frost free sites with deep well drained soil.
  • It's fine to plant several citrus in one bed, you just need to make sure they have enough room between them. 
  • Full sized trees should be planted about 3 metres apart.
  • If you can, choose grafted citrus trees. Grafting is when a bud (or shoot) of a plant is inserted into a slit in the stem of another plant, in which it continues to grow. Grafting makes the plant more hardy -- meaning you will have a lot more success when you grow it in your garden 
  • Most citrus varieties are self-fertile so can be planted alone and fruit will be produced. Take care when planting seedless varieties like Mandarin Miho with other citrus trees as despite the variety being seedless they can form seeds if cross pollinated with another variety flowering at the same time.
  • Remove all the fruit produced in the first year to promote the growth of the tree -- it will pay dividends in the future!
  • Put decorative pebbles around the base of the trees in the pots to ensure the roots of the plant stay cool and moist during summer. This will help produce really juicy fruit.
  • One of the biggest tips for growing citrus in pots is to change the potting mix regularly i.e. after three or four seasons re-pot into straight sided pots. 

More on this project:

The following Tui products were used in this project:

  • Seasol
  • Tui Garden Mix
  • Tui Pot Power

Click here to get the Tui step by step guide for this project and information on the products used. 

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