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How to keep your citrus trees thriving

How to keep your citrus trees thriving

How to keep your citrus trees thriving

For advice on how to help keep your citrus trees healthy and producing tasty fruit, we spoke to Gisborne-based Fruitfed Supplies Technical Horticultural Representative, Wynne MacLellan. With Gisborne the main citrus growing region of New Zealand, we knew Wynne would have some gems to share!

The main citrus fruits grown here in New Zealand are lemons, limes, oranges and mandarins including satsuma. Wynne says the most common varieties are:

  • Lemons: Yen Ben and Meyer (an orange/lemon hybrid)
  • Oranges: Navel and Valencia
  • Mandarins: Miho and Kawano satsumas (both fruit at the beginning of the season). Older variety, Silverhill is known for its yummy taste, just note there’s a few pips to contend with.
  • Limes: Tahitian, Kaffir, Mexican and Bearss. 

Choosing what variety to grow, according to Wynne, comes down to what you’d like to eat rather than selecting a variety to match your climate. Note, you need a warm climate to grow citrus as they’re subtropical fruits with satsumas, for instance, being picked through winter

“Citrus trees are easy to grow, making them a good option for your home orchard,” says Wynne. “I have Yen Ben lemon trees, a lime tree, three Silver Hill mandarin trees and two Navel orange trees at home and together they keep me in citrus for most of the year.”

Adding a new citrus tree to your home orchard? Wynne says the timing of when to plant isn’t important, rather your choice of location. Choose a site that receives plenty of sun with soil that offers good drainage. Avoid planting trees too close together. Wynne says space mandarin trees at least two metres apart and orange trees three metres apart.

Regularly prune, says Wynne, keeping the middle of the tree open to allow plenty of light to travel to the centre. By doing so, floral buds will grow on the inside of the tree, resulting in more fruit. As well, by not allowing the tree to become too dense, the incidences of sooty mould and citrus white fly will be reduced.

Pruning serves another purpose too. By lightly pruning and removing some of the fruitlets, Wynne says this will promote the remaining fruit to grow to a good size. A tree will not sustain all the fruitlets it produces, so thinning is vital so you can enjoy well-developed, tasty fruit.

For a range of pruning tools to help make the task easy, head online to the PGG Wrightson store and choose from our range of secateurs, pruning saws and loppers.

Feed your trees! Fertilise regularly in spring and autumn, says Wynne, using a citrus fertiliser such as Tui’s Citrus Mix or Tui’s Citrus Food. To help protect the trees from a magnesium deficiency that causes yellowing leaves, try Tui’s Epsom Salts Magnesium Sulphate.

Top tips:

  • Feed your trees in spring and autumn.
  • Water your trees regularly through spring and summer, right through to March when the fruit has reached the size you’re after. Watering is an important ingredient in determining the fruit’s size and supports a bountiful crop.
  • Lightly prune ensuring light travels to the centre of the tree as this will discourage insect pests and disease that love the dark. Thin the tree of some of its fruitlets too so the remaining fruit reaches a good size.

View our range of gardening supplies available online now. To learn about the common issues that affect citrus trees, and how to prevent them, read here.