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The secret to citrus success

If you are reading this, somewhere inside you there is a special place that longs to uncover the secrets of the mighty citrus. Life is a Garden invites you on a juicy journey to the epicentre of this stunning fruit. Learn about ornamental varieties, decorating, utilising leftovers, citrus for your province, and gossip-worthy growing hacks. Let’s go!

What’s so great about growing your own?

  • Health wealth: The high quantity of Vitamin C boosts the immune system and keeps skin smooth and elastic. Citrus are also loaded with B vitamins, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, and copper. Tending to your trees is a super stress reliver and a chance to get active in the sunshine.
  • Year-round food: Growing a variety of cultivars that fruit at different times of the year allow you to spread out and extend your harvest window. With the right cultivars and planning, you can grow citrus almost all year round!
  • Organic & eco-friendly: Growing your own has the added benefit of product control. If organic produce and eco-friendly growing is top on your list, a citrus plantation is definitely for you.
  • More money, more C power: Most citrus trees begin producing fruit even as adolescent plants. Once established, their large yields will save your family and the community a significant amount of money, while also providing possible forms of income, depending on what you choose to do with your harvest (resell or jam making, for example). 

Garden jargon check: The word ‘cultivar’ refers to a plant within that specie that has been specifically developed through controlled plant breeding. A citrus cultivar is therefor a specifically bred variation of this plant ‘created’ to deliver a special purpose, such as to produce more fruit or grow smaller.

Ornamentals on the patio

These sweet trees are the ideal patio décor asset! As long as they receive good direct sunlight throughout the day with correct fertilising, watering, and soil – you can’t go wrong (maintenance hacks shared below). Add a pop of colour to your patio or show off your topiary skills with some funky pruning designs. Citrus can also be espaliered along a wall or fence to hide or screen and area.

Top ornamental citrus picks: Calamondin, kumquat, and chinotto.

Claim to fame: Masses of white, pungently citrus-fragranced flowers that develop into cute little orange fruit throughout most of the year. These three lovelies have a compact, bush-like growth habit, making them simply perfect additions for container planting and small space gardening.

A handy hack: When transplanting your tree into it’s forever home, pick a container that is twice the size of the one you purchased it in,

Garden jargon check: Ornamental plants are those which are specifically grown for their beauty factor, and not for their by-products, for example. Ornamental citrus trees are bread and grown for their unique decorative qualities, such as scented flowers or extra bright fruit.

Suited citrus for your province

  • Northern Cape: Grapefruits
  • Eastern Cape: Lemons, oranges, and naartjies
  • Western Cape: Naartjies
  • Mpumalanga: Oranges, lemons, and naartjies
  • North West: Lemons and naartjies
  • Gauteng: Lemons and oranges
  • Limpopo: Lemons, oranges, and naartjies
  • KwaZulu Natal: Limes, lemons, and oranges

Something to look forward to: Dwarf citrus trees are not currently produced on a large scale for retail, BUT – the guys at Heuers Nursery will be releasing their range of small splendours next year in 2023! Keep your eyes peeled!

Love your leftovers

To successfully utilise your leftover citrus, check out these zesty tips: 

  • Never add whole fruit to your compost. Cut up any fruit before adding it to the heap to prevent a secondary infestation of pesky pests such as fruit flies, fungus, and citrus black spot.
  • Avoid using spoiled fruit as mulch – this will also attract unwanted insects.
  • Citrus will not harm your worms in the worm farm, they just take a long time to be eaten.
  • Experiment with making oils and preserves to share with your family and the community. Why not donate some of your harvest to those in need who can ither fill their own tummies or their corner spaza shop, which in turn will fill even more tummies!

Gossip-worthy growing hacks

We’ve consulted our industry experts and they’ve shared these awesome trade secrets with us:

  • Overwatering is the biggest citrus killer. At the end of winter, restrict watering as much as possible, which will cause plants to stress and produce more flowers, resulting in more fruit for the next season.
  • Pick the flowers off your tree for the first year or two. This will allow the plant to put its energy into becoming a bigger and stronger tree with larger crops in the years that follow.
  • Always remember to plant your citrus tree at the same level as it was planted in the nursery container.
  • Drainage is also very important. Make sure that all trees (in the ground or containers) have well-draining soil. If planting in the open ground, avoid soils that have a high clay content in them. Citrus trees can suffer from root diseases, and this is normally brought on by a combination of overwatering and poor drainage. Before potting your citrus, add a layer of coarse gravel or rock to the bottom of the container to prevent the holes from clogging up.
  • On older trees, thin out the old branches in the centre of the tree. This will help bring in light and air movement to the inner part of the tree.
  • Feed your citrus with Bio Ocean every month from August to November (available at your GCA Garden Centre).

Grab a ready-to-go tree: Lemon eureka and lemon navels are just two top citrus trees that you can find at Montana Nurseries. The friendly staff will help you choose the right container, soil, and fertiliser for your new citrus – it’s go on and grow from there!

Pest alert

Your GCA Garden Centre has both chemical and eco-friendly pest control products to choose from. If you are unsure about which insect is causing the infection, take a close up photo of your plant and show it to your knowledgeable nursery staff member. The chances are that of these are the culprit:

  • Red spider mite
  • Leaf miner
  • Scale
  • Psylla

With so much information at your green fingertips, we hope that your citrus adventure brings you so much joy and lots of juice!

Source: Life is a Garden