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Citrus in Western Australia

Author

Neville Passmore

Published

9 December 2019

If you only find room for one fruiting tree in your WA garden then look first at the citrus family. There is a heap of choice, all rich in antioxidants and vitamin C; and you can pick some of the most delicious fruit on the planet from your own back yard. While there's many different citrus you can grow the most popular by far is the lemon - can't beat it for summer entertaining drinks.

Citrus for Small Gardens

When I was a kid most lemon trees grew to about 4 metres high and a bit wider. With smaller gardens and balcony gardens today, there are tricks to keep trees smaller and more manageable. 

  • Prune your tree once or twice a year to enable you to pick the fruit without using a ladder. Prune in Spring & Autumn, they are susceptible to sunburn in Summer.
  •  Grow in pots - this automatically keeps them small. You will need to re-pot the tree every two years and always go for a top of the line potting mix
  • Espalier - grow trees beside a sunny wall and train them to grow flat and thin in a style called espalier. 
  • Grow dwarf varieties - one of the best innovations is a dwarf lemon such as "Lots O Lemons", miniature citrus with a mature height of 1.5 to 2 metres.

    

Citrus Planting & Maintenance

All of WA is ideal for growing citrus - you just need to make sure you get the variety that suits your climate as most citrus won't tolerate frosts. If you live in a cold part of WA,  grow in pots and move your tree to a warm spot during the winter months. 

  • Pick a warm, sunny spot if planting in the garden. All citrus must be grown in full sun otherwise they will not fruit and will be susceptible to disease and insect attack. 
  • Citrus don't like heavy soil and need to drain freely around the lower root system. Once they get waterlogged the leaves go yellow, drop off and then gradually die back. Improve soils with quality compost, like Baileys Soil Improver Plus before planting. 
  • Citrus make great potted plant. Use Baileys Premium Potting Mix and have the pot raised off the ground to allow for drainage.
  •  All citrus trees are surface feeders and do not like root competition from trees or shrubs. They need to be fed little and often every three months. Use a quality all purpose granular fertiliser like Baileys Soil Matters Garden. 
  • Citrus can suffer from trace element deficiencies of iron, manganese, magnesium and zinc. For this apply a foliar feed to the tree every two months on top of the granular fertiliser. Baileys Vitaplant is perfect. 
  • Citrus are shallow rooted, so one of the keys to success is applying a 50-75m layer of a fully composted mulch, like Baileys Moisture Mulch to citrus year round.
  • Citrus generally do not require a great amount of pruning. Complete to keep the tree to a manageable size, remove diseased, weak or rubbing branches. Remove any shoots coming from below the graft on grafted trees. These are called suckers and will weaken the strength of the tree. This removal promotes growth of the grafted variety only.

Common Citrus Problems

  • Citrus leaf minor - curly leaves with squiggly lines shows your tree has been hit with Citrus leaf minor.  Spray new growth with an organic oil based spray such as Eco-Oil. Ensure good coverage to top and bottom of leaves and spray every 5-14 days whenever new growth is present  
  • Gall wasps - these insects lay eggs in the stem causing swelling.  Best treated by cutting the swelling off and throw in the bin so the eggs don't hatch and cause more troubles. 
  • Fruit fly will attack citrus so prepare for their arrival with traps, baits and netting if required.
  • Don't leave fallen fruit on the ground or hanging branches where the fruit touches the soil, you are asking for fungal diseases to enter the tree.
  • If your citrus is dropping it's leaves it may be waterlogged, over-fertilised, heat stressed or have a disease such as collar rot.

Choosing a Citrus Variety 

If you are thinking of planting a few different citrus you will need to know the season the fruit matures. This is determined by many factors including weather patterns, the health of the tree, nutrient availability and the variety.

  • Navel oranges mature from May to September.
  • Lanes Late and Valencia oranges mature from September to March.
  • Eureka, Lemonade and Lisbon lemons fruit on and off all year round.
  • Meyer lemons fruit mostly from June to September.
  • Mandarins mature from April to October, depending on the variety.
  • Native finger limes can fruit on and off at different times of the year depending on the climate and variety.
  • Tangelos mature from July to November.
  • Grapefruit mature from June to December.
  • Tahitian limes fruit from June to September 
  • West Indian limes on and off all year.

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