Spring Care For Your Citrus

   Citrus are the pride and joy of the sunshine states.  These wonderful evergreen plants have bright green foliage, fragrant flowers and colorful tasty fruit. They are valuable as ornamental landscape plants as well as for their delicious fruit. They can be used as hedges, espaliers and specimen trees and they also make excellent container plants.  Here at Evergreen Nursery we grow over 50 varieties of citrus including oranges, lemons, grapefruits, limes, tangerines, kumquats, calamondins and tangelos.  They are not difficult to grow and, once their cultural needs are understood, you will be able to grow lots of yummy fruit.  For smaller gardens, Evergreen Nursery has over 30 varieties of dwarf citrus that, if cared for properly, will be fruitful for years.  Many varieties produce fruit all year round. A regular feeding regimen is recommended.
      It is best to begin a regular feeding program in the springtime. For the best results, fertilize with an all-purpose fertilizer such as Gro-Power every 4-6 weeks throughout the season.  Spread the fertilizer evenly, beginning 6 to 12 inches from the trunk and extend it a little beyond the canopy, then water thoroughly.  This schedule provides the nutrients  for your citrus, yet avoids burning the plants, especially those in containers, due to over-fertilization.
      It is beneficial to add some additional nutrients. Spray foliage with a formula supplying chelated iron, zinc and manganese.  Micronutrient deficiencies are more common in container grown citrus and therefore they require more frequent applications.
      In hot inland areas you may want to protect young trees from sunburn in the summer by painting exposed trunks with white exterior latex paint or whitewash.
      There are a few pests or diseases that cause problems in home garden citrus, so a preventative spraying program is usually necessary.  The three major pests that can damage citrus in the springtime are snails, aphids and spider mites.  To get rid of snails it will be necessary to bait or hand-pick them.  Blast off aphids or spider mites with your garden hose.  It may be necessary to spray aphids with an insecticidal soap or spray for spider mites with a dilute solution of dormant oil spray or miticide.  Avoid spraying fruit or flowers directly and always follow the manufacturer’s directions. 
       A new pest that seems to be a problem most of the year is called Citrus Leafminer. If you have a citru
s tree now, you probably already know about this pesky bug. The insect enters into the leaf and tunnels around, deforming the leaf and  making trails on the leaf’s  surface. It turns your beautiful, shiny citrus leaves into  stranged-shaped curly messes.  The good news is that it does not really affect the fruit or the tree’s overall vigor, except that the new growth is deformed and in most cases cut off.  Removing the affected leaves is normally a good control method, but by doing so, you are, in effect, pruning the tree which will cause it to get thicker but not taller.  To help control the insect and allow for more overall growth, start applying Spinosad when signs of trails are noticed on the leaf. 
       In general, to keep citrus beautiful requires little pruning.  Pruning mature trees should be confined almost entirely to removing dead, diseased or broken branches unless of course you need to keep the tree small because of limited space.  Cut it back to suit your needs in late spring and bear in mind that fruit may be limited that year.  Wait to prune large, frost-damaged limbs until mid summer because food stored in leaves and twigs is greatest in the spring.  Remove vigorous root suckers as they appear to control growth.
            About a month after the last big rain or when the soil dries several inches deep, start watering regularly.  Citrus plants are very sensitive to soggy soil but need a constant supply of moisture.

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