Now is a good time to tend to citrus

(03/27/20) NEW ORLEANS — Many people in Louisiana have their own citrus tree. Whether it is a lemon, orange or the popular satsuma, people grow them to enjoy the fresh fruit the trees will provide in the coming fall and winter.

With many people looking for things to do at home, now is the time to do certain maintenance items on your citrus trees.

According to Anna Timmerman, a LSU AgCenter horticultural agent in the New Orleans area, it is not too late to fertilize, but it should be done fairly soon.

“We recommend one pound of 8-8-8 fertilizer for each year of age of the tree. However, you would not do that for newly planted trees, which should be fertilized in June,” Timmerman said.

The fertilizer should be placed within the dripline area of the tree, Timmerman said.

Another common problem this time of the year is rootstock emerging from below the graft of the tree. Many times there are no leaves accompanying the growth, but it is common to have thorns. Leaves that do emerge from this growth have three lobes and are Trifoliate Orange, an inedible variety.

“These can be removed now,” Timmerman said. “The warm weather is causing a flush of rootstock growth.”

While it is too late to prune or shape your tree, any dead branches should also be removed. Timmerman said to cut the dead branches back to the point new growth is emerging.

“It can take up to six months for cold-damaged limbs to show, especially if you live in an area that had a cold winter,” she said. “We really only had one severe cold snap in south Louisiana and that was in mid-November.”

Right now, many citrus trees are putting on their showy blooms. After they are finished blooming, the young fruit will be set on the tree. This fruit will need protection from insects such as rust mites.

“When the fruit gets to be about marble-sized, the trees can be treated from top to bottom with an all-season horticultural oil monthly until June,” Timmerman said. “This should prevent damage from rust mites.”

The recent stretch of warm and dry weather has put citrus slightly ahead of schedule. As we move toward late May, more frequent afternoon showers can cause some fungal diseases, such as scab.

Timmerman recommends treating with a fungicide labeled for citrus and follow the instructions. Around the first of June, a second, lighter application of fertilizer can be applied. Some fruit may also drop in June, which is normal as the tree will shed what it cannot support to maturity.

If backyard citrus growers want to maximize their enjoyment of fresh fruit in the coming months, now is a good time to give them some attention. The LSU AgCenter Louisiana Home Citrus Production guide is free as a PDF and is available by searching for it or visiting www.lsuagcenter.com. The Louisiana Citrus Growers Association also has a good page for home growers, available at www.louisianacitrus.org.

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A satsuma bloom on a backyard citrus tree. Now is the time to do some maintenance on your tree to ensure fresh fruit this fall and winter. Photo by Craig Gautreaux/LSU AgCenter

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A cluster of young lemons on a backyard citrus tree. According Anna Timmerman, extension horticulture agent in Jefferson Parish, once the fruit on your trees is marble-sized, you can apply an all-season horticultural oil monthly until June to protect from insects such as rust mites. Photo by Craig Gautreaux/LSU AgCenter

3/27/2020 6:17:34 PM
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