Citrus tree spacing for espalier on South Wall

granburyflowergirl(7)May 29, 2010

I need help! I went to Lowe's yesterday and they had satsumas for $4.25 and 1/2 off all other citrus...I couldn't help myself, even though they aren't hardy in my zone, I came home with 9 plants and no real plan.

I figure I have 2 options:

1) buy a green house and keep them in pots or

2) plant them along the south wall of the house where I can sort of espalier them so they can be covered with burlap anchored to the wall to protect from cold and wind in the winter. (we get very strong winds that tend to blow covers off or rip them part out in the open).

I really want to go with option 2 but I don't have enough space for the regular recommended spacing, how close can I plant them to each other? And what else do I need to know? I have a pier and beam house with an 18" tall concrete wall around the perimeter. I also have a 3' wide raised bed along the entire south wall.

Thanks for any help/tips! Here is what I got:

1 mexican lime

4 satsumas: miho, brown select and 2 owaris

1 lemon drop

2 improved meyer lemons

1 orange (i cant remember the name)

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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Are they all standard size trees? I think I would keep them in pots so A) they stay smaller, and B) you can bring them into the garage during the winter. You could line the pots up against the wall, put them on a drip system, and you should be fine. I got these tiny citrus at Walmart 2 years ago like you, cheap! 2 are in the ground, and 2 are in containers about 16" across. This is their second year, and the grapefruit is getting huge in it's pot. There is no difference in size between the orange and the other two planted in the ground. Mine are Semi Dwarf.

We get big winds here also, but it hardly freezes. I have Christmas lights to help warm them up IF we get a freeze.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 10:41AM
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They are all dwarf/semi dwarf. Unfortunately, I do not have a garage so that isn't an option.

We get several freezes every year and last year I lost my Meyers lemon even with Christmas lights - that's why I thought maybe keeping them flat on a protected south wall with the option of anchored burlap might work.

I really need to know if there are issues with spacing them only 24" - 30" apart. Any help would be appreciated!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 8:56AM
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>>> I really need to know if there are issues with spacing them only 24" - 30" apart.

Well, not directly. Are you expecting more than a handful of fruit from each? Although never recommended, citrus *can* be planted very closely together if you plan on pruning them hedge style or if you only plant two real close, then let them grow away from each other. But IMO you're trying to fit them too close.

You didn't state this, but are you trying to single-level espalier on your 18" concrete wall?

If you go out there and draw on the wall a simple shape of the espalier form you are growing -- you'll realize 24" is a very, very small space. I frequently read "if you don't have much space, try espalier". But what they are really saying is if you have a "LONG rectangular size space". Without depth, you need more space for length or height. Even 30" apart means approx. 14" per branch, more like 9" once the tree thickens trunk and branch crotches reduce fruiting wood close to the trunk.

You could plant 48" from each other and espalier the branches at ALTERNATING levels. For multi-level, leave a bit more space vertically between branches than you would normally. This way you can have almost the full 48" for each branch, as each tree will grow into the other's space -- like when you mesh your fingers from one hand into the other hand.

You probably already realize but citrus fruit on the prior year wood. In many cases they will push out young branches and flower on them later, for more fruit production you can keep them like "short spurs", which is why I'd allow for more room when meshing them.

In any case, I'm not an espalier expert but I do understand your situation. That was such a great deal I probably would've done the same! But I'd just grow half of them in containers and espalier the rest without trying to go too close together. Or just bite the bullet and call them "gifts" that you couldn't turn down.

Our area doesn't carry ANY satsuma other than owari.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 2:53PM
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Honestly, I would try espaliering only the 4 satsumas against the south wall. I would plant them 1-1.5 feet away from the wall and at least 6 feet spacing between them. By espaliering, you are already eliminating two directions of growth (north and south)...if you reduce spacing any more than that, you would be reducing two more directions of growth (east and west).

I would seriously doubt that lime, lemon drop, meyer lemon, or orange would survive outside, even against a south wall. The lime and lemon drop will stay small enough that you can pot them up and bring it inside.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 4:09PM
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