Lemon trouble

Hotchoccy(11b)February 13, 2013

hi all!
I'm a beginner gardener living in the UAE (very discouraging climate)
we have a trio of 10+ year old lemon trees who have never fruited in our yard (they don't get much care) I want to change that. Attached is a picture of one of the trees, they're thorny and scraggly. I fed them today with an all purpose plant food 14-10-27.
it's really hard to find advice specific to my climate. so any help/ recommendations are welcome ovo/

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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Wow, that looks like you're planting in nearly 100% sand? You may have to plant your citrus in raised beds, and add good organic planting material. Do you know what the salt content is in your soil? Your tree looks like it is very dry, and very undernourished. You're going to need to fertilize and water more frequently due to having excessively well draining soil. And, I would recommend mulching these older trees with compost to help improve the soil. 10 years without fruit is really excessively long. Improving organic matter in the soil and more fertilizer and water may help to revive your citrus trees.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:27AM
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it's desert sand. @_@ i'm not sure about the salt content and how to find that out. (i'd imagine it's relativly high since Dubai is a coastal desert?)
thank you for the advice ^^ I'll try it out!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:31AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

You might be able to find out from your local agricultural agency. They may also be able to tell you where you can send a soil sample to, to have it analyzed. And, if you have an ag office, you can ask how they grow citrus in your area. There may be commercial citrus growers that have found a way to grow citrus successfully in your soils.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 11:04AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

You should be able to contact your local university's botany, agriculture, or horticulture department depending on which is available for soil testing. You should get a full test in order to determine which nutrients you need to add.

I am in sand as well (86%). I fertilize in small amounts monthly to keep my trees from showing Nitrogen deficiency. It looks like your tree is showing some water stress as well, which isn't really that suprising considering your location. The problem with sand is that water goes right through the sand taking nutrients with it.

How was this tree grown? Was it started from seed or was it a commercially produced and grafted plant? The multiple trunk makes me wonder.

Definitely get some mulch and mulch the exposed soil on the property. It doesn't have to be fancy decorative bark or anything. Shredded yard waste from a tree trimming company is fine. And use a lot of it, like 15cm of depth. Just don't pile it up against the trunk. Considering you are in the UAE, I am a little curious as to which sorts of mulch are available.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 11:32AM
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I'll have to check but I do think I've seen the shredded bark type around.
how much would you suggest I water it?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 12:23PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I did some quick searching and it looks like you have agriculture extensions working with citrus over there. They are going to be your best resource for local knowledge about how much to water and cultivation practices for your environment.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 4:10PM
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really? my googling didn't turn up much. can you give me any names.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 4:33PM
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Call information and ask for the county agricultural agent. You need help if you're going to try to grow citrus in sand.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 5:02PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

try this

I would start here, and also contact the local university agriculture department.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 5:54PM
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Hoychoccy, nice to meet you from across the pond! It's nice to see people like you finf this forums from such far reagions.

I am curious. Have you ever seen anyone locally in your neck of the woods grow any citrus at all?
What do theirs look like if so?
What do you mean about the climate?
It looks like the Palms behind your tree are thriving in your region.

I would assume you would need a lot of nutrients for happy citrus.
I am wondering if there is other plants and trees that thrive in that sand?

Thanks and nice to meet you again.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 7:09PM
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well, they sell citrus at nurseries here and the Dubai Gardening Center has a webpage about them http://www.dubaigardencentre.shomabywindows.net/Articledetails.cfm?Productid=52
not sure about how the fruits will look though.. I don't know anyone growing lemons.
The climate.. well, It's a desert climate. horribly hot with thick fogs and high humidity in the morning. winter is basically milder weather with a chance of rain. no chance of rain in the summer, prone to drought. it never snows so growing any of those fruit trees that require a cold dormant period is out.
The palms are Date palms, they're native in the region and grow pretty well, they're a bit invasive too, I keep finding tiny palm fronds growing under my Lemon trees.
there's quite a few native plants, but besides the date palm (it's an export of ours) most of them are ignored by gardeners since they aren't very attractive. of the top of my head, I've seen tumbleweeds, Apple of sodoms, ghaf trees growing here naturally. there's also desert plants that only turn up after it rains and complete their life cycles in like a few weeks.
but gardening in the UAE is doable. in fact the topiary and flowers on the streets and in parks are very lush (our first Sheikh, Zayed, was pretty determined to turn the desert green.)
my grandmother has managed to grow mulberries, pomegranates, roses and jasmine.
so planting here is a bit of a battle but not an impossible one.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:39PM
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Citrus absolutely love desert climates; and you can grow them very well in sand... if you have water. With mostly sandy soil, you probably need to fertilize them 5-6 times per year, as the water quickly leaches the fertilizer below the 18 inches where most of the feeder roots live. If you can find them, get yourself a Meyer lemon or two; they will become your first love of citrus. FYI two of my 16,000 Meyers grow at the side of the ocean in black sand; they need a little more attention than my field Meyers; but are worth the trouble. When visitors come to our beach house and can have a Meyer lemon martini while lying in a hammock overlooking the Pacific Ocean, "a little more attention" is well rewarded

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 11:13PM
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Thanks for the vote of confidence, john! ^^
any idea how much to water them?
I realized that they sell fruit and citrus specific fertilizer at the gardening center, it's a bit of a drive but hopefully worth the effort, I'll try and drop by there today and maybe grab a bag of mulch too.
I'm honestly not sure what kind of lemons these are, they have thorns and are kinda bush sized so my best guess is Rough lemons.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 11:23PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

A good gardening rule of thumb is that if the plant is wilted during the day and doesn't perk up at night, water it. That said, once plant tissue reaches terminal wilt, it's dead so let's not try to let that happen. With sand, you will be watering a small amount, frequently because water passes throuh the root zone quickly. It's hard to say how often that will be because I don't grow in your location and soil. Pay attention to the plant. It will let you know when it needs water.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 3:25PM
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I've been growing for around 8 years in Utah but mostly in Charleston, South Carolina. Looks like, in my humble opinion, that the sand is doing the plant a disservice.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 11:23PM
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thank you all ^^
I bought some wood bark mulch and citrus fertilizer yesterday (Yates citrus lifter any good?) and i'll keep you updated on how the trees do.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 1:18AM
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I was wondering what you weather was like!

As for growing in sand, I believe John 100%!

You can grow plants if marbles if you fed them a constant supply of nutrients every day.
Many grow hydroponically and have much success.
I would think that sand would help anchor the tree in place while you provide all the nutrients for good growth.
It can be done.
Have a great day there.


    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 8:33AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Hotchoccy, you'll need to get some solid information about your soil situation before you can hope for success. If the sand is very fine textured, like flour or powder, you'll never be able to do much with it. Coarse textured sand has more possibilities, though that kind of soil is not at all physically stable....it shifts.

You'll also need to find out about the water table and the sodium content of the soil. Do you know what the pH is? What about the quality of the water that will be used?

I think that once you find the answers to those questions, you'll be in a much better place. You'll have to work with the sand because it's an almost impossible soil type to change.

Mike is right. We can grow our plants in almost anything...as long as the fundamental needs of plants are provided in the right balance: water, air, essential elements....and sunlight.

What are the typical nighttime temperatures? I'm curious.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 11:37AM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Keep adding organic matter! Composted kitchen waste, yard waste, cardboard, shredded paper, sawdust...

Citrus also do well with a little bit of human urine, but too much will kill it.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 5:53PM
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I don't think I'm ready to start peeing on my plants hahaha XD
Citruses are mulched and fertilized and hopefully receiving enough water.
I've found and contacted a place that does soil samples and will be doing business with them shortly. but I'm guessing it's on the alkaline side and kinda salty (I find shells in it sometimes)

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 11:16PM
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I have a Bokashi Bin that's full and the contents need a home. If you want to come to Sharjah and pick it up, it will make amazing fertilizer/compost in a few weeks time.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 6:20AM
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