Fertilizing Organic Citrus Trees

joncha(9a)February 3, 2014

I am new to this forum and I am trying to get some informed opinions regarding fertilizing my organic citrus trees.

My in ground citrus trees have been in the ground between 2 and 5 years.

I spent a lot of time, energy and money trying to create good organic citrus growing soil out of hard compacted clay. Hundreds of pounds of gypsum and various organic amendments were added to the soil and the planting holes.

My fertilizing program for the last 4 years has been organic fertilizers worked into the top soil concentrated around the drip line. Last year I used a product called Dry Crumbles which worked well but caused my dogs to dig holes in my landscaping. It is probably the chicken manure and/or the bone meal contained in that product which is attracting them.

This year I am considering a hybrid fertilization strategy using half strength Foliage Pro on the leaves and then using organic cottonseed meal in the soil to stay consistent with organic farming. I believe cottonseed is around 7-1-2 and slightly acidifies the soil which citrus might like. I am also hoping cottonseed meal will not attract my dogs as much as manure and bone meal based products and would be less harmful to them if they actually ate it.

Any suggestions or friendly critiques would be appreciated. jon

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I think one of the best organic fertilizers is called Citrus Tone; look for it... a bit pricey, but a very good product. You might also look for a bio product called Azospirilum Brasilense; google it if you want to see what it is and how it works. I have it naturally, but in clay soils it is less common.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 6:39PM
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If you have any local sources, some good old-fashion manure works great. Horse, goat, rabbit, and even alpaca manure won't burn your plants if you place it around the drip line. Be careful of introducing unwanted weeds.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 10:13PM
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Thanks for info.

I tried citrus tone before. It worked well. I believe it is more of a soil conditioner than a fertilizer although it does deliver NPK.

I believe it has chicken manure as a source of N and some kind of bone meal as a source of P. Has alot of organic smell.

I care about my trees but I care about my dogs more. I had to take a sick dog to the vet a couple of years ago after eating organic fertilizer so I am wary of any product with the word "Organic" in it..

I am leaning towards half strength FP on the leaves and either half strength organic 5-1-1 liquid fish solution (if I can find it) or organic cottonseed meal around the drip line. Jon

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 10:32PM
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I would avoid all products with bone meal. They tend to contain too much phosphorous, in addition to causing a problem with the dogs. Citrus can not handle high phosphorous the way veggies need to be fertilized. You will also be loosing your micro metals being locked up as insoluble phosphates, particularly if there is high calcium in the subsoil, creating high pH. Observe construction sites for yellow clay indicating limonite (complex iron) and limey nodules.

Cottonseed meal is what I used to add to Nature's Way 6-2-4, to control costs. It is a cheap organic extender and good source of nitrogen. You need more K though. If you can afford the NW 6-2-4, that is the best organic we have on the upper Texas coast. The formulation was given to San Jacinto Environmental by a long time citrus growing expert near Pearland TX. Alfalfa meal, a key ingredient, has to be sky high now. I have never seen hay disappear like it is going away now. I may have to use cottonseed meal again, this year.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 8:30PM
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I made a mistake. Not Natures Way 6-2-4, it is Microlife.

Nature's Way is the brand name of the best organic soil condition mulch we have. And a good mulch made from twigs with a high cambium layer to wood ratio delivers a huge amount of what you need in your soil. If you add an inch or two every few years, you can forget about phosphorus, minor and micro nutrients. Manure can do some of that. But it is best for veggies. Use twig based mulches for citrus and other trees.

Natures Way also makes the only citrus potting mix for use in our area.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 9:28PM
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Thank you for the info.

I will look into that product.

When I originally added organic fish bone meal and other Ph products to the planting holes and the surrounding soil I was trying to help the young trees develop a strong root system to deal with the extreme desert like heat which begins in early June and ends in late Sept. in my growing area. I was also hoping that developing a deep root system early on would help conserve precious water over time.

Obviously there is a lot about growing organic citrus which I don't know.

That's what great about the internet and a forum like this.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 10:07PM
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I decided to follow john oranges' suggestion. I worked around 1/3 of a cubic foot of Home Depot chicken manure per tree around the drip line of my in ground organic citrus trees.

This is one of my favorite trees, a semi dwarf rio red grapefruit. I am happy it got thru the winter without any damage.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 10:15PM
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joncha, be careful not to dig too deep around your citrus....it has shallow feeder roots you don't want to hurt. It looks like what ever you are doing is working for you though....pretty trees and looks like you are getting fruit. FYI, on the manure I mentioned a while back, johnmerr has advised me that horse manure isn't really all that good in terms of nutrients. Maybe it just doesn't give up its nutrients fast enough since a large percentage of it is just grass stems. On another subject, how do you keep the grass and weeds out of your plots? I am not strictly organic but I try to stay away from chemicals as much as I can without having to resort to hand pulling grass and weeds. Folks here say citrus really needs to have the grass pulled back at least to the drip line to keep it from stealing nutrients from your trees.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 12:18AM
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Thanks for the response. I didn't dig too deep. Maybe down 2 inches max. I used chicken manure because that is what was available at Home Depot. I would like to find a local organic source but I don't know where to look.

I hand pulled all the weeds etc⦠on this specific tree. On the other side of my property where most of my trees reside I put down landscape fabric and covered it with bark as a mulch. I keep the mulch a couple of feet from the trunks of the trees. I periodically inspect my trees and hand pull the weeds inside the boundary of the fabric and mulch.

It gets very hot in my growing area and the addition of the mulch has really improved the health and appearance of my trees. Keeping the soil cool during the dead of summer seems to be a big plus. It also helps me conserve the precious and expensive water I use.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 11:49AM
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