Citrus seedlings

AT2013March 13, 2014

Hey all!

So back in the middle of August, I received some delightful backyard oranges. I don't know the variety, all that they were thin skinned, both sweet and tart, and only 2-3" big.

Now I know very well rarely anything grows true from seed, so spare me the mini lecture. I just thought it would be fun to grow a few from seed. Oh how little did I think at the time. Now I've got 9 seedlings or trees (?) each about a foot big and with many leaves.

A few weeks ago they did look yellow so I just gave them more sun and water. They spent the last six or seven months under a plastic milk container that had their bottoms cut out with the top open for air. They've been without their covers for nearly two weeks now and everything's fine.

I did a transplant of all of them into bigger pots since then. Not too big though and watered them after I sprinkled used coffee grounds onto the surface of their pots. I used a potting material that's very light and fluffy and drains quickly and holds onto moisture but not wetness.

Now I've got a question. How do I post these mini trees so they don't break with a strong wind and when to their trunks thicken up a little? The bottom of the plants have this slight woody look on the outside of them, similar to my three year old pepper plants.

Also for yellowing, the coffee grounds seemed to help but I can't tell. Could be the new soil which has those fertilizer beads in it. It's either nitrogen or lack of acid in the soil. Any idea what it could be? I'm under the impression their growth is severely stunted having grown mostly in the shade or am I on track here?

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Hey AT;

I wouldn't worry about the wind; the seedlings don't have enough leaves/wind resistance to really be harmed. Had several out in tropical storm force winds recently; and all were unscathed. If anything, I think the constant flexing with wind would really thicken up the stem.

The yellowing is probably from overwatering if I had to guess. I let the top soil layer get bone dry before watering (the root layer will still be slightly damp). Probably every 2nd or 3rd day out in the tropical sun here.

Don't know about coffee grounds; don't use them myself.

Good luck with your seedlings!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 3:40PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

AT, actually, most citrus DO grow true to type, if you're growing the first and strongest (clone) seedling that came up from each seed. Photos help. Yellowing (chlorosis) is due to lack of nutrients, mainly Nitrogen. Overwatering and a soggy soil can also contribute to yellowing, but without photos, can't really tell you what's going on. What are you using for fertilizer, and how frequently are you fertilizing your seedlings? Skip the coffee grounds, not doing anything for your trees. You should be using a well draining potting mix - you can search this forum for either Gritty Mix of 511 mix to come up with a better potting mix than what I am suspecting you're using. You can use bamboo stakes to gently support your small seedlings so a strong wind gust doesn't snap them, but as their trunks become more woody, you'll want to loosen the ties so the trunks do move. It is what thickens and strengthens the trunks. Eventually, you'll want to unstake them entirely, and possibly pinch the leader off to encourage lateral growth. Again, can't really advise you better without seeing your trees.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 2:41PM
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Thanks for the advice. I'll try to get a picture once I get my camera to work. I did feed them some miracle grow generic I had laying around just to see if it was nitrogen. This was several days ago. I made a weak mix and watered the planters. Just checked on them and they're green. What yellowing I did see is now gone. When they were under the milk containers I'd water them once a week, but now I just water them when the top quarter ot half inch of potting mix is dry. I use a good draining potting mix but one that retains some moisture in the mix for roots. We're having a small heatwave here in SoCal so I've positioned them all only to get about 5 hours of direct sunlight a day so they don't burn.

When do I pinch off the tops for lateral growth? I was thinking of doing it when the trees are around 4 ft. tall?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 1:09AM
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No need to pinch; the growth tips are pretty tender, and chances are the main leader growth tip will eventually get zapped out by the sun and get pruned naturally so to speak. the one time I did pinch, I regretted it because the lateral growth occurred at the very base of the plant and was therefore essentially useless.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 1:40AM
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Oh I see. I'm going to presume it allowed critters to get to the fruit or fruit to touch ground and rot? The tallest of trees is about 13.5 or 14 inches now. I just looked at its tiny trunk and am quite proud of myself for not letting a single one die.

I also planted 4 out of 90 cherimoya/custard apple seeds that sprouted via baggy method today. They're under milk cartons in styrofoam cups since they insulate better from heat and cold. Two to a cup and hopefully all turn out strong and I can divy them up. They were put in the baggy on Oscars night, so just shy of 3 weeks before they germinated.

My store bought papaya which I then grew from seed after eating the fruit is doing alright. It gave off some wonderful fruit last year but it did take some rain damage and I've been very careful nursing it back to full health.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 8:58PM
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Exactly; you only control height when you get to the height you want your first (and lowest) permanent branch to be at. But the seedlings have such tender growth tips, that they get zapped by the summer sun easily, way before that height would ever be reached. So for an outdoor citrus seedling (even if it's just for the summer), height control is mostly a moot point.

And that's right, the problem with forcing low branching is that they would have to be removed eventually anyway, so why bother.

Grafts on the other hand usually have more resistant growth tips and may be to be pinched when the time comes; 3-4 feet is a good bet if it gets to be that.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 11:43PM
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Thanks farm. My apologies for getting back so late to this thread. I've been swamped at work.

Now I had another question. How often should I be giving the seedlings fertilizer? I looked at my fertilizers from miraclegrow to fish/seaweed to citrus ones, and all of them say 2-4 weeks. I know nitrogen is important for young seedlings, or at least I'd like to think so, but any recommendation as to how often they should be fed? They're now uncovered and enjoying the slightly cold socal nights and warm daytime with some wind.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 4:02AM
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tcamp30144(7B N.ATLANTA)

Do u have pics

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 12:30PM
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honeybunny442(z6 TN)

Citrus also like a bit of liquid iron, that will help with the yellow leaves. Have you figured out what citrus you have? Sounds almost like kumquats by the size.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 1:27PM
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I'll see what I can scrounge up this week. It's got petioles, all of them. I'm sure that limits the amount of varieties it could be.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 11:06PM
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