New to citrus - Growing Satsuma in container

drtenochtitlanApril 1, 2010

After doing a little bit of research, I have decided to attempt growing an Owari Satsuma in a container on my south facing patio. I live in Tuscaloosa, AL, which is Zone 7b. I am a *complete* beginner when it comes to citrus, as I spent most of my life in Minnesota. I've gleaned a bit of information from here and other sites, but now I have some more specific questions that confused me during my research.

1) I bought my Owari Satsuma at Lowes. It's about 2 feet tall, looks nice and healthy, and came in a black plastic 5-gallon container. I realize that the black plastic probably isn't going to be very good for the roots, since it will heat up easily, but how should I go about transplanting it? Does it even need to be transplanted this year? I need some very *specific* instructions on what type of soil or planting mix I should use, and how to find it, how the mix should be placed into the pot, as well as the size of the pot. Should I step up to a 10 gallon pot next (perhaps something in a light colored plastic or terracotta)?

2) What do I need to be doing regarding fertilizer? What *specific* fertilizers do I need to use, in what amounts, and how often? Where can I find these fertilizers? Will this change in the winter?

3) We're just a little bit too far north here in Tuscaloosa to grow citrus outside year round. We only have average lows in the 30s during December and January, although we will get freezes every second or third day or so in February and March. Occasional freezes are possible in November and April. That said, the average high remains a very reasonable 56 F even in January, with stretches where it might be in the 40s for highs for a number of days. When I bring it in, it will be to an enclosed breezeway that was turned into a sort-of sunroom. It has a heat duct from the house in it, and it won't go below freezing inside, but it may get into the 30s and 40s inside if it gets into the teens outside since it's not that well insulated. It has a couple of big south facing windows in it. So... my question is, do I need to winter my Satsuma indoors in the sunroom, or should I just bring it into the sunroom during the night and during exceptionally rare cold snaps? (For example, we had about 15 days in a row this year where it never made it above 40, and lows were around 12, but that is *very* unusual).

4) When it rains in Alabama, it tends to utterly POUR (sometimes 3-4 inches in an hour). If it seems like we're setting up for a stretch of rain (which can happen in the spring), do I need to take any precautions to make sure the tree doesn't get overwatered, or can it handle the occasional deluge?

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Andrew Scott

Citrus can be a little difficult but as long as you do a few things you should be fine. I would simply lift the tree out of the pot and see if the roots are rootbound. If you notice roots coming out the bottom of the pot then it needs to be repotted. Citrus require a feast draining mixture that isn't going to hold water. They can suffer from root rot fairly fast. Several people here use Al's gritty m ix or a variation of it. Judt don't use any potting soil, even if it says that it is good for citrus. I tried something similiar. I used it for a dwarf moro blood orange and a dwarf keylime. A few weeks ago I noticed that my blood orange was losing leaves, and the stems were turning black. I almost lost it, but the second I changed the soil to a bark mix, it recovered and then some! I would use a black plastic container. The heat will not hurt the tree and it actually will help dry the soil out. Citrus are heavy feeders. I would check the Lowe's were you bought the tree at. If they sell citrus, then they should have citrus fertilizer. I managed ti get my hands on bag and that is what I use with a combination of Foliage Pro and a also a teaspoon of white vinegar per gallon of water. The vinegar helps to keep the ph in the acidic range which the citrus require. If you can't find a citrus fertilizer look for something high in Nitrogen. i also use a product similiar to Super Thrive. Some people here don't think it helps any but it helped my keylime tremedously. When it comes to the cold temps, I would be very carefull with any temps that go below 32. I won't risk it myself but some people say that they can handle 30. I keep my citrus indoors by then so I don't know if it would hurt or not. As long as you can keep it in your sun room with temps above 30 you should be fine. If they temps get much cooler, the tree may go dormant. Not dropping leaves or fruit, but not really growing. That should help you a little and I am sure there will be more people that can help you. I wish I could go to my Lowe's and buy citrus trees like that!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 6:25PM
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It's looking like I may have to replant, since my pot is retaining a lot of water at the bottom and the leaves are beginning to curl. I've owned the tree for four days, and it hasn't been watered since I bought it. I'm trying to get the ingredients for Al's Gritty Mix. Is this the correct formula?

1 part pine of fir bark fines, 1/2" to 1/4" size (available at Lowe's as "soil conditioner")
1 part Turface MVP (available from John Deer tractor dealers)
1 part crushed granite (Gran-I-Grit) (available at farm feed stores)
1 tbsp gypsum per gallon of soil (any idea where I might find this?)

plus 1/8 tbsp of Epson salts per gallon of water every time I fertilize

plus a fertilizer like Foliage Pro 9-3-6

Is there any specific way or technique to replant the tree?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 2:26AM
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Andrew Scott

Happy Easter!
I am pretty sure you have the proportions right but if you want to be sure, ask Meyer Mike. He will know for sure. I have it written down here somewhere but not sure where. When you repot, it is very important to replant the tree at the same level it was in the old container. Also, when you are repotting with the gritty mix, make sure you have a dowel, or chopstick or something that you can tap down on the mix and make sure the roots are fully covered and thee are no air pockets. Some people think that you need to add gravel to the bottom for drainage. The only thing I do is to put a rock over the drainage hole so the mix doesn't come out when you move it or when watering. For the future, use a stick or something that you can push all the way down to the bottom of the pot. The stick or whatever, will pick up the moisture from the mix and that will tell you if you need to water or not. Your gritty mix should dry out daily or every 2 days, no more than that. that way you don't need to be concerned with root rot. If you can get the Foliage Pro, you won't need to worry about the epsom since the FP will take care of the magnesium. Also should not need the gypsom. Just add one teaspoon of white vinegar to each gallon of water. I just mix it in with the FP. With that fertilizer and the vinegar, your tree should perk up and start growing. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 9:14PM
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