Key Lime Improperly Located: Transplant or Not?

cleanscAugust 14, 2013

Good morning, all!

Subject location is Miami Florida, Zone 10, in well draining soil.

I have recently purchased a house that came with a Key Lime that was improperly planted right up against the house. It faces east and only receives sun for half the day and is under the eave the rest of the time.

In addition to this, this abandoned little tree has the full catalog of ailments, from Leaf Miner to Orangedogs (which I have removed by hand already). There's sooty mold, ants, curly leaves, white fluff, you name it. No fertilizer or sprays for years it seems.

The amazing thing is that with all this going against it, this little bugger sets fruit. Delicious, juicy fruit. Against all odds this guy just keeps on giving. Totally abandoned, with ZERO attention or care. It's basically a weed just growing there. So I can assume I at least have good soil.

It's about 8 feet wide, 6 feet tall, and the trunk has a stepped base which is 4" at the fat part (healed injuries, perhaps?) which quickly tapers to 2-1/2". I don't know which is the width to go by so a picture is included.

Pics of the tree at link.

Now my question is simple: Do I transplant this tree to let it thrive in full sun and space as it deserves, or do I leave this maturish tree well enough alone and baby it in this corner it's in with a proper feeding regimen? I mean, it's setting fruit, so why risk it?

What would you all do if this was yours? Maybe it's just too old to move by hand? I'd like to take the best route for this little guy.

As an aside, I plan on a full citrus orchard on the other side of the yard with about 4 to 6 trees of varying varieties. Looks like citrus should grow fine here since I have this "wild" Key Lime seemingly doing it's thing there. :)

Thanks, all!

Here is a link that might be useful: Pics of Key Lime

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serge94501

Start with nutrition and pest/disease control and give it some time - let it show you what it can do. I think it's too early to think about moving it.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 10:45AM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

I like the pool filler downspout!
I agree with Serge in that giving it the needed care may nix the desire.

Having said that, indeed this one is planted in a less than ideal spot. I think the health of the graft / trunk is going to be your indicator. It may not look great, but i do not see gumosis. [Let's see what some of the other members think].

I have transplanted young and old citrus and can tell you that the rate of success is rather high! But, it can take a full year to get over the transplant shock. [That means a full year of very attentive TLC]. Also, the older the citrus, the greater the effort due to root size and heft of the rootball.

You may be better off getting a fresh tree and doing all the right things from the start.

George K.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 1:56PM
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cleansc

Thanks for the direction, fellas. Yes, I included many pics so I can get as accurate an opinion as possible. At the very worst I'd like to keep this tree either moved or in its place as a small controlled bush. I don't mind planting another with the future orchard I have planned.

I grew up with Key Limeaid as a summer drink and it holds a special sentimental value to me. We had a HUGE tree in the house I grew up in that would yield more than the neighborhood could handle. Hurricane Andrew knocked it over and it was done for after that.

As for the pool filler, the house keeps coming with surprises. A leaking pool is one of them.

I had to get creative and green while keeping the level high enough to allow the skimmer and autovac working.

That filler will raise the level of water 12" during a single good Miami thunderstorm. Overflowed even during a particularly nasty one! Hah. Sure beats using the hose.

As a secondary benefit, the pool filler redirects a TORRENT of water that normally would (and has been for years) fall right at the base of the lime tree in question.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 2:16PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

I would not opt to move the tree, either. At least, not at this time. I would work on improving the health of the tree (and it's not in such bad shape, actually), prune out any dead wood, make sure water is draining away from the trunk, fertilize, treat for pests, and see how it does where it is. Key lime trees tend to stay on the smaller side, and you can always drop crotch prune to keep the height down as well. It may be just fine to leave it where it is if you keep the size down. Clever downspout diversion, btw!

Patty S.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 3:21PM
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cleansc

Excellent. The trees stays.

Now the hard part. What do I do now? I'm new to all this. With what should I fertilize and treat for pests with? Where would I acquire these?

Can I prune it now? Or do I wait for fall? It has branches scraping the ground and some gnarly action up top. Any pointers on how to prune it? (I've read some papers on the proper methods and such so I know the basics)

Thanks, all!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 9:16AM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

I have to run off to a meeting, so need to be quick:
I am not an expert for Florida citrus. Perhaps other members can chime in to assist beyond the list below.
here are a few things that i would do:
1) limit the pruning to no more than 20% - search for drop crotch pruning article on citrus for additional guidance. if you cannot find it, post back and i will find the link
2) clear the grass beyond the drip line. take care to limit root damage. if you use round-up, take care not to spray the tree/trunk with any fine mist ( i use a cardboard box as a shield)
3) apply Bayer fruit and Citrus insect control.
4) IF the temeratures are appropriate Neem oil or spinosad (do not apply if over 80-85 or the leaves will be damaged.
5) apply fertilizer ( citrus specific ) at the drip line. water it in.

enjoy and good luck!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 4:21PM
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cleansc

Thanks for the specific direction!

1) Pruning. Can I do it now, or do I wait?
2) Will clear grass. No round up. Do I mulch it or leave clean bare dirt?
3) Bayer Fruit and Citrus. Can I do this asap or wait?
4) Too hot for Neem Oil. Still in the 90's here. Already did two rounds of spinosad, however. Might get some more.
5) Can I fertilize now? Or do I need to wait? Can I use anything from HD or something more specific online?

Thanks, all! Looks like a clear plan is forming for this little guy. :)

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 9:45AM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

Here is what i'd do:
1) Pruning. Can I do it now, or do I wait? [[ not sure about FL, but for me in CA now would be ok. I have never pruned during a growth spurt / flush though. Also, keep in mind citrus is a tip bearer so its very different from a shrub/hedge]]
2) Will clear grass. No round up. Do I mulch it or leave clean bare dirt? [[ mulch is great, no mulch within ~ 6 - 10" of the trunk.>>
3) Bayer Fruit and Citrus. Can I do this asap or wait? [ no need to do now unless you have a particular infestation you are trying to get rid of. i use it to keep Citrus Leaf Miner away ]
4) Too hot for Neem Oil. Still in the 90's here. Already did two rounds of spinosad, however. Might get some more.
5) Can I fertilize now? Or do I need to wait? Can I use anything from HD or something more specific online? [ i do not fertilize now, but that is because any new growth from here on would be damaged in the usual frosts / freezes i get. I use both Citrus-tone and Grow-power, but you can use what is available or recommended by your local citrus experts. If you haven't fed it yet, or if you know it hasn't been fed - do so]]

good luck - George K

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 3:27PM
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cleansc

George:

Thank you. I will start the process of setting this lil guy straight.

As the last question (for now, hah), my dad has a 50-pound bag of this fertilizer in his shed for his fruiting trees. Is this a good choice to use on my Key Lime (and future citrus)? It's bulk stuff he gets from the local nurseries.

If so, how much do I use? How do I calculate feeding amounts and intervals?

Thanks all!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 12:53PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Nope. Not the proper NPK for citrus, which require a lot of nitrogen (very different than for other fruiting plants). You'll want to come closer to a 5-1-3 NPK ratio. Save this fertilizer for your stone fruits :-) Find a fertilizer that is labeled for citrus, avocados and/or mangos.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 5:38PM
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cleansc

Thank you, Patty!

The closest thing I found at HD was this Citrus Tone (Thanks, George) with a 5-2-6 ratio. It's pricey at $10 per 8-lb bag. The cheaper Vigoro is $20 for 50lbs, but is a 6-4-6. I'll go with the Citrus Tone for now that I only have one tree, but I hope the Vigoro is ok for long term when I plant the orchard. Thoughts? If not, the larger bags are special order and not that bad in the bigger sizes so if it's that much better, it will do.

This post was edited by CleanSC on Mon, Aug 19, 13 at 9:36

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 8:50AM
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cleansc

Update on progress:

I spent some time on the tree this weekend. Gave her a nice little pruning, using what I learned reading many papers on drop crotch pruning. Learned a ton and the tree looks great! Almost like a big bonsai. So much better than the gnarly mess as pictured in Post #1. Most of the removal was of the low branches, most of which were touching the ground. So I used the "crown raising" technique I read of. Also thinned some interior branches that were rubbing up or crowding other branches, removing some dead wood, and clipping off anything else that seemed to be growing in undesirable directions. Really happy with the outcome and of course is a work in progress.

Pic in link.

Also removed all the grass as suggested. (Still need to pick out the stragglers) Afterwards I applied a dose of the Bayer Fruit and Citrus following the directions to work on the bug issues. I will hit it with another Spinosad treatment when conditions are right. (evening time, low wind, no rain).

How long after the Bayer should I wait to fertilize? Does it matter? Trying to get some color back into these leaves!

Thanks all! Looks like we're getting there! :)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 9:23AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

You can apply fertilizer and Bayer and the same time. Your tree looks very nice, a nice open canopy is always a good thing in a more humid climate. Removing crossing branches and dead wood from the inside of the canopy is a good thing. You can mulch under the tree to keep the grass from coming back, must keep the mulch away from the trunk to prevent moisture from building up around the trunk and making it susceptible to fungal infections. Just watch the moisture build up.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 10:05AM
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cleansc

Thanks, Patty! I will fertilize next and perhaps find a way to create a border to keep the mulch in. Either garden pavers or wood timbers. I assume there's no problem with either of those methods.

As an aside I read many of your past posts regarding Vigoro's 6-4-6 and how you recommend it if you can't find the first choice (Gro-Power) which is seemingly more a California option. I will however ask around in my local nurseries if I ever make it to one.

Maybe alternating between Citrus Tone and the Vigoro thru the year to fill any deficiencies? I'm getting crafty now so I will stop. ;p

Thanks again! Can't say it enough, this is an excellent forum and all the help is incredibly appreciated.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 4:38PM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

Your tree looks nice, great job!

I have good success from alternating between "Citrus-tone", "Grow-Power", and "whateverisonsale". Just be sure to water in the fertilizer well and don't let things dry out right away.... (much like the week after feeding your lawn).

Also, keep in mind that organic fertilizers (like Citrus-tone) take some time to act; acting faster the warmer the weather. Take that to mind when you are following up with a dose of inorganic. Patience and consistency works well for citrus.
good luck!
George K

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 5:04PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

I agree with Becauseican, Citrus Tone, Vigoro, Gro Power. Whatever you can get that is formulated for citrus. Citrus Tone is very good, just more expensive since it's organic. You'll need to use more as well. And yes, some sort of border for the mulch is just fine, whatever looks the best to you.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 9:59PM
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cleansc

Thanks, everyone!

I have retreated with spinosad last night. The lizards were not happy at all. Must have been over 20 in there. I assume they are feeding on all the critters I have in my tree. Either ants or flies or caterpillars or the whole buffet, I dunno.

I think I will use an ant bait or two at the base of the tree, there's a very obvious ant mound there and I think they are farming something in my tree or at least enjoying the sugary leftovers from some other inhabitants.

Nothing wrong with that, correct? As an aside, I have a pile of diatomaceous earth where the pool filter purges. I have no idea how to use this for ants but I read it's effective. Should I sprinkle this under the tree? I've also read however that DE for pools is the wrong kind. Just tossing that out there for discussion. :)

Thanks again all!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 10:20AM
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