Graden soil and fertilizer for orange tree

keiraphamAugust 11, 2009

Hi everyone,

Im in Houston, Tx. Im planning on put my orange trees into the ground.My back yard soil is clay, so what type of garden soil should I use to fill the hole if stead? Is Miracle gro garden soil a good one to use? Can I use MicroLife 6-2-4 Organic Fertilizer for the tree after planting? How often should I water the trees for now? Thanks in advance.

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My advice:

1.) Wait until late Feb/early March (until threat of frost is over) to buy/plant the tree

2.) Fill the hole with whatever you take out of the hole. Dig a very large and deep hole, then fill the hole back in with the same dirt you took out (now broken up and loose) and the orange tree root ball. Make sure the rootball is a few inches above the original soil line. Personally, I then mulch thinly with pine straw, staying 2 feet away from the trunk.

3.) Through the first summer, water slowly and deeply once a week, every week that it does not rain.

4.) 6-2-4 is actually a very good fertilizer ratio for citrus. In Houston soil, nitrogen is the most important to add. Make sure the fertilizer has trace elements as well, as Iron is also needed.

Here is a link that might be useful: HOME FRUIT PRODUCTION - CITRUS

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 9:13PM
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John, Thank you for your response. Could you please tell me why I shouldnt fill the hole with organic garden soil instead of the dirt will be taken out of the hole? Would the garden soil have better drainage and fertilizer than the original clay? Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 9:51PM
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There are two reasons for not amending the soil. The first is drainage. If you fill a clay hole with topsoil/other amendments, then clay hole will act as a bowl for water to accumulate in (rather than drain) and will cause your roots to rot.

The second reason is root growth. If you fill a clay hole with nice garden soil, then the tree's roots will just grow in circles in the amended soil and never penetrate the hard, existing clay soil (it would be just like growing the tree in an in-ground pot). This is why it is important to dig a large hole, to break up the soil. Also, it is a good idea to dig a square hole rather than a round hole (roots will be more likely to grow outwards in a square hole because it cannot circle a corner, like it can (and would) in a round hole).

Urban Harvest has a great fruit tree sale at the end of every January, which would be the perfect time and place to purchase a healthy tree grown on the best rootstock for Houston, with lots of knowledgeable people there.

Here is a link that might be useful: Urban Harvest

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 11:34PM
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Make a raised bed with sandy soil. I grow all my citus trees in raised beds here in Beaumont,TX. Google mrtexas citrus to see more.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 11:04PM
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I have a question?

I have citrus that grow in clay also in the tropics in my yard, and I need an ax to break it up in order for me to plant anything, sometimes a small bulldozer, that soil is SO hard!! Water just runs off of it.

Once it is all broken up and a hole finally dug, what is to assure me that the same clay soil won't compact over time and eventually suffocate the roots without amending it? Are we not suppose to mix and amended soil well with original soil so the roots will be encourage to take to the soil surrounding the amended one?

My father seems to think I need to add sand, leaves, twigs and so on to keep the soil from eventually compacting, along with added horse crap to boot.

This confuses me...


    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 3:34PM
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Mike -
Well, the response was really Houston (and citrus) specific, where it rains 55+ inches each year, sometimes 2-3 in one day, it is flat, and there is drainage issues, but the clay isn't borderline concrete. Other plants and trees that are less susceptible to root and foot rot are fine with some amendments. Several things help prevent compaction, including the presence roots and regular, deep watering.

In your situation (rock-hard, compacted clay), I would certainly side with Mr. Texas on going with raised beds. If water is running off of your clay, then that means that it would not drain out of the hole you dug for your citrus tree (and backfilled with organic matter, garden soil, etc), and would eventually drown and rot your tree's roots, to the point of death.

Different rootstocks can also take drainage issues better than others, depending on what part of the country/world you live in.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 11:30PM
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Thanks for the info...

Makes alot of sense now...It amazing how many people think living in a certain part of the country is better for citrus than another.

Maybe sun and warmth wise, but there are so many possible issues with these plants no matter where we live or grow them.

Again, thanks for your time and explanation...;-)

I will have to try some raised beds...

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 8:06AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Mike, you DO know that you can't grow citrus in the ground where you live, right? Freezing temperatures and that sort of thing, lol!

Anyway, about your clay soil: the only real 'fix' for clay soil is organic matter and lots of it. That would include fallen leaves (ground up), grass clippings, bark fines, compost, manure, etc. Leave out the sand!

When planting into clay soil, it's best to amend an entire planting bed with your organic material rather than planting hole-by-hole. The latter causes problems that john bonzo mentioned in an earlier post. He's absolutely correct that it is not recommended that anything be added to the planting hole or backfill when digging one hole at a time. But creating a whole new bed is a GOOD thing. Incorporate the organic content with the existing clay.

By adding layers of compost and mulch over the planting bed, you will do much to prevent compaction of the clay after amending. I have very hard clay soil and love it. All we do (after the initial tilling event) is add new mulch once or twice a year.

Does all that make sense or just confuse the situation?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 12:56PM
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Makes alot of sense....Not confused by anyways..;-)

By thw way, I don't think there are any freezes at my home in Puerto Rico, the other place I own, I wish I could move

Thanks for your advice. The next trip down there, this is exactly what I will do, since my citrus don't seem to like the hard clay they are in..
You know what, there must be a whole lot of poop to work with by now, since I have been letting a neighbor let his horses graze on my land to keep the grass nice and short for over a

Take care!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 3:10PM
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I think it is near impossible to grow citrus in pure clay soil. I have hard clay in my backyard. My approach is to add organic matter (Sloat planting mix) and to dig it into the clay soil. My goal is to mix the clay and the organic matter together to about a 1.5-2 foot depth. So far I have been successful at growing citrus in the ground, whereas all of my neighbors (who haven't done the same thing) are surprised that citrus can grow here. One advantage of my location is that it is on a grade so the excess water tends to run off, but regardless some degree of organic amendment is a good thing.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 10:09PM
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Hi All -

Is there a specific fertilizer that can be used for citrus trees? It seems that my orange tree is not loaded with fruit this year. I did put some 'fertilizer spikes' in the ground but I don't think that it has made much difference.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 5:35PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Mike, clay + sand = concrete. You never want to try to amend clay with sand. Ever. If you feel the need to amend your clay soil, you want to mix organic materials into it, and not sand. Your best bet is to plant as mrtexas has recommended. Plant your trees either on tall raised mounds, which you can create a nice mix of your native soil and organic material (compost, loam), or create raised beds with well draining loamy soil. We have the same issue in many places here in S. California. For those folks here in California on clay soils, we usually see citrus in raised beds. Think of them the same as gigantic containers :-)

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: Urban Food Garden: Planting Citrus Trees

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 12:57AM
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