Citrus in Clay?

blueboy1977(TX9A/B)September 24, 2011

I think I messed up. Before doing my research on planting citrus in my area (South Houston) I dug a big ole hole to plant them in. Its roughly 1 1/2 to 2ft deep and about 5 feet wide. I filled it with pine bark mulch, 3 different kinds of compost and some sand. I did plant them raised bed style about 1 ft above the ground. Do I need to pull them up and back fill the hole with clay again and then plant on top of it raised up 1 ft? I planted 4 citrus. Rio Red, Mr. Mac satsuma, Improved Meyer, and Mexican Lime. Last week I pulled the lime out and put it in a pot with with the 5-1-1 mix after doing some research and now wondering what to do about the big fat bath tub Ive got my other citrus sitting in? Suggestions would be appreciated!

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"Do I need to pull them up and back fill the hole with clay again and then plant on top of it raised up 1 ft? "

That would be best. Your trees are now planted on top of a clay bathtub with no drain. Plant citrus trees 16 feet apart.

Here is a link that might be useful: mrtexas

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 2:14PM
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You probably would of been better off using most of your native soil since citrus are not finicky about the soil they are in, as long as it is very well draining and if you provide good nutrients if it is lacking much organic matter. I will not tell you what to do, but based on the help I will offer, you could make a better decision.

Unlike many types of nursery container grown plants, citrus trees will take a long time to root past the potting medium and into your ground soil. To help them spread their roots faster and improve initial new growth rates, remove the exterior of the potting soil just as you are ready to slip the tree in its installation hole. Don't take all of it off, that would be harmful , just the outer half inch or so to allow the roots to be surrounded with your ground soil. This is very simple to do by washing it off with the hose immediately before sinking your young citrus tree in its new real soil home.

You want to cut a 4 ft. circle out of your lawn as the start of your planting hole. Discard the grassy top layer and dig your hole half again wider than each citrus tree's root ball. When planting citrus you will want to plant it high, meaning you want the top of the finished planting surface to be crowned 1 inch higher than the lawn. This creates your surface run-off of water, and will be a great assistance to your tree in wet weather. You should also stake it to give a chance for the roots to take hold since they can grow shallow and be easily toppled by wind.

*****You won't need to do a lot of amending with good soil, so don't worry about adding compost and peat unless your soil is not good quality for drainage.****** With your tree set in the planting hole, fill around it half way to the top and thoroughly saturate the back fill soil. This helps it to settle around the roots of your new citrus tree's root ball. Finish filling the hole and tamp your loose soil into place lightly. Cover the roots with no more than 1 inch of ground soil to seal the potting soil from direct air contact. Soilless medium used in production nurseries is design to air dry too rapidly for home growing, blocking the air with a layer of soil stops you from having rapid drying problems.

To let your citrus tree be able to have deep root watering, build a water retention ring around the perimeter of your planting circle that is 5 or 6 inches tall and 6 or 8 inches thick. When completed, your watering ring should be slightly wider than the removed circle of lawn for your planting hole. Don't skimp, should you be short on soil left from the planting, buy some from your local garden center or borrow it from your garden. Fill your new citrus tree's watering basin with water, touching up any sinking spots in the planting hole that may settle after this first deep root watering.

Establishing Citrus Trees in Your Yard is also key.

Do not mulch over 3 inches deep and never put mulch any closer to the trunk of citrus trees than 12-24". Nature didn't create mulch, man did. Mulch can cause fungus issues with citrus plants. You could use sand to surround your tree to discourage collar rot.

When freshly planted, citrus trees need a deep, thorough watering two to three times the first week and one to two times per week for the next few weeks, depending upon soil type, rainfall and the time of year. Once this adjustment and establishment period is over, water them deeply whenever the soil begins to get dry an inch or so below the surface. Simply fill the water ring each time. Within about four, perhaps six months, your watering reservoir will erode away. Don't worry about rebuilding it, by this time your new citrus trees will be established enough that you can use a soaker hose to supply that deep root moisture as the water in your soil level drops.

Good luck and I hope I was able to help. These same principles are the same for many species of trees I have to plant here and the help I have received from Rhizo, Patty and others along with landscaping has helped quite a bit.


    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 2:18PM
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Now that you are "in the ground" in clay soil, the problem is that you don't want to create a notable change from amended soil to non-amended soil; you will create, likely, an ion barrier which roots and water will not penetrate.
In field agriculture (now adopted by container growers) it is known as a perched water table (PWT)... a "layer" of water that does not percolate lower and into which roots will not grow. Question... most clay soils have another type of soil below the clay; do you know what it is, or how deep it is? In field agriculture we use a backhoe to see exactly what the soil structure is for 6 or 10 feet; sometimes solving the problem can be as simple as getting a soil auger and drilling holes at the bottom of your "clay pot".

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 8:25PM
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Johnmerr, after getting past the top 6 to 8 inches it turnes to a sand clay mix and actually drains pretty quick. I did what you mentioned and dug a hole about 1 ft wide by 2 ft deep then planted raised bed style above it with a mix different composts and sand. Ive only planted one meyers lemon in this way to see what will happen. Its been a few weeks now and we have had 2 serious rains. Granted the roots have not made it that deep yet but the lemon tree has dark green shoots all over it and seems to be extremely happy for now. Thinking I will do the same soon to my orange and grapefruit. Thanks for everyones advice on here, you guys really know your stuff!!!!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2011 at 12:24AM
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