New Grapefruit and Lemon Tree Questions

meglerSeptember 15, 2013

Hi everyone!

I just purchased a grapefruit tree and a lemon tree and have a few questions:

1. How far away from my fence should I plant them? I have a 6' privacy fence I want to put them near.

2. How often do I water? (I'm terrible about over/under watering)

3. Do I need 2 of either of these trees for cross pollination or are they fine as singles?

Thanks so much! I've never done trees before, so I want to make sure I don't kill 'em right out of the chute.

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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Well, to start, I would make sure that you get good, sound information from a good garden center, to help you with your new trees, since you have no experience with fruit trees. That's a must. And, I suggest you bookmark a few web sites for assistance as well. You don't say where you live, and maintenance of in-ground citrus can vary a little bit, depending upon what part of the country you reside in. My information would be directed at someone in S. California in general, so here are some answers to your questions:

1. How far away from my fence should I plant them? I have a 6' privacy fence I want to put them near. - Well, depends a bit upon whether you have purchased standard trees or semi-dwarf trees. Citrus trees grafted to standard rootstocks can get upwards to 20' tall over time. On semi-dwarfing rootstock, more like 12-15' tall. I would plant them at least 6' away from your fence, just to be safe.

2. How often do I water? (I'm terrible about over/under watering) - Entirely depends upon your soil and drainage. You need to know that before you put your trees in the ground. Are you on clay, loam, sand, decomposed granite, caliche, etc. If you don't know, then ask your garden center that is closest to you, to see what kind of soil is mainly in your area. Also, you can do your own drainage test. Dig a hole as deep as your pot, and twice as wide. Fill it with water. Let it drain. Fill it, again. Then, see how long it takes to drain. If it drains in a few hours, you have very, very well draining soils (so likely sandy or DG). If it takes say, more than 6 hours to drain, you're in the middle. If you fill it up in the evening, come back to check in the morning and it's still got water in it, you may be sitting on clay, which is going to take some more care with planting (planting on a mound, taking care on how much water you put down at any one time.) I would suggest that you set up micro sprinklers that are set at the trunk, one opposite the other, pointing away from the trunk. Make sure you have a well created around each tree large enough to be at or somewhat beyond the drip line (that's the edge of the leaf canopy). Your trees will send out their feeder roots to the drip line looking for water, so you want to apply water there (as opposed to at the trunk, a common mistake). And, how hot it is, season, and amount of rain all factor into how much watering you need to apply. But, general rule of thumb is the soil should be moist (not saturated) down about 18", which is where all the feeder roots reside for citrus. I just use one of those plastic-covered green stakes you can get at any big box store (Lowe's, Home Depot), and stick it in the ground. If it goes in easily, and when I pull it out, the soil looks moist, and some might cling to the stake, the trees are moist enough. If not, or I can't stick it down into the ground, time to water. Water deep enough that the water will soak down to 18". We used to say "deep water" citrus, but we've now found out that isn't necessary, and just a waste of expensive water for us here in S. California. Do not over-water citrus, they do not like their roots sitting in water. If citrus get dry, their leaves will start to cup inward. A sure sign you need to water.

3. Do I need 2 of either of these trees for cross pollination or are they fine as singles? - Very few citrus need another cultivar for cross pollination. The only variety that you would commonly come across would be the Minneola tangelo. Otherwise, citrus are parthenocarpic - have the ability to set fruit without the aid of pollination. Grapefruit trees and lemon trees are parthenocarpic, no cross-pollination needed.

You didn't mention fertilizing, and citrus are heavy nitrogen users, so you do need to fertilize with a good quality fertilizer that is formulated for citrus that also contains the micronutrients as well as the NPK macronutrients. Again, your local garden center can get you pointed the right direction. Never apply fertilizer to dry roots, it will burn the roots. Water well first, apply the granulated fertilizer at the drip line, then water in well. You may also wish to treat for Citrus Leafminer if you have issues with that in your area (ask your garden center about that, and timing for treatments in your area).

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: Questions and Answers to Citrus Management

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 6:14PM
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Hi Patty!

Thanks so very much for the awesome reply and link. I'm taking a Citrus 101 class on Wednesday at the County Extension, so hopefully, that will help, too. I signed up for it after I did my original post. :-)

I live in Central Florida, so it's hot here pretty much year round except maybe Dec-Feb.

The soil is def well draining and sandy

I'll have to check as to full size or semi-dwarf. I don't know.

I did get a citrus specific fertilizer, so I was going to take the class on Wed, then figure out where to plant and how much to fertilize, etc.

Regular Leafminers are an issue here, at least for vegetables. I assume the same will apply to the trees.

Thanks again for your tremendous answer. I really appreciate everything!


    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 12:06PM
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