Another Kumquat issue

wildforager(5b-WI)December 21, 2012


It looks like kumquats are popular on the citrus forum! Thats great, I love eating kumquats and wish my tree was healthier. The story is... I bought a nice tree from a greenhouse and it even had a couple of fruits on it. That was a couple years ago. When I got it home I repotted it to a larger pot and detangled some of the roots. When I repotted I added a bunch of rabbit poo for fertilizer. I know that citrus are nitrogen hogs so I thought this would be good. Over the last 2 years the tree has gone from 2-3 ft tall down to 1 ft tall. It keeps having branches turn brown and die. I'm lucky I still have the real quat above the graft but its getting close to the graft union and any more dead branches and I could only be left with a rootstock.

I'm kinda thinking about feeding the quat with some chicken poo for a nitrogen boost or possibly giving it an iron supplement. Any thoughts from the more experienced citrus growers out there?

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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Photos will help. Stop with the poo. Let's get this poor tree re-potted in well-draining potting mix. I would suspect (without photos this is just a stab in the dark), that you're got a situation going on with too wet roots and suffocation. If you search this forum for "511 mix", you'll find a great recipe for proper container mix. The potting mix is very, very important to keep the roots receiving enough oxygen, and not suffocating in compacted, overly wet soil. And, for fertilizing, you really should use a fertilizer properly formulated for citrus. Most all container folks on this list have found that DynaGro Foliage Pro works the best for them. It has the perfect NPK ration plus all the right micronutrients citrus also need. Save your animal manure for your outdoor plants. I also use in addition, Osmocote Plus (it MUST be the "Plus" formulation, as that provides the optimal NPK ratio plus the micronutrients).

Patty S.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 1:57PM
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Well, I'm really wanting to be as natural as possible for fertilizer. Are these products you mentioned chemical or naturally derived? Thanks for the tip on the 511 mix, I'll look into that.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 3:56PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Wild, here's the thing - all fertilizer components originated from something "natural", and in the end, they are broken down into their inorganic compounds in order for a plant to be able to absorb the compounds. Here is a good description from Oregon State Extension Service, that explains this:

"Processed fertilizers are manufactured or are refined from natural materials such as rock, animal or petroleum products. Nutrients are concentrated in industrial processes to make them more available to plants. Ammonium sulfate, ammonium phosphate and potassium sulfate are examples of processed fertilizers. The fertilizers that you buy for your garden or lawn, such as 10-10-10 are usually composed of mixtures of these types of fertilizers. Nutrients are usually immediately available to plants and are quite concentrated.

Organic fertilizers are composed of natural materials such as mined minerals, animal or plant materials, with little or no processing. Manure, cottonseed meal, rock phosphate, fish by-products, oyster shell and blood meal are examples of organic fertilizers. Nutrients are released slowly by natural biological and chemical processes in soil and are relatively low in concentration when compared to processed fertilizers.

Organics range from relatively cost free manure from a backyard horse, cow or rabbits to expensive packaged products such as bagged bat guano or blood meal.

Packaged processed fertilizers generally cost less per pound of nutrients than packaged organic fertilizers.

Plants can take up only nutrients that are in solution, dissolved in soil water, regardless of whether they come from organic or processed fertilizer sources.

Nutrients in processed fertilizers are usually immediately available to plants. Organic fertilizer nutrients are not all as quickly available; they release some of their nutrients more slowly, over the course of weeks or months.

Nutrients from either organic or processed fertilizer can be lost and run off to surface or ground water if plants do not use them. Most naturally occurring soil nutrients are tied up in insoluble forms. They become available to plants only after they are converted to soluble forms, through weathering or biological decomposition."

Your challenge in trying to use "organic" fertilizers, is you're in a very artificial environment in a pot. You do not have the benefit of the microorganisms found in soil that will break down the organic components into soluble compounds that your tree can absorb. This is why container citrus folks tend to use the products I've recommended. And, the processed fertilizers I've recommended originally came from the same sources as your "organic" fertilizers, but are processed so that they can be soluble (in solution), allowing for uptake.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 4:42PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Patty is absolutely correct in her recommendations. The thing to keep in mind is that the methods
used in-ground are vastly different than the methods used in containers (unless, of course, the container
is so large that it might as well be considered a raised bed). In a container, you simply cannot rely
on the presence of micro-organisms to be in sufficient numbers to break down those organics and
make the nutrients available to your plants. Secondly, that raw manure is often "hot" enough to cause
problems for your plant's roots. Thirdly, and most importantly, that fine particulate is going to
clog drainage, which Patty mentioned, and prevent or impede oxygen from returning to the root-zone
in a timely fashion.

The 5-1-1 mix is 5 parts Pine/Fir bark, 1 part Perlite (expanded volcanic glass), and 1 part Peat.

It sounds as though you'll have an ideological problem with Foliage Pro, but it is a very good
fertilizer and in a ratio very close to that which plants actually use. As such, with attentive
watering and fertilization, you can dramatically minimize the amount of fertilizer flushing into
the environment.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 4:50PM
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If you are SET on organic, you can look for Citrus Tone; it is quite pricey, but very good for citrus, if used according to label directions.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 1:04PM
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Steve, Micro (6B ground, 5B roof)

I suspect that your root stock is either poncirus trifoliata or flying dragon. If so any animal manure of any kind is very harmful if not lethal. Try a ban on any manure of any kind and see if that works. It will take a long time. perhaps more than a year.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2013 at 11:36PM
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