citrus cover

pnbrownFebruary 12, 2012

So my citrus grove, which was planted about a dozen years ago, has done generally poorly, a few trees died altogether, many are very tiny and close to going out, a few are bigger but still much smaller than they should be and the fruit is not great. Two or three are inexplicably the expected size but do not fruit well.

Because they grow so little or are even shrinking they cannot shade out the bahia which unless controlled grows solid around the trees. We have many times cleared out by hand, we have fertilized with compost and chem fert at times, we have irrigated at times a lot, nothing seems to make a difference. So this year I am clearing out the grass by hand (as many as 40 or more trees) on the more hopeful ones, putting down some organic N and other minerals, and also heavily seeding under the trees with hairy indigo. My intuition was that this would be a good strategy, and in fact I found a UF extension service bulletin from 1962 detailing the results of hairy indigo trials as a cover for citrus and the conclusion was hairy indigo highly recommended.

Maybe this will save most of the trees, or at least some.

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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

It seems like you are sort of chasing your tail.......have you figured out why your citrus don't grow well? They are so easy...put them in the crappy sand with no amendments, fertilize on a set schedule and they grow like weeds.

The cover crop will not fix whatever problem exists that is keeping your plants from prospering. Find the cause, address it and they will flourish.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 11:12AM
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No, I do not know what the specific problem/s is/are. For certain, they have not been fertilized on a fixed schedule.

Question: when they do "grow like weeds", is it because citrus thrives in impoverished sand or is it because they are being consistently nourished artificially?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 2:43PM
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It may also be that the site is simply too cold, there is no lake protection. Low to mid-20's, like this morning, occur several times a year it seems. Add this stress to inadequate care and it's too many blows?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 3:23PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Most times when people have trouble with citrus it is either from improper planting such as planting too deep or improper care. Not saying you did so it is just citrus seem so easy.

I fertilize the small trees monthly Feb-Oct. Could you post pictures of the trees?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 5:53PM
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I'll try to remember to take some photos.

We didn't plant them, the former owner did. Soon after, he fell ill and the trees got little or no attention for the next 4 or 5 years, I think. I don't know how long they went unirrigated and unfertilized for sure. Clearly they got enough to get established, so maybe a year or two. Then my folks bought the place and the trees have gotten uneven attention since then. Now it's up to me.

I am giving them one good dose of milorganite mixed with humate and azomite. I also sprayed the foliage with micronized azomite diluted in water. There is a grove in Deland that has gotten amazing results with azomite - the trees look superbly healthy even though infected with greening and other common diseases. Generally I come down once a year for about a month, so monthly apps are not possible.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 2:05PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

That does make it tough. I would check when you are here that they are not planted too deep. The first set of roots should be right at the surface.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 5:36PM
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Citrus will die off slowly at temps 28 degrees or below if it lasts more than several hours.

Citrus can take 3 to 5 years to slowly die. The freezes of 09,10 and 11 were enough to wipe out your grove but ever so slowly.

Once citrus trees are in serious decline, the best thing to do is pull them out and plant cold tolerant fruiting trees like olives, persimmons , quince, pomegranates and more. These trees can tolerate down to 10 degrees with no damage.

Contact the citrus expert at your county Extension Agency. See if the Urban Agent will come out and look at your grove. Seeing in person is the best way.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 6:49PM
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The former fellow was pretty serious about plants, so I rather doubt the planting depth is the issue, and I do encounter the roots often enough in the top couple inches.

I think the freezes are very likely the blow they could not withstand, although a few look like they might make it. We'll see. The ones that are half-dead i will use them as lima-bean scaffolding this year. Later I guess I'll have bean scaffold for a long time.

Sing up for your dried lima share now.....

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 1:46PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

PN where are you located?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 7:17PM
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Northern lake bordering marion. Map says 9a but I think it could easily be a micro 8b. Certainly a cold 9a.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 10:25AM
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judyk_2008(9 DeLeon Sprs)

I'm in NW Volusia and I agree, the last several years have been very rough on trees. We've had droughts, floods, hurricanes then freezes the last few years. Last year some of the commercial groves around me had to replace some of their trees. If you haven't already, I'ld call your local extension agent. They could help you the best.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 1:45PM
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Hasn't fazed live oaks, or yaupon holly, or mulberries, or cherries! That stuff is growing super vigorous. I'd like to know where they get their nutrients from.

The windstorms have been quite rough on the cedar hedgerows, to be sure.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 4:02PM
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So I had a retired extension agent and now mineral expert come look at them.

Verdict: very severe manganese deficiency and fairly severe N deficiency. He said that trees which are well-mineralized will resist any florida freezes, he has seen the evidence many times, including in the '89 freeze.

And, BR you were right, some of them had soil built up around the trunk, so they were too deep.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 2:30PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


At least now you know what the problem is and can address it.....or can you? I see all the time citrus planted too deeply. As a part time resident it is kind of hard for you to fertilize on the right schedule. Anyway you can work around that problem? A neighbor? A service maybe or family?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 5:12PM
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Yeah, my dad will be working on it. Organic manganese, more azamite, humate and some source of N, and at least a few waterings before the rainy season. The depth problem is easy to fix, simply raking away dirt until the first root shows.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 6:19PM
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