Trouble with Meyer Lemon Tree

sugarlandmynewhomeNovember 3, 2007

Recently moved into new construction home in Sugarland. Soil is very bad (thick red clay, dirt clumps, no worms, bricks and rocks in the dirt). Several plants the builder gave us have died.

We purchased a Meyer Lemon tree from Houston Garden Center. 6 months ago, planted the lemon tree and peach tree, 10 feet apart. Pruned the peach tree and it had great new growth. No sign of new growth on the lemon tree. Now, the lemon tree is turning more and more yellow. Not sure what's wrong with it but I've taken some pictures and am looking for feedback.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lemon Tree

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Soil problems aside, yellow leaves suggests a lack of iron.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 8:31AM
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stitches216(8/9 Hou-Galv)

We are seeing the same or similar. Sorry, I can only speculate - hope someone can pipoint a problem that we can solve or cope with. Irregularity of water, or too much rain, could be a contributor. I am mostly concerned about the root health of ours, what with the heavy rains followed by the extended dry time we are having now. So often, what you see in the leaves is a symptom of a problem in the roots.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 8:35AM
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I'm not sure what the problem is either. Yes, there was a lot of water during this summer with all the rain and less now. But there wasn't any growth this whole time. I have been fertilizing it with Expert Gardner Plant Food 24-8-16 starting in September to see if it would help any but it hasn't.

Here's the link to the fertilizer. Bought it from Wal Mart.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to Fertilizer

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 12:23PM
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Mine are doing quiet the same---yellowing of the leaves. i have not fertilized them in some time so I do not think it is that and they are watered. Maybe it was just the sharp temperature changes this year. They are not dropping leaves or fruit. I have more yellow leaves on the ones that did not fruit this year--from a distance it looks like they have!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 1:07PM
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hitexplanter(8 a)

I would guess soil drainage is the most likely culprit. To keep grass that happy it is hard on a citrus that are fairly slow growing and need a well-drained soil and regular feedings yes but drainage first and formost. Houston has too much rain for a gumbo clay for citrus to be happy in. A raised area usually will help the drainage problem in these types of soils (if this is what you have).
Just a few thoughts. Hope it is wrong and it starts growing. Your not really wanting new leaves going into first freezing time so I would be careful about feeding too much or often from Nov-Feb time period.
Good Luck and Happy Growing David

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 2:33PM
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I agree with you David that drainage is the biggest problem. The soil in my new house is terrible. Bad drainage, no worms, nothing. I understand that it will take time to improve my yard by adding organic material, grass clippings, etc. I need to figure out how I'm going to make the soil better. However, I wanted to plant trees now instead of waiting to make the soil better. If the problem is drainage, what can I do? You mentioned raising but I'm not sure how to do that. Can you please provide a link or instruction? I am ok with pulling the tree out and replanting it in improved conditions. Also, would it be possible to pull it out and put it in a pot?

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 3:05PM
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hitexplanter(8 a)

You look into trees that are more toleratant to wet feet if you wish to plant now. The citrus could be removed and put in a pot but this is not a good time to be stressing the plant further IMO. I would hope some folks closer to your area can chime in here and offer some ways that they have dealt with it. I would say that doing a raised area ios not that difficult but will require time and labor and money. If some one has poor drainage here (rare). I suggest going up 2 feet or so, but till in as deep as you can go into the gumbo first with some combination of quality compost and maybe some well shredding (fine pine bark mulch). Sometimes sold as a soil conditioner. I get Landscaper's Pride for my garden center but there may be many other usable brands in your area. Look for a good nursery and or a soil and compost place that knows what they are doing (not just sales people), again need help from folks that are closer to you to pitch in here.

You could for a temp fix poke small holes close to the outer edge of your lemon mulch layer about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter about 2 feet down and fill back in with the soil condioner or good compost to help the existing roots to get some better air and to help dry out the sub-soil somewhat. It is not a fix all but may help some for the time being.

I know that most folks want everything as soon as possible but if your soil is poor draining there are not many short-cuts to help cure it. Organic matter will help over the years but it usually takes years with out literally starting from scratch and tilling compost by truck loads which is the closest thing to a quick fix I am aware of. Some folks have talked about the expanded shale option but don't know if that is offered by the truck load (by the cubic yard) in your area or not.
I hope this offers some ideas and is of some help.
Happy Growing David

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 6:41PM
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I worked with a plant nursery in Houston. It was recommended that everything be planted in a raised bed or mounded earth at the very least, digging down into the clay and adding the usual stuff first. Azealeas and roses were beautifully growing on 2' high berms. Lemons seem to like arid environments but with enough water to produce juicy fruit. They will not like being water-logged. And there is also that cotton root fungal disease in old tilled soil that many plants are susceptible to. i am losing a maple up here in Austin since it is not resistant. This makes me raise the question about bagged potting soil or topsoil. Where did it come from? Back to the raised beds---prepare the ground soil, then make up your berm with soil, bank sand or construction sand (sharp sand) and pea gravel plus your conditioners (composted material). Good Luck!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 6:46PM
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After you have your mound and tree planted in it, you could make some sort of border to keep the soil up. You can mulch with cypress mulch which will not float (off the sides) and use the mulch for a border. Probably best to mulch only when it gets cold or when it is very dry. Hope this helps. Sounds involved but it is very easy. And you do not need to dig such a deep hole -- but you do need to have some continuity between the native ground and the mound for better drainage and summer water retention.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 9:15AM
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I have had meyer lemon trees for several years now and it seems that they do this every year about this time. My grapefruit tree is doing the same thing and I have had it for less time than the lemons. I have come to view this as something it has to do for itself. Even evergreen tree leaves get old and fall off eventually I suppose!! Each spring they come back just fine and grow new growth quickly. I will agree with the others - citrus trees love fertilizer and need it on a regular basis.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 10:03AM
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My tree looked just like that and I have it some liquid iron type stuff and it greened right up. I also used a fertiziler made for citrus and it has done incredibly better and fruited nicely but than yellowing looks like lack of iron to me.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 10:06AM
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we had the same problem here in katy..on advice from meyer lemon growers online, we fed the trees with a high phosphorous fertilizer. namely, green light "super bloom"(12-55-6). the trees bounced back, leaves greened up and we have harvested about a dozen lemons from each of our two trees planted this year. we fertilize them every 2 weeks.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 8:45PM
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