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Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Posted by partyprincess (My Page) on
Sun, Jul 4, 10 at 18:33

My citrus addiction began in June. I now have 5 citrus trees and one rooted cutting. When I started this journey I thought that since I have no problems growing my landscape plants that citrus would be no different. I thought I could just use good potting soil and water well and BAM I would have awesome citrus. I had unhappy citrus rather quickly! Thank goodness I found this forum and got some great advice from some very friendly people. I also spent lots of time just reading over tons of posts. Wow, did I have a lot to learn - still do but my chances of having happy citrus has greatly increased because of this forum. Here is what I have learned so far:

Potting soil - any old growing medium just will not do. It holds WAY to much moisture. I FINALLY gave in and listened to the advice I had been given and made up some 5:1:1. Now the water drains fast. The bottoms of the pots are not filled with mud. My trees seem to be happier

Container size- I thought the bigger the better. Boy was I wrong. Most of mine are in pots about 2" bigger than the ones they came in. Two are in pots that I now know are too big. I have to be really careful with the water to avoid root rot. I wish I had taken the advice and potted them in smaller pots.

Watering- I was SURE that I could tell when my trees were in need of water. Not so. I discovered when I repotted into 5:1:1 that there was MUD on the bottom of the pots. I was over watering. I now have dowel rods and use them to check the pots EVERY time- and I live in Texas where it is HOT.

Perched water table - I thought I did not need to read about this. WRONG. That is my problem with the large pots. There is a lot more water in the bottom that I thought. I have used wicks to help in the two big pots and I have to use the dowels to check the growing medium.

Fertilizer - I have rarely used fertilizer and have always had good results. But, I have always grown things that do well where I live and I guess I have been lucky. I bought some MG for my citrus and thought I was doing something special. Thanks to all I have read I have a better undertanding of the needs of my trees and what various ferts can provide. I am waiting for my Foliage Pro to arrive this week. Why FP? Because on the forums I have seen pictures and read posts about how well citrus responds.

My trees are not near perfection as of today. But, they look better than they did when I was doing things like I have always done for my other plants. I know for certain that I have increased my chances for happy citrus.

I have finally accepted that citrus is not like all the othter plants that I have been able to grow quite easily. I would not say citrus is difficult to grow in Fort Worth, TX but it is DIFFERENT than what I am used to.

Thanks to all who contribute to the forum by providing advice or asking questions. Each thread offers me an opportunity to learn.

Now it is time to go enjoy the 4th of July celebrations and be thankful for the great country I live in. Happy and Safe 4th to all.

Kim


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

lol, your not the only one. In general Citrus and Berries can have a steep learning curve even for long time gardeners.

Sounds like you are on the right track now. Good luck with your Citrus addiction. Once you start growing your own fruit there is always something to read or to do or to buy.

Around none addicts call it a hobby though as its more acceptable, lol!


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

what a wonderful journal of your journey. It's good to hear of your success story!


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Update on the wicks in my two large pots... I watered last night and this morning I went out to check and each wick is still dripping water. Not a lot, but one drip every 10 minutes or so. So, I guess they are doing their job of drawing that water down and out of the bottom. I have a new leaf on the Meyer Lemon and several buds and lots of new growth on the Mexican Lime.


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Hi partyprincess...

I love your story and experiences about coming here..Me too..I have learned SO MUCH since being a part of these forums, especially at the "container forums", then here.

We know that the heart of the plant is it's "roots", and then the thing that keeps the ticker going is the soil mix we provide..If the roots are not breathing, consistantly wet, not surrounded by salts and excess fertilizers, not being invaded by fungus gnats, are givin room to grow,fertilized properly, givin the right pH conditions, not being baked by black pots in the sun, not left to dehydrate, and givin the same amount of care as the above plant, then we have very happy vibrant citrus trees..

You are on a journey, a quest, that is going to have it's ups and downs, but mostly ups with your attitude and appriciation for what you learn here and ability to apply it..

One thing does concern me though........You said that it was kind of mucky at the bottom of your 5.1.1 mix..
If it was made correctly, you shouldn't have this problem..Are you growing in clay or plastic? Were all your ingredients about the same size? Did you strain out the perlite dust? Did you strain out the bark of fine particles? Did you lime your mix?

Other than that, I am proud of your hard work and determination to keep your plants happy, and thank you again for sharing your wonderful experience..

Keep coming for more, and please, post pics on updates..

Mike:-)


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Hi Mike

Thanks for the encouragement and helpful advice. My citrus trees are in clay pots. My original soil (MG with some bark added) is what was muddy on the bottom. Now that I have switched to 5:1:1 - no muck. I used wicks on the largest two pots because I have learned that I should not have used pots that were quite that large on new trees that don't have really deep roots. So while the area where the roots are gets dry fast here in the Texas heat, I could tell with the dowel rods that the very bottom of the mix was not dry - so I used wicks to help with that. Not muddy, just wetter than higher in the pot. I don't want to repot in smaller pots because I have nowhere to store the bigger pots until I need them and don't want to get rid of them because as you know they are not cheap. For now I will monitor to make sure I don't develop problems. Lesson learned though because from now on I won't increase the pot size so much when I bring home a new addition.

I did lime my mix. I did not strain my perlite or bark. I will do that in the future. I am learning that like everything else it is easier and results are better to do it right the first time! LOL. Hopefully my FP will arrive today. Wouldn't you know we have rain on the way so I won't be able to water though.

What do you use to strain your ingredients?

I will try to take pictures today.

Thanks again.
Kim


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

I am going to try to upload pictures now. I am unable to use Photobucket because someone has an acct using my email. Until that is straightened out I will have to just use a link.

These are my trees taken today. I just got some Foliage Pro yesterday but can't water because we are going to be getting a lot of rain.

Kim

Here is a link that might be useful: Citrus 2010


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Hey Kim,
thanks for the summary, I am about to follow your journey myself thanks to Lowes big citrus sale!
Glad to know bigger is not better when it comes to pots...I guess I lucked out reading this before I found the big pots I have been looking for! Questions:
Where did you get the Foliage pro? What do you plan to do for winter? I have an unheated garage in Fort Worth I was thinking about maybe putting my plants in but it has no windows.
Thanks!
Nik


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Hi Nik

I was at Lowes Wednesday and they had some various Mandarin trees 75% off!!! It was all I could do to not buy another one. I do wish I had not gotten the two big pots that I have. It is much easier to maintain a smaller pot and move up as the plants grow. I ordered Foliage Pro online. I can't find it locally. Just look for it online. My plans for winter are to enclose my back porch in the really clear plastic "walls" like they to at restaurants. I have been looking into having them made. It seems like it will be expensive but it will be like another room so that is what I want to do. If we don't do that they will have to come inside. That worries me because I have 5 good sized trees and 2 small pots that will have to come in. I will try to keep them out as long as possible by moving them up against the most sheltered wall on the back porch-maybe even use Christmas lights.

If you have not purchased bark for the 5:1:1 mix I suggest the Repti bark from Pets Mart or Petco. It is awesome. It is more expensive but if you are only potting a couple of plants I would use that. I used it on several of mine and think it is the bomb.

Good luck with your new purchases. What citrus did you get?
Kim


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Hey Kim, that sounds like a great idea! Would they be detachable? Someone suggested I make rigid PVC panels that could screw onto the posts of my pergola to make a "temporary winter greenhouse" I have been thinking about how to do that without it looking trashy or damaging the posts. I know just what you are talking about, that really thick flexible clear stuff like convertible rear windows are made of. I'd love to know what you end up with and what it costs, that may be my best solution too!

I posted pics of my impulsive citrus shopping spree on Mikes "partying outdoors" thread: I got 2 Improved Meyer Lemons, 2 Mexican Limes, a Calamondin Orange, 2 Seto Satsumas, 2 Owari Satsumas, a Lemon Drop, a Miho Satsuma, and a Seto Satsuma. The Satsumas were only $4.50 each and the others were 1/2 off. I went back yesterday and they have some lemons and limes and maybe a calomondin left for only $6.50 each! I already have a lime and a lemon that have been in the ground for 2 years with just Christmas lights in winter, I thought they were goners when they died to the ground this winter but they are now back and thriving(!) I bought several bougainvillas and mandevillas, pineapple guavas, plumerias and I want to get a mango too now... so a conservatory/greenhouse is looking more and more necessary!

I may look into the repti bark, I have been sifting Premium Pine mulch from Home Depot since April for the gritty mix, so far I have filled 4 - 45 gallon containers but its a lot of work and you only end up with 1/4 of the bag being use-able for the mix (no waste as the rest is still good mulch but its very time consuming)

I was going to use the gritty mix for the citrus, is the 5:1:1 preferable for citrus?
Thanks!
Nik


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Nik

Yes, the panels I am thinking about would be detachable. I also would like to have two "doors" - one for my husband to get to his grill and one to allow us to still go out and sit by the fire pit. I know that will increase the price but I really would like to make it practical and look good. I think we would enjoy sitting on the patio and still being able to see out and have it look really nice during the winter. I will have to get pricing info because I know they are not cheap. Your pergola idea sounds great too. One of the least expensive options I saw was the super clear plastic that you can order is custom sized sheets that has grommets all the way around. My only concern with that one for my patio is that there would be no "door" openings so when my husband would be cooking we would have to take the size down and the top of each panel would be over 10 feet high so that would mean a ladder every time we wanted to go out in the yard. I will let you know if I get any information.

I saw the pics of your trees. They look great! I can't believe the prices you got. What Lowes did you find them at? My Lowes never had all those varieties.

I only started attempting to grow citrus in June. I just switched to the 5:1:1 mix recently so I am by no means experienced with the different mixes. I chose 5:1:1 because I could find the ingredients easily and after reading on the forum I noted lots of people had success. I know lots have had grea results with the gritty mix too. I have used the pine bark from Home Depot and liked it but I honestly did not sift. I live in basically a zero lot line community so our yard is tiny and I don't have room to store leftover bark and my beds are full of mulch so I don't need any more there. For my situation the 5:1:1 seems to be draining well, easy to find ingredients and I think I will continue with repti-bark because the pieces are nice and tiny and as far as my pots go I am happier with the reptibark ones.

Meyer Mike uses both 5:1:1 and gritty mixes and his plants look amazing so I am guessing both are great mixes. He also uses Foliage Pro at every watering - not full strength. He posted lots of great information about pests too. I got some fish emulsion at Home Depot and I am going to add that to my regimen.

Kim


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

I look forward to seeing your porch enclosure solution. I think the gromits might work for my scenario: I would just enclose one section of the porch and could access at one corner when needed by undoing the ties connecting the grommits from one sheet to another. hmmm

I got all of my citrus at the Lowes in Granbury, I stopped at the Bryant Irvin Lowes today and was surprised at how much higher their prices were for the same plants - even with a 50% off sale. And they didn't have quite the variety either.

Lots more reading to do before I repot anything I guess. At least they seem to be doing fine for now - so far so good
Thanks for your help
Nikki


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Nikki

I agree with reading a lot before you pot your trees. I did not read before I potted mine (the first time). So, I ended up repotting two more times. There is a ton of information on this site. I am such a newbie but I have learned a lot of things so far. Yes, prices here have not been anywhere near as low as what you paid. Next year I am going to check out your Lowes store. I can't remember where I saw the vinyl sheets with grommets now. But do a search for crystal clear vinyl sheets if you want to find them. I am really considering using them and installing some zippers myself or modifying them in some way. Good luck.
Kim


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Hi kim!!

Thank you for your compliments and I hope your plants are doing well..:-)

I will have to catch up on this thread since I seemed to have over looked it! bad me..

Have a good night and keep up the good work.

Nikki, did you ever decide what mix you were going with?


Mike


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Mike

You are welcome for the compliments - they are well deserved! You and the others with lots of experience are helping us keep our plants healthy. The pictures you take the time to post inspire us. It is just exciting to know that I don't have a "brown" thumb - I just did not have the information I needed. Sadly, the people who work at the local garden centers are not very informative or are too busy to pass on what they know. Of course, it could just be that I have never asked enough questions. So far so good on my citrus. They Meyer still looks the worst of the bunch but it is not declining. I can't wait for all this rain here to stop so that I can start watering and using my Foliage Pro and fish emulsion. Thanks again for sharing all that you know.
Kim


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Kim, I found them at mytarp dot com, but after reading some more on the greenhouse forum, it seems that alone or even a greenhouse alone may not be enough to prevent freezing in winter...sigh...more research necessary(!)

Mike, I am currently using the gritty mix for my patio clematis and passion-vine and I love it, I just don't know if I can produce enough more of it to put all of my citrus in (or even if I should). I figure I have until spring to figure it out, in the meantime I am sifting all of the pine mulch I get for the beds and stockpiling the < 1/4" bits. Which do you prefer for citrus and why? Also, I noticed you use lime rather than gypsum, why is that? Do you still add epsom salts with the fertilizer?
Thanks!


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Nikki

I am going to look up the site you mentioned. I think that is the same one I looked at. My porch is only exposed on two sides - the west and south. The other sides are actually the walls of my house. So, I a hoping that I can create an environment that I can keep warm enough by enclosing the sides with the clear material letting the sun heat it by day and maybe supplement the heat at night if it is really cold. That is my plan anyway - hope it will work.

Kim


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

A few more observations...........
I have discovered that I am an "over-waterer" and and "over-potter". I am now convinced that I over-watered my Meyer Lemon tree which started the problems that I am now trying to clear up. That tree was also in the largest pot - way too big for a young tree. Even with my dowel and the 5:1:1 I over-watered. The pot was large enough that when I used the dowel the soil would be dry past the rootball but not totally dry at the bottom. So last week I broke down and repotted into a smaller pot. Now the soil dries out more evenly in the pot. I have also learned that I have to use terracotta (unglazed clay) pots. Since I actually enjoy watering my plants I need clay pots because the dry out faster.

So, the next tree I get will be put in an appropriately sized terracotta pot in 5:1:1, watered carefully, fed weakly at each watering, and sprayed weekly with fish emulsion/water (which seems to be getting rid of pests).

Thanks to everyone who provideds such helpful information on the forum. Hopefully I will learn enough to keep my trees healthy long-term and be able to share what I have learned with others.
Kim


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RE: Observations of a Newbie to Citrus

Partyprincess and Kim....Way to go....Fantastic!! My goodness, it thrills me to see you doing so well, and it will be even more exciting when you see how they react with all the information you have, and all that you apply in the WINTER..

Strong work..:-)

Mike


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