Commercially, our farmers are often busy producing fragrant citrus fruits including grapefruit, lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges and others like kumquats. But you don't need to pop to the grocery store to enjoy these vibrant varieties when you can try your hand at growing them at home!
Whether you fancy blood oranges, Tahitian limes or fanciful double-grafted "splitzers" — or simply want the familiar sight of a lemon tree in the garden — getting started is easier than you might think. Here are a few top tips to remember before you start digging:
Plant in containers or your garden
Most citrus trees don't grow too large — and there are plenty of dwarf varieties suited to tight spaces. This makes them ideal for a sunny patch in the garden or a container. If you decide to plant citrus trees in containers, make sure they have drainage holes in the bottom. Consider terracotta as it helps excess moisture escape.
Give your citrus trees plenty of sunshine
Wait until the risk of frost has passed before planting your young citrus trees. They love the warmth and will need full sun, or at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Additionally, protected spots away from gusts and other disturbances can help ensure your trees get off to a good start.
Prioritise good drainage
It's critical that you plant your citrus trees in well-drained soil because heavy, wet soil can cause root rot. It also helps to elevate containers on plant stands or bricks to promote better drainage, so the roots aren't left sitting in a soggy spot.
Choose the right soil or potting mix
The ideal soil type for citrus trees is sandy loam at a pH of about 6 to 7.5. If you're planting in a pot, fill it up until there are about 4 centimetres remaining above the top of the soil. If you have heavier soil and will be planting straight into the ground, prepare a 2-metre spot with plenty of compost and gypsum.
Pop your citrus trees into place
When placing citrus trees in containers or a prepared spot in the garden, you'll follow the usual process as you would with any other plant. First, dig a hole that's twice as wide as the original container and about as deep. Then, loosen the roots from the original pot and tease the roots to loosen them up.
Next, set the root system into the hole. Hold it upright as you backfill it with soil and ensure that the top of the rootball stays in line with the top of the soil mound. Avoid burying it beneath the soil. Finish off with a layer of mulch, without covering the base of the tree trunk.
Water young citrus trees well
Newly planted citrus trees can be watered about one to three times per week, or as frequently as necessary to keep the soil adequately moist. In especially hot or dry weather, keep an eye on your citrus trees and consider soaking them every day.
Fertilise for higher-quality fruit
Citrus trees require a lot of nutrients. Be sure to provide yours with citrus fertiliser at the start of every season or on a monthly basis, following the directions for the type of product you're using. Switching the fertiliser each time is a great way to vary up the nutrients and keep the soil rich year-round.
Enjoy your citrus harvest
When you start noticing your citrus tree produce fruit, wait until they've achieved their full colour, flavour and fragrance before carefully harvesting. If you try one and it tastes deliciously ripe, the others will usually be ready to enjoy as well.