Initial Tree Care
We have spent some time tweaking and perfecting our methods to grow citrus trees, and each day we learn more. Caring for a citrus tree doesn’t end when you plant it in the ground. Regular tree maintenance and care are essential to producing the freshest and sweetest fruit. We’ve put together some tips and tricks for first-time growers that will guide you through the initial care your tree needs starting the moment you take it home with you or the moment it arrives at your door. Please take a look at the tips we offer below, as well as visit our Q&A page. If you can't find your answers on our website, please send us a note. We will do our best to answer you if we know, and if we don’t, we will research it and get back to you.
Cold weather care
While some citrus varieties are cold-tolerant, most citrus is not. Citrus is a sub-tropical plant. Regardless of where you live, it is necessary to protect your tree during freezing conditions for prolonged periods of time. In our grove, if the temperature is predicted to be at sub-freezing temps for 4 hours or more, we protected our trees with micro-jet irrigation techniques. We put 14 gallons of water per hour per tree on every tree until the temperature rises above 36 degrees. Our trees are 6 years old now, but on younger trees, we recommend covering the tree with a Tree Defender to help with keeping it protected. GGC is the Tree Defender representative for Georgia, so you can purchase them here on our website. Besides cold weather, Tree Defenders protect your tree from heat stress and pests, so it offers a trifecta of benefits.
If the plant is in a container, set the plant indoors if there is the possibility of a frost or freeze.
When to water your citrus tree
Newly planted trees should be watered regularly for the first three months if rains are inadequate. The soil should dry down between waterings.
For trees in containers, watering will need to be more frequent since the tree isn’t planted in the ground. Let the soil dry between watering. If the tree stands in water, it will get root disease.
Although it is not a proven scientific method by any stretch of the imagination, the following was told to me by an old-school citrus farmer. If you are wondering about watering a citrus tree planted in the ground, take the heel of your shoe, and scrape down about an inch. If the soil is dry, water your tree. If it is moist, then don’t. If your tree is in a pot, stick your finger in the soil. If it’s dry, water it; if it’s wet, don’t. Works every time.
When to fertilize your citrus tree
Citrus trees go dormant in the winter, so you don’t want to do anything to prohibit that from happening. If you fertilize late, the trees will not go dormant. Obviously if the trees are in pots, then you can fertilize them anytime because you can move them indoors in a freeze event. We fertilize our trees starting in February and fertilize once a month until July. We use a citrus fertilizer at a rate of 1 – 2 lbs. for every year of age. Fertilizer should be applied around the drip line of the tree. Do not put it up next to the trunk. Slow-release fertilizers work well and can be used less frequently; follow the instructions of the manufacturer.
How much sunlight is required for a citrus tree
Citrus trees are an under-story tree so they do well in some shade, although full sun will work too. Again, on young trees, you can put them under a Tree Defender which will help them grow 30% faster as it relieves the tree of heat stress.
If you live in a northern climate where you must move your tree indoors, try to place it in a sunny location. Morning sun is the most beneficial for your tree. The south side of your house will usually provide the most sunlight.