Provide Citrus Trees with Proper Care and Maintenance

Rene Schmit  |  2/22/2013 11:36:51 PM

Citrus tree maintenance is important to influencing quality production and early spring is the perfect time of year to conduct pruning, weeding, and fertilization of citrus trees.

As there is no set rule for pruning citrus trees, the primary consideration is to remove all weak or broken branches including branches that cross or rub each other, branches that touch the ground, and all water sprouts arising from the center and base of the tree. To limit the tree’s height, taller branches can be traced to their origin on the trunk and removed or taller branches can be simply cut back to a preferred height. Width can be adjusted as well by cutting long and often weaker limbs back to a preferred length. Care should always be taken to make a sharp, smooth and flush cut to allow the pruning wound to heal over more quickly.

Weeding is an important practice for citrus and all grass and weeds including mulch should be removed from beneath the tree to expose a bare soil all the way to the drip line. This “bare soil” should be maintained throughout the entire growing season. Approved glyphosate herbicides such as Round Up are safe and can be effective in controlling vegetation under citrus trees. Be sure however, when spraying with a glyphosate herbicide that there is no wind as drift could occur that may injure nearby landscape plantings.

Fertilization should be completed by the end of February and would involve broadcasting an 8-8-8 or 13-13-13 fertilizer underneath the tree throughout the bare soil area. The amount would include 5 to 7 pounds for trees 6 years or older and 1 to 2 pounds for citrus trees 5 years or less. The fertilizer application could be split to include half the amount of fertilizer applied in late February and the remainder in early April. Do not fertilize beyond April as this would be the only fertilization necessary for the entire growing season.

Another important and beneficial practice is to remove all fruit good or bad, prior to flowering. Removal of fruit will provide the benefit for plant energy and nutrients to be directed to new buds and shoot growth rather than to the older remaining fruit.

After citrus trees have finished blooming, spray as needed with an insecticide containing the active ingredient spinosad to control leaf miners, such as Fertilome Bagworm and Borer Spray and then monthly with non-petroleum oil such as All Season Oil mixed with Malathion to control white flies, aphids, mealy bugs and citrus scale. Control of these insects in turn will control the black sooty mold that occurs as a result of their infestation. When applying insecticides always spray in late afternoon or evening and be sure to always follow label directions.

Rene’ Schmit is the LSU AgCenter county agent for St. Charles Parish and can be reached at 985-785-4473.
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