CITRUS IN THE FOOTHILLS
By Trey Pitsenberger, co-owner
If you love the
flavor of fresh citrus, or simply appreciate the striking
beauty of rich green foliage and bright-colored fruit,
you’ll have no
problem squeezing a citrus tree into your landscape! I
find the fragrance of citrus to be one of the most appealing
aspects of the plant. It is a treat to walk by a citrus
tree in full bloom and smell its intoxicating aroma.
One of the wonderful things about citrus trees is that
they can be easily grown in containers as well as in
Many people new
to the foothills are surprised to learn that citrus
do grow here. In the lower foothills, around Lincoln,
Newcastle, Penryn, and Loomis are a thriving Mandarin
growing region. Most widely planted is the ‘Owari
Satsuma’ Mandarin. This seedless citrus is grown
to perfection in these locations and the area is quite
famous for its fruit. Navel oranges, lemons, and limes
are also grown here as well.
growing requires varying amounts of heat. Meyer
Lemons, Kumquats, Mandarins, and Oranges are the most
cold tolerant and are generally the best types for
the foothills. Mexican limes and Grapefruits are less
hardy and would have to be protected from the winter
cold every year. You local nurseryperson can help you
decide what type of citrus would be best in your location.
Citrus trees, like
many other fruit trees, are available in dwarf and
standard size. Equally exciting, many varieties of
citrus are incredibly prolific once established. When
you see how many buds appear on a 5-gallon nursery
specimen, you can’t help but be impressed!
If you live outside the citrus growing regions discussed
or wish to try the more tender varieties, dwarf trees
planted in containers are a great idea. Dwarf citrus
are easily kept to around six feet or so. This makes
covering them in the winter with a thermal blanket easier.
You might even move the whole container to a protected
spot where the frost would not be a concern. Just moving
them to under a covered porch or patio is sometimes all
the protection they need.
In locating your
tree, look for a sunny, wind-free area with southern
exposure. Keep in mind how large the tree will grow,
and allow ample space for a mature tree. If adequate
heat is a concern, you might be able to find a sheltered
area that receives good sun exposure, like a patio
and/or a location where heat can be reflected off walls.
If you decide to grow your tree in a container, you’ll
have the ultimate in flexibility. When planting in
a container use a high quality potting soil and not
garden dirt. Be sure to choose a container that has
a drainage hole in the bottom and try to pick out a
pot will show of the beauty of the citrus.
Tree care is a snap. Make sure you have
good drainage whether you plant in the ground or in a
container. Mulching is a great idea, but make sure the
mulch is at least 6 inches away from the tree trunk.
Citrus trees are heavy feeders. Fertilize lightly spring
thru summer. Feed your trees with a citrus food following
label recommendations. Sometimes the leaves of citrus
will be quite yellow with the veins of the leaf staying
green. This is a sign of iron deficiency. This can be
remedied with an application of chelated iron fertilizer
along with the citrus food. Trees can be pruned at any
time of the year except winter. Pinch back the tips of
new growth for a rounder, fuller tree.