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Organic Citrus Tree Care

There’s nothing better than a tall, frosty glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Whether you enjoy one with your breakfast or perhaps in a mixed drink later in the day, oranges are a high-vitamin fruit that you can grow at home. And you can make oranges, lemons, tangerines, limes, grapefruit and all other citrus fruit even more appealing by growing them organically. When you “just say no” to chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, you can be assured that you and your family are receiving the best nutrition--and taste--you can get.

Plant and grow your citrus tree as you would for a plant that is not grown organically. However, be sure to dig in a generous amount of organic compost into the planting area before you plant your citrus. For a tree in a 5-gallon nursery pot, add at least two gallons of compost before you plant it. Choose an area with good drainage, or grow your tree in a large container using an acidic potting soil.

Allow the water you use on your citrus tree to stand uncovered for up to 24 hours before you water your tree if your tap water contains chlorine. This allows the chlorine to evaporate and it will prevent the tree from “drinking” that chemical. If you filter your chlorinated water through a simple home filtration system, this also will rid it of chlorine. After they are established, citrus trees that grow in the ground need watering once every week or two, depending on the amount of rainfall. Consider collecting rainwater to water your tree.

Mulch the area around your tree with an organic material such as compost or well-rotted manure (chicken or cow; if you have a goat or rabbits, their manure works well). Don’t allow the mulch to touch the tree’s trunk. A nutritious mulch will continually fertilize your citrus tree.

Fertilize your tree by spreading a ring of compost around the drip line at least four times each year, evenly spaced, starting in early spring, but avoiding fertilizing during winter. If you want, you can make compost tea by mixing one gallon of compost with five gallons of water and then use the mixture to water your tree. Worm castings also serve as good fertilizer--mix approximately 1 lb. of castings to five gallons of water and then water your tree with this mixture four times a year.

Control aphids, spider mites and scale insects by spraying your tree with insecticidal soap. You can purchase this product ready made or make your own by combining 1 tbsp. of organic, phosphate-free dish soap to each quart of water. You’ll need to treat adult scale insects by spraying the tree with insecticidal soap into which you have mixed 1 tbsp. of organic canola or other oil for each quart of mixture. Control snails and slugs by sprinkling either iron phosphate granules or diatomaceous earth on the soil surrounding your tree.

Treat powdery mildew or other fungal diseases with an organic sulfur spray. Watch for a white or gray sooty coating on the leaves and spray your tree as soon as you can after you notice this condition.

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