Planting citrus tree seedlings

To plant seedling trees dig a hole three to four times larger than the container, and mix the soil you've removed with compost and well rotted manure. Trim off any damaged limbs and water the tree well before planting it. Set the tree at the same depth, or slightly deeper, than it was in its container. For the first two weeks following planting, water each tree two or three times a week using 20 litres of water. Then water every week or so for the remainder of the first growing season.

Citrus trees have a relatively high nitrogen requirement and this can be adequately catered for with two generous applications per year of poultry manure. Apply it in spring and again in late summer. Simply lift the mulch and spread it evenly right out to the dripline. Do not hoe or dig into the soil as you could damage the surface roots. Very little pruning is required — for shape only — except in lemons where the centre should be kept open to allow sunlight to enter. The only other pruning needed is the removal of all old woody limbs that have lost their vigour, and cutting off the top limbs to induce lower growth in some of the taller varieties of mandarin.

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You should prune immediately after you've picked citrus fruit and before flowers have begun to form. Remove any new shoots which appear below the graft. Also use sharp secateurs, to avoid bruising. Constant observation of citrus trees is essential for early detection of pest infestation or disease, so that you can treat it before serious damage occurs. Larger bugs, such as caterpillars, can simply be picked off. Red scale is one of the worst enemies of citrus and will increase rapidly if it's left untreated. It can be controlled with a spray of white oil and water, mixed in a one to 40 ratio. Whitefly can also be eradicated using white oil spray.

Soft scale is controllable with a solution of 450 g of washing soda, 150 ml of white oil and 14 litres of water, sprayed on a dull day. For sooty mould, mildews and fungi, use a mixture of 400 g of washing soda, 200 g of soft soap, and one tablespoon of kerosene mixed with 14 litres of warm water. Do not apply it in very hot weather.

Ants are quite often responsible for scale infestation of citrus. They actually 'farm' the scale for their nectar. Paint the trunks of citrus with a mixture of lime and water to deter them.

Lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit can be used to make cordial. Add a generous amount of ice and iced water and you have the most cooling, thirst-quenching and enjoyable drink you could ever imagine. Sip it in the garden under the shade of a tree, or in the hammock on the verandah.

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