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Hilltop's Variety Spotlight

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Growing Citrus "Up North"

Calamondin. Citrus, such as lemons, limes, and calamondins, can easily be grown as a house plant or a conservatory specimen. In the house, place them in your sunniest spot (like a south facing sliding door, if you are fortunate to have one). The location can be quite cool and still do well. In fact, nights in the 40's are ok, but 60's is optimum. Keep the soil evenly wet, without being soggy wet (which can cause root rot!) In a greenhouse the soil may dry a little more quickly than in a house; check and watered as needed.

Citrus are not heavy feeders but do need to be fed occasionally. I recommend Miracid, an acid fertilizer from MiracleGro. It had more trace minerals to help keep citrus foliage green. Citrus do need extra iron, and Miracid has it! (Here at Hilltop Farm, Miracid is the soluble fertilizer we use on everything.) In the winter feed your citrus trees one time per month; in the summer feed one time per week.

If you start to get yellow leaves (with green veins), it usually means there is an iron deficiency. Miracid can help. Or you can use an iron source called "chelated iron". This will rapidly supply available iron to the roots. Do follow the instructions on the chelated iron label - too much will burn your plant! Use the amount the package states to use; mix it in a gallon of water and water the plant with that.

We grow our citrus in our usual potting soil, Metro Mix 902. It is free draining but holds enough water for proper growth. There is no need to amend this potting mix; use it straight out of the bag.

Citrus do best when grown pot tight. Do not put in too big of a pot or they will drown. It is better to pot them up one or two times a year to the next size pot; a little more trouble, but worth the effort.

The occasional "bugs" that bother citrus are few, thankfully. Sometimes aphids will infest them. They are easily dealt with: On a warm day, move your plant outside and, using a fairly strong stream of water, wash the aphids off the plant. That usually takes care of the aphids. You can also spray the plant with a dish-soap solution (1 teaspoon of soap per gallon of water). Spray all the surfaces of the plant; wait an hour; then rinse off; bugs gone!

Our "pet" trees will flower and fruit year round. We do nothing to encourage pollination and still get lots of fruit. We do take our trees out of the greenhouse for a "summer vacation" from May until early September. (Citrus blossoms are deliciously fragrant! Honey bees do visit and, in areas - like Florida - where citrus are abundant, make "orange-blossom" honey - the best honey there is!)

Some of our trees are 20+ years old, yet we manage to keep them small enough to move in and out. Pot size can help keep your citrus manageable sized - smaller pot=smaller plant. You can also carefully prune your trees to keep them under 4' tall yet still produce well.

We successfully grow lemons, limes, calamondins, and kumquats in our greenhouse, resulting in abundant harvests of the best tasting fruit! A fresh picked/squeezed lime is sooo much better than a store-bought lime! We have tried the sweet citrus such as oranges, but were not pleased with the results! There was plenty of fruit, but not enough flavor and sweetness! We go to the store for oranges!

Variety Spotlight #13, 2/24/2014 © Hilltop Farm

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