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How to care for your Arizona Citrus Tree

Orange Trees, Lemon Trees, Grapefruit Trees, Tangelo Trees, Lime Trees - Tending your Desert Citrus Grove.

Planting a Citrus Tree
Dig a hole that is the same depth as the root ball of the citrus tree, and about 3 to 5 times wider than the root ball.  To encourage outward root growth, score the sides of the citrus tree's root ball. After placing the citrus tree in the hole, backfill with the original soil, filtering out the rocks. Soil amendments, composts, mulches, etc. should be avoided.  To prevent sunburn damage, paint the citrus tree trunk with white latex paint. There is no need to purchase tree trunk paint, it is latex paint. Do not fertilize the first year.

Pruning a Citrus Tree
Prune citrus tree only to remove suckers (growth below the graft union of the tree), and dead diseased or damaged branches. Cosmetic pruning can result in decreased yields.

Watering the Citrus tree
The first year:
Summer: Water the entire citrus tree root system deeply, to a depth of 3-4 feet every 3 days.
Winter: Water the entire root system deeply, to a depth of 3-4 feet every 6 days.

After the first year:
Summer: Water the entire citrus tree root system deeply, to a depth of 3-4 feet every 4-7 days.
Winter: Water the entire root system deeply, to a depth of 3-4 feet every 8-12 days.
If you irrigate by a bubbler system, double irrigate citrus trees every couple of months to leach out accumulated soil salts.

Fertilizing the Citrus tree
Do not fertilize citrus trees the first year.  Do not fertilize in August,  November or December.  In January or February fertilize 1/3 the recommended annual amount for the trees,  then the same amount again in April or May, and the final third in September or October, if the temperatures have dropped below 100 degrees. Because of its high salt content, barnyard manure is not recommended for citrus trees. Additional Fertilization Information here.

Iron Deficiency of a Citrus Tree
Liquid chelated iron is recommended for the Phoenix area citrus tree.  It can be mixed per the instructions, or sprinkled under the tree’s canopy and watered in.  It can also be sprayed directly on the leaves (yet not in the heat of summer)  for several weeks, until it greens up. Ideal season for this is either spring or fall.

Water & Fertilizer
Assuming your citrus trees have been in place at least two to three years, citrus trees do best when they are flooded then allowed to dry out before re-watering.  The soil composition, the drainage of the soil, the amount of rainfall you receive, and the time of year all determine how often you need to water your citrus trees.  Within the Salt River Valley, soil conditions can vary.  A good beginning watering schedule during the summer months (Apr - Sept) is to water the trees every 7 to 10 days.  During the winter months (Nov - Feb) water the trees every 3 to 4 weeks.  Over watering can be just as much of a problem as not watering enough.  Obviously a wilted tree may mean a lack of moisture.  Then again, too much moisture leads to root decay, with the symptoms showing a wilted appearance.  This sometimes leads to a dilemma--too much or too little.

One way to check if your watering schedule is correct is to dig down 6 inches, about mid-way between the trunk and the drip-line.  If the soil sample sticks together after squeezing in your hand, then you do not need to water for another week.  This check will help you in establishing the correct watering schedule for your trees.

Seasonal Citrus Watering Chart

To grow citrus successfully, it is also necessary to fertilize yearly.  In the Salt River Valley our soil is low in nitrogen, and therefore it is the main element needed when you fertilize.

To get the most out of your fertilizer, in addition to normal soil surface application, make 10 - 12 holes six inches deep three-fourths of the way out from the base of the plant and the drip line.  Put equal amounts of fertilizer into each hole and cover over the holes with soil.  Completely fill the basin with water.

In calculating the fertilizer amount, consider these factors:
     * The type and amount of fertilizer.
     * The number of years since the tree was planted.
     * The type of citrus.

Courtesy of:

Greenfield Citrus Nursery
John P. Babiarz and Debra L. Hodson, Arizona Growers Since 1972
2558 E. Lehi Rd., Mesa, AZ. 85213-9711
(480) 830-8000   FAX: (480) 833-5705

Jomar Tree Service • P.O. Box 4803 • Cave Creek, AZ • 85327 – serving the Phoenix metro area – 602-285-0285