The Cambrian

A Gardener’s Notebook: A citrus grows in Cambria

Every garden should have at least one citrus tree. They have few pests, are evergreen, can be grown in pots or in the soil, and best of all, except for a nibble or two once in a while, the deer pretty much leave them alone.

Citrus fruit need heat to sweeten. Since no one expects lemons and limes to be sweet, they are the perfect citrus for Cambria gardens. I use lemon in a lot of my cooking and fresh lime in Margaritas! When I have an excess of lemons or limes, I juice them and freeze the juice in icecube trays for future use.

Citrus is susceptible to what is referred to as chlorosis (klo ro sis). Chlorosis is a condition in which plant chlorophyll is not formed or is damaged or destroyed. Chlorotic plants may lose vigor, become stunted, and even die. Chlorotic leaves appear pale green to yellow.

Never underestimate the appetite of a citrus. When the leaves of your lemon tree look as yellow as the fruit it’s time to begin a fertilization regime. Use fertilizer mixes especially made for citrus or use organic solutions like fish emulsion and kelp meal for added nitrogen. Feed every month from March to August. Experts swear by alfalfa-meal products used as mulch around the base of citrus trees. If you have tried this, please let me know how it worked for you.

Iron deficiency is especially common in citrus. Lack of iron may yellow leaves but veins remain green. Insufficient zinc, manganese, or sulfur and/or excessive sodium or copper in the soil, also contributes to chlorosis in citrus trees.

Varying soil conditions sometimes render elements unavailable to plants, causing chlorosis. Texture, type of soil, pH, and quantities of air and water in pore spaces in the earth can influence mineral availability for absorption. In other words, in soaked soil, the plant is simply unable to get the nourishment it requires.

My own lemon and lime trees look pathetic right now. The trees are planted against our fence that borders open space. They are planted where the earth levels out at the bottom of a sloping hillside. That bed has been soaked with water for several months. Since I regularly feed the citrus trees, I’m assuming that their roots are sitting in saturated soil and that is what is causing chlorosis in their leaves. I’ll keep up my feeding schedule and hope the soil drains soon.

E-mail Lee Oliphant at cam briagardener@charter. net; read her blog at gardenwithchickens .