Gardening Tips: Making the most of citrus trees, by Master Gardener Judy Jean

Citrus trees are a delightful addition to any homeowner’s garden.
Not only do they provide fresh and flavorful fruits, but they also add beauty and vibrancy to the landscape. However, it is important to be aware of the challenges that can arise, particularly with the prevalent issue of Citrus Greening. This devastating disease, caused by a bacterium spread by the Asian citrus psyllid insect, poses a significant threat to citrus trees and has become a major concern for homeowners. In this article, we will explore valuable tips from the
University of Florida IFAS Extension and the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program, guiding homeowners in nurturing healthy citrus trees while addressing the challenges posed by Citrus Greening.
When choosing citrus trees for your Palm Coast garden, consider the region’s climate and conditions. Placing citrus trees in suitable locations offers several benefits. Proper placement allows trees to grow to their desired size, reducing the need for frequent pruning. Selecting the right soil type and pH for citrus trees ensures a balanced nutrient supply, reducing the need for additional additives.
Location and Sunlight
Palm Coast enjoys abundant sunshine, which is ideal for citrus tree growth. Select a location in your yard that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Take note of any microclimates in your landscape that may offer additional warmth and protection for your trees during cooler winter months.
Soil Preparation and Planting
Prepare the soil for your citrus trees by incorporating organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure. This will improve soil fertility, drainage, and water-holding capacity. Palm Coast’s sandy soils may benefit from added organic amendments. Dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than the root ball, and gently place the tree, ensuring it sits at the same depth as it did in the container. Backfill the hole with soil, firming it gently around the roots.
In Palm Coast, citrus trees need regular watering to thrive. Water deeply but not too often to encourage deep roots. Aim for about 1 inch of water per week, including rainfall and irrigation. Check the soil moisture and adjust watering to avoid over or under-watering, especially in dry months. Remember to use water wisely, considering the amount you use, to keep your citrus trees healthy and conserve water.
Proper fertilization is crucial for healthy citrus trees in Palm Coast. Start fertilizing in spring when the tree shows growth signs. Use a balanced citrus fertilizer as recommended by the University of Florida IFAS Extension. In the first year, apply fertilizer every six weeks from February to October. Use an 8-8-8 analysis fertilizer, starting with a half cupful and increasing to one-and-one-half pints in September.
Follow UF/IFAS’ fertilizer schedule in the second, third, and fourth years. Apply fertilizer within the basin area in the first year and spread it beyond the dripline as the tree’s age (up to ten years). Avoid applying fertilizer near the trunk. Check soil pH at the County Extension Office, aiming for a range of 5.5-6.5.
Pest and Disease Management
Palm Coast’s warm climate also presents some challenges with pests and diseases. Monitor your citrus trees regularly for signs of aphids, citrus leaf miners, and other common pests. Stay informed about the presence of citrus greening disease and take necessary precautions to prevent its spread. Follow integrated pest management practices, prioritizing cultural and biological controls before considering chemical options. Consult the University of Florida IFAS Extension for specific recommendations on pest and disease management in Palm Coast.
Applying a layer of organic mulch around the base of citrus trees in Palm Coast offers numerous benefits.
Mulch helps conserve moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth. Maintain a 2- to 4- inch height.
State of the Citrus Industry
It’s important to be aware of the current state of the citrus industry and the challenges posed by a devastating disease called Citrus Greening, also known as Huanglongbing
(HLB). Florida, including Palm Coast, has been significantly affected by this disease, which has had a profound impact on citrus trees statewide.
Citrus Greening is caused by a bacterium that is spread by an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. The disease weakens the tree, stunts its growth, and causes bitter, misshapen fruit. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Citrus Greening, and infected trees usually decline and die within a few years.
The citrus industry in Florida has been actively working to combat this disease through research, education, and the implementation of best management practices. Researchers and growers are striving to develop resistant citrus varieties and explore innovative treatments to control the spread of Citrus
As a homeowner in Palm Coast, it’s crucial to stay informed about Citrus Greening and its impact on the local citrus industry. By following recommended practices for pest management, regularly inspecting your trees for signs of the Asian citrus psyllid or disease symptoms, and promptly reporting any suspicious findings to your local extension office, you can contribute to the collective efforts in managing and minimizing the spread of Citrus Greening.
Remember that responsible citrus tree care practices, such as proper fertilization, irrigation, and integrated pest management, play a vital role in maintaining tree health and resilience against diseases. Supporting the citrus industry and adopting these practices can help preserve the future of citrus cultivation in Florida, including the beautiful citrus trees in your Palm Coast garden.
Exciting Updates from the Extension Office
Mark your calendars for the Flagler County Master Gardener Plant Sale fundraiser on June 17, 2023. Its a green thumb’s paradise. Don’t miss out. Follow us on Facebook at Flagler County Master Gardeners or shoot us an email at for more info. Let’s grow together.