Question - Citrus Problem

Discussion in 'Fruit & Vegetable Growing' started by Steve, Jan 18, 2018.

  1. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member

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    Ok, so I'm after some advice please....

    I have 4 (actually 3 now as one died) citrus plants that are currently planted with the intention of espaliering them. There's a lime, orange and lemon. The mandarin died.
    They have been in the ground for around a year now I guess, and all were very healthy looking plants from a reputable seller.

    The problem is that the soil is very clay where they are and they are either not growing at all or only very slowly. As I said one died, two look a little sick and one looks ok but not much growth. At the time of planting I knew it was very clay so I did put a fair bit of organic compost in the hole and fill-in dirt along with lime and fertiliser. Since planting I have put more compost on top several times, along with regular fertiliser and thick mulch. I fear they get water logged due to the bad drainage.

    My question is, what should I do?
    I have a couple of ideas myself but open to more...
    1. Stick with them and hope they come good. Maybe tweak the compost/fertiliser etc I'm putting on them. :goodluck:
    2. Carefully dig them out (which I dont think would be too hard), dig out a fair amount of clay and replace with a LOT of organic compost and free draining soil. Replant the same plants.
    3. Remove current plants, do the same with the soil in point 2 above, but buy new plants to go back into the hole.
    4. Scrap the whole idea and lay concrete over the whole thing! :clip:

    Happy for ideas/advice.
    Thanks
     
  2. Letsgokate

    Letsgokate Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    I had a similar problem with some citrus I put in the ground. Didn’t die but just didn’t do anything. Due to clay and tall gums taking the nutrients.

    I dug them up and put them in pots, and they and now going great. You could still espalier them. I have 4 passion fruit in pots growing over a fence fine.

    I follow the principals Ian Trolly aka Mr Citrus does with potted citrus http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s4310556.htm

    And here
    http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s4420350.htm
     
  3. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member

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    Thanks @letsgo
    I think if I decide to still try to grow in the same spot with new plants I'll move the 'sick' plants to a better spot. Maybe even pots.

    I guess I should have explained that the spot they are currently in is more for aesthetics, that is, it's in plain view of the pool where they will make a nice view from the back of the house. Also, I already have the wires up for the espalier.

    Using your advice I could put pots in the same place as where the plants are now and maybe remove the bottom wire as they will sit a lot higher in a pot. Food for thought. Thanks :cheers:
     
  4. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Letsgo is on the right track, Steve.
    You need to get them out of the ground asap & into nice big containers.

    Such containers don't need to be flash themselves because you can put bamboo or similar around the containers to make them look great.

    Planting more plants into your clay will only lead to disappointment in the long run.

    Clay needs lots of GYPSUM otherwise called Clay Breaker to break it down.
    No amount of compost will do that. All you end up with is a hole that holds water even while filled with compost. Go to a rural store or large nursery to get a 20kg bag for $14 rather than a 4kg bag for $14 from Bunnings!

    Citrus move easily. Get them out of the ground this weekend while they are a bit on the dry side (kinder to the roots) & into good potting mix or specialty Citrus mix. You can add up to 50% Coco coir to extend the mix but retain moisture holding for the dry times.

    If they have thin long branches you can trim those almost right off for now. New fresh growth will grow once the plant settles into its new pot.

    We are apparently to get rain next Thursday. If they are still in the clay by then, they will suffer from the waterlogged conditions & you might loose them.
     
  5. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member

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    Thanks @ClissAT, i did use a fair amount of clay breaker when planting them and also some more on top from time to time. I fear it would need a truck load to make any difference.

    I dont think I'll lose them as they have had plenty of rainy times but it's definitely not going to help.
    Looks like I'll dig em up this weekend.
    Do you think it's worth keeping the same plants for espalier or will they take a really long time to fully recover?
     
  6. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Can you take a photo of each plant so we can assess their viability?
    Citrus are fairly forgiving & respond well to TLC.
    They easily produce new branches.

    Some technical info re gypsum & clay.
    Clay is composed of platelets that are bound together usually in piles by an electrical charge & the surface tension of the water it is holding.
    The reason it is so slippery is that the moist platelets slide apart easily.
    The density of the platelets(the number in the stack & the shape of their bowl shape) & the strength of the charge determines how much water gets trapped between the layers therefore the strength of the surface tension.
    Gypsum has the opposite charge so when the 2 come into molecular contact in the presence of moisture, the charge is dispelled & the platelets come apart as the water disperses.

    To get gypsum to do the best job it can, you have to break the clay up as much as possible while it is dry(ish) & mix the gypsum through thoroughly. The ratio can be as high as 50/50 on some clays.
    That can be very hard laborious work with mattock, crow bar, etc.
    But the more gypsum molecules in direct contact (to disperse the charge)with clay molecules the better it will work.

    Clay is actually quite fertile generally. Think about the Downs country west of Brisbane. All that sticky black clay grows a whole host of crops.
    Think about Sunshine Coast Hinterland (eg Maleny) with its red clay volcanic soils that's so fertile the growth leaps out of the ground in seconds it seems. Or similar volcanic rim country behind Gold Coast.

    So you don't want to loose it. You just need to break the bonds.
    However you still need to make quite high mounds because you wont be able to treat the surrounding soil, just the hole you are planting into. So a high mound is best to keep the roots above ground level for drainage.
     
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  7. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member

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    I struggled with hard black vertisol clay soil that even with lots of gypsum I couldn’t get even the hardiest of fruit trees to do well. Now it’s much the same this season as it’s been so dry but I’m hoping with watering and this red clay that I’m on now it may be kinder to the citrus. All the best with that Steve.
     
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  8. DarrenP

    DarrenP Well-Known Member Premium Member GOLD

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    The front area of our yard is either a graveyard for plants, or they just don't grow. I too have used gypsum, but now as well as gypsum, I lay down a layer of aged sheep manure and compost, then cover with cardboard, then pea straw mulch. I'm hoping this will help improve the soil. Once the process is done, I intend to put more gypsum on a regular basis.
     
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