Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Oranges and Lemons

Winter is here in Perth. Over this week we’ve been lashed by a wild storm with rain, hail and high winds. When I went for my half hour lunchtime stroll on Monday I found myself completely drenched from knee-level down in a 30 second downpour, doing my very best Marcel Marceau impersonation and then putting on sunglasses for the last 10 minutes. A meteorologist I heard on the radio described the weather as ‘vigorous’.

In this post I want to talk about my Washington Navel orange tree, which has fruited for the first time this year.  Citrus trees seem to be very slow growing and I like to get some height before I let my trees fruit. Even so it is only about 4 ½ feet high after 5 years. They are delicious and heavy for their size and, therefore, juicy. Which is a relief. I was never sure if I was giving it enough water for good fruit over summer. Too little and they will be small and dry, too uneven and the fruit will split – or so I’m told.

This is a dwarf Meyer lemon. My original plan was to keep this in a pot and so I let it fruit even though it was in its first season. I far prefer plants to be in the ground where they take care of themselves and, with bit of shuffling, I have found a spot for it. I’m very impressed with it. Snails ate a lot of the early fruit, which is probably a good thing.

Apart from the Washington Navel I have an early fruiting orange variety, a Navelina orange which is now 3 years old, and another tree that I bought last year, a semi-dwarf Cara Cara orange, which is sold as Rosey red oranges in stores here. The Cara Cara is not a blood orange but a pink toned navel orange.

I follow a fairly hefty fertilising regime for them, adding granular fertiliser in spring, summer and autumn as well as mulching with compost in spring. Even so, the leaves show signs of mineral deficiency in the sandy soil. This is where Charlie Carp liquid fertiliser comes to the rescue. Charlie Carp fertiliser is made from the pesky and destructive European carp which infests rivers in the eastern states. It also has added minerals which increase its usefulness in the case of citrus trees and the depleted sandy soils which plague Perth.

I first discovered C. Carp when I decided to recycle some hand washing water. I decided I could wash my hands in a plastic bowl in the laundry, and by using grey water friendly soap I would be able to recycle it onto the garden. I tested its pH level by watering my hydrangea with it. With an application of compost the flowers hover somewhere in between pink and blue. Adding the recycled water turned the flowers bright pink so the solution seemed to be adding a liquid fertiliser to it. After investigation (well… googling really) I found Seasol and PowerFeed were alkaline, Charlie is acidic.

In summer I need to give my citrus trees (larger ones anyway) 4 capfuls of Charlie Carp in 2 buckets of recycled water every two to three weeks. This is mostly worked out by eyeballing the plant and if it looks a little peaky I will feed it. Over the cooler months it needs less and reduces down to around once every four or five weeks.

Apart from fertilising I give all my fruit trees an extra 10mm of water per week than the rest of the garden. Give it a try!

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