Protecting your Citrus and Fruit Trees

You may have heard of this saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of Cure.” This is very true when pertaining to gardening. Any time after Labor Day to the end of October is the perfect time to plant a citrus or fruit tree. The weather is mild in the fall and the frequent rainfall helps root growth and tree establishment.
Pruning is one way to protect your tree. If the tree is deciduous, wait until all leaves fall off, then prune the canopy. It should be trimmed about an average of 15 to 20 percent of last year’s growth. By pruning the tree, the tree gains a stronger structure and can tolerate stronger winds, making the branches less prone to damage.
Fertilizing is another way to help your tree during this season. While trees go dormant during winter, their roots are still actively growing and absorbing nutrients. A slow-release fertilizer, will help them endure winter so they may return full and lush in the spring time. Also, fertilizer helps decrease stress, so trees can ward off disease and invasive insects.
To better help you protect your tree, you must understand that the roots are the most vulnerable part of the tree in winter.
They are essential for all tree key functions.
In Summer: The roots bring water and nutrients in from the soil and It draws the nutrients up the tree.
In Fall: The collected nutrients and energy produced by the leaves are drawn down back into the roots, for storage in the roots for winter consumption.
Those nutrients help keep the dormant fruit tree alive until spring. If the roots freeze over winter, the tree won’t have access to stored nutrients. Winter damage to roots can often be fatal to the entire tree.
Use insulation. Insulation is another key factor in protecting your tree over winter. Insulation is beneficial to the tree, especially the root system.
There are several types of products you can use to insulate your trees. Some are more beneficial then others, so be careful what you use. Some good examples are:
1. Wood chips
2. Pine needles
3. Bark mulch
4. Straw
5. Evergreen boughs (Great way to recycle your xmas tree.)
6. Tree guards
Don’t let straw and hay confuse you.
It’s very easy to confuse straw with Hay. Hay draws and absorbs moisture. While straw is more durable and has tendency to stay dry. This makes straw and excellent source of natural insulation and safe to use.
Here is a list of some ineffective types.
1. Hay
2. Leaves and compost (Can compact and freeze)
3. Other inorganic material
4. Rocks
These ineffective types of mulch for winter, don’t provide much heat retention nor does it add any nutrients to the soil. Some of these ineffective types may compact and freeze when wet in winter.

Winter Injury’s
It is easier for winter injury to occur with dry roots rather than moist roots. Make sure your tree is still receiving adequate water. It won’t need as much as it would in the spring or summer. This also applies to container trees as well.
One type of winter injury is Sun Scald. You’ll find that the young trees are more susceptible of getting this rather than the adult trees. The days are so sunny that it heats up the trunk. When night falls temperatures drop drastically to cold and your young tree doesn’t have enough time to adjust for the temperature change. So, it is now at risk of cracking and splitting.
To protect your young trees from this. We suggest you put a tree guard on it. You will apply it to the trunk of the tree below the lowest branch. If your tree is too big for a tree guard. There are other remedies that will give the same protection You can make a 50/50 solution of diluted water with white latex paint. This is called a white wash. This too will protect your fruit and citrus trees from sun scald.
If you find that your citrus or fruit trees don’t fruit this year. It is possible that it had injury to the fruiting buds. No need to worry, your tree is storing energy and nutrients to use toward fruit production starting again next spring.

Protection from unwanted insects.
(Scale insects, mites, and aphids)
These insects lay their eggs on our trees at summers end. The eggs stay on the tree all winter long until the new larvae are born.
Did you know that by applying dormant oil in the fall? You can stop insect larvae from further developing next spring. That means less bugs nawing on tree buds and your fruit. No need to worry this oil will only eliminate harmful pests. The beneficial bugs such as lady bugs, birds, and even mammals will not be affected by the oil. The oil is less toxic to those that are beneficial to your garden. Dormant oil should not be applied until your tree has gone completely dormant. And before any new growth would appear. This normally is late winter and early spring. If you apply your dormant oil too early, it will expose the tree to winter damage. If you apply too late, this will give damage to new growth. Make sure it’s the right time to apply and stop these eggs from developing in the spring. It’s extremely important to coordinate with other applications.
If you are treating your tree with any other chemicals, such as sulfur, it is very important to space out the treatments. A combo of horticultural oil and sulfur pesticide can create a compound poisonous to plants and trees. To be safe wait 30 days in between applications of any kind.
If you have any further questions or need help picking out the products listed in this article. Stop by either locations and we will be glad to assist you. Remember timing is everything.
Let’s plan!

Written By
Sherry Findley
Jacksonville Location