Lemons, Limes and Oranges

January 13, 2009

Not much fruit – what to do?

Linda from La Jolla writes to Diana:
I live in La Jolla, California and am having a hard time getting my orange, lime and lemon trees to produce. They used to give me a large crop, now I just get about 10 oranges and very little limes and no lemons at all last year (they are dwarf fruit trees if that matters). 
I think it might be the lack of bees, what should I do? 

Dear Linda,
If your trees are in pots or small beds, it’s more than likely that they have run short on food.
Citrus trees in the main prefer a slightly acidic soil to an alkaline one and if the leaves on your trees are looking pale green compared to how they used to look then soil type may be a problem.
I would suggest raking or watering into the earth around the trees a good organic fertilizer – maybe have a look and see what your local garden shop has to offer in the way of plant foods. Here in southern England we can buy purpose-designed fertilizer for our citrus trees (but here they are our pampered pets rather than just nice useful trees in the garden!).
If your trees are in the ground, I would still think of scratching some fertilizer in around them – after all you are expecting them to give you a crop of fruit every year – but I would also consider the water situation. No tree can make fruit in quantity or even make good growth if it’s short of water – and from what I read I think you may have been a bit short of water in the last few years.
The trouble with water shortages – and this applies to all flowering and fruiting plants, is that when there is low rainfall, the air becomes very dry and the trees do suffer lowered rates of pollination.
Here your answer is intelligent watering. Water in the evening and allow a little to splash around the ground so that the tree can benefit from it. Never water in the middle of the day because unless you have built in conduits to lead the water underground it does little good – most of the water just evaporates on the hot soil.
I know you are worried about the apparent lack of bees – it is a real problem, and one that needs serious thought for the future, but I’m not sure that lack of bees is your problem now – think of the trees need for food and water and I’m sure your crop rates will be better.
I hope you get good results,
Happy horticulture,