Wise Winter Citrus Tree Tips from Benny’s Backyard
We can probably all agree the longer you live in Florida, the more sensitive to the cold you get. Citrus trees which are known to thrive in the Florida climate are also sensitive to the cold. While we can turn the heat on in our homes and wear a couple extra layers on those chilly days, our citrus trees are left outside exposed to the elements. How do we make sure they continue to thrive when the temperature drops? Uncle Matt’s Production Manager, Benny McLean, also known as Uncle Matt’s dad, shares his secrets for citrus success in winter from his own backyard.
- Pick a good home for your tree. You probably bought your citrus tree during the warmer months or are planning to purchase a few more when it warms up. While winter might not be top of mind, it should be when choosing a spot to plant your trees. Find a spot in your yard near the southeast corner of your home. This is because the wind trends from recent freezes in Florida have blown from the northwest. When these winds come through, your home can actually shield your tree from the wind if the tree is planted in a smart location.
- Get your tree a blanket. Okay, not literally a blanket from inside, but you do have some options to keep your citrus trees cozy with a covering if a hard freeze is imminent – especially if your tree isn’t planted in a protected location. Depending on the size of your tree, you can purchase extra-large trash bags to cover your tree. Some hardware stores will sell up to 96-gallon bags! Cover your tree with the bag and tie it together around the base of the trunk. Before you seal the bag, use a 100-watt lightbulb to warm your tree throughout the night by placing it inside the bag at the base of the tree. The bag will help keep the heat generated from the light trapped inside to keep your tree warm.
- Feed your tree organically. Turns out winter is a great time to make sure your tree is well nourished. Benny recommends using Black Kow compost that you should be able find at your local Lowe’s or Home Depot. This organic compost coupled with organic brown sugar provides the perfect nutrient-packed soil support for your citrus tree during the winter months. Pile a 50-pound bag of compost from the base of the tree trunk out in a circle. Once the compost is spread, sprinkle two cups of organic brown sugar on top of the compost. The brown sugar and soil will then work together to break down the compost for a healthy, organic, long-term meal for your tree.
- Limit the water. During winter months, your citrus tree will go dormant or “to sleep.” If you water your tree too much while it’s in dormancy, you could wake your tree up and cause new growth to begin too early. If harsh weather is still come, you could be harming your tree by allowing it to come out of dormancy due to overwatering during this time of year. You can still water your tree, but according to Benny, watering your tree once a week for an hour is too much during the winter.
- Plant the right variety. Even though it’s wintertime, your backyard citrus tree, depending on the type, can be very fruitful this time of year. Talk about the perks of Florida living! Choose a citrus variety that you and your family will enjoy and know when to expect to harvest your fruit. Here’s what Benny suggests:
- Sugarbells, available around Thanksgiving
- Navel oranges, available around Christmas
- Red Grapefruit, available around mid-January
- Valencias (a great juicing orange), available around Easter
Have any questions about taking care of your backyard citrus tree? Send us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see what advice Benny can provide!