What it’s really like growing Citrus
The reality of growing citrus can be very different that the imagined idl. When we first moved to Australia I realised that for the first time I would be able to grow citrus. Nothing sounded better than sitting outside of a balmy evening pulling lemons and limes from the trees sitting beside me and dropping them in to alcoholic drinks. The next morning we’d juice the fat oranges to help the hangover. The reality, as you might have guessed, was a little different.
As I’ve written about before, it’s not all been plain sailing for my poor citrus, plants. The rough winds in this area snapped the head off my grapefruit and the breeze coming off the sea is laden with salt. That’s how they ended up in the high-dependency unit in the back garden where they subsequently dried out through lack of attention and obscenely bright sunlight. We’re currently trying to cope with a 38degree day with ‘extreme’ UV light levels.
The grand total of our crops have been 3 of the best-tasting lemons I have ever eaten, and some kaffir lime leaves. Small on quantity the harvest have been but what an eye-opener to have fresh lemon juice over water and ice-cubes. Possibly the best drink I’ve ever had.
We are packing up the house and garden ready for our move home to the UK and my lucky Aunty is getting some presents from the garden that we can’t take back with us. The citrus trees are heading for her house down the coast. The trouble is I can’t yet face taking them to her as they look so poorly mistreated she may send me away (a botanist by training her standards are high).
Common Citrus Pests
Here I list some of the pests and ailments that have befallen my citrus trees.
Bronze Orange Bug
Variously known as the Stink Bug, Citrus Bug, and Bronze Orange Bug, this beastly thing not only sucks the sap from your plants (thus weakening them and impairing yield) but squirts a toxic, citrusy liquid at you if you dare to interrupt it. You’ll need gloves and goggles when dealing with this pest as the fluid is corrosive.
Ants and Aphids
It seems that you have to travel further than the other side of the World to get away from aphids and ants. The aphids have employed a security team in the form of an army of ants, or the ants are farming the aphids.
As pretty as the delicate silvery trails are on the new leaves of my Grapefruit I would rather have a healthy plant. The Citrus Leafminer is a wasp that lays its eggs on the lead which then burrow under and feed off the sap from the damaged cells. Once they pupate to hatch into the wasps they curl the leaf around them for protection.
Citrus Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar
This caterpillar reminded me of the Ladybird larvae and I was excited to see it coming to the rescue from the aforementioned aphid attack. Looking closer it’s clearly larger and is in fact the caterpillar of the Citrus Swallowtail Butterfly which is beautiful. For that reason this one gets left alone. It’s amazing what you can get away with when you’re handsome, I should know.
While not exactly a pest of the Citrus plants this fella does like to associate himself with them. Not harmful to humans, the male and female spiders live within the protective curled leaf and eat whatever lands on their web. Creepy looking but no harm.
Once the sun goes down and the temperature drops I’ll be out there sorting these infestations.