How to plant citrus: The Ian Tolley Way

How to plant citrus: The Ian Tolley Way

Sophie Thomson is joined by citrus expert Ian Tolley OAM shows how to plant her citrus grove and choose the best understock for her soil, which is saturated over winter and can experience frosts down to minus 5 degrees Celsius. He selects trifoliata rootstock, as its adaptable and has proved successful in countries with extreme climates such as Japan. Citrus can grow anywhere in Australia. They can be challenged by severe frost, and Sophie’s place is no stranger to frost. But if you use rootstock that has adapted to cold climates, it will give the trees a much better chance at survival.

Early autumn is a great time to plant as the soil is still warm so roots are encouraged to grow into the surrounding soil.

You will need to prepare the soil a few months earlier by digging in some compost and rotted chicken manure. For soil that drains poorly, also create raised mounds.

Fertilise citrus monthly using:

– Composted chicken manure with additional nutrients
– Liquid seaweed
– Water when the tree needs it. Check if the plant’s leaves are cool or if they are warm. Water to keep the tree cool.
– Maintenance shaping will be required on Sophie’s trees because of the small amount of space between the plants.

Ian Tolley’s method for planting citrus
– Thoroughly soak the bagged tree first
– Dig a hole 3 times the size of the bag and create a mound at the base
– Remove the potting mix from around the tree roots.
– Spread roots over the mound – the ground level of the soil and should be where they roots finish
– Gently back fill with soil, covering the roots as you go
– Form down roots using your fingers so that its firm but not compacted
– Make a ring around the planting hole to help hold in any water
– Water the citrus using the mix of potting mix etc. from your bucket
– Mulch with course mulch (like pea straw) so that the stem easily airs and doesn’t stay wet
– Secure a tree guard and protect the tree with 50% shade cloth secured to the guard with cable ties

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