For great citrus and avocados, feed'em in the summer

Two feedings to help summer growth, and you can forget 'em till winter.

by The Garden Goddess

ello fellow Earthlings. Welcome to the first of a two-part series on caring for your subtropical and tropical fruits. But first, a thank you. July was an amazing month. Hundreds of you sent email and faxes requesting information on natural gardening practices. We solved a lot of problems together without using any harmful chemicals. It's gratifying to notice that so many of you are enjoying the benefits of chemical- and pesticide-free gardening. It is also nice to know that so many of you read the San Diego Earth Times. Thank you, and keep those questions a rollin'. Now, let's take a walk in the garden...

Early summer is the best time to concentrate on feeding your citrus, avocado and other exotic fruit trees and shrubs. The warm weather stimulates growth of these plant types and now is one of the times of year that they are in greatest need of fertilization.

The two types of subtropical fruits that we are most familiar with are citrus and avocado. These two fruit types have very similar needs at this time of year, so it is convenient to feed them both with the same type of food.

After the spring bloom and fruit set, your fruit trees use the summer heat in combination with the long days to grow fruit and to produce adequate foliage to protect that fruit from the elements.

At this time of year the element nitrogen becomes very important to the overall health of your citrus fruits and avocados. When nitrogen is supplied via natural/ organic fertilizers you can be assured that a minimum of growth-associated problems will arise. When fruit trees are fed with chemical fertilizers, they will produce unnatural spurts of very soft growth that certainly looks impressive but is also a signal to all potential pest insects to come and eat. It's also important to remember that those chemical fertilizers normally do not last very long and are antagonistic to the well being of beneficial soil organisms, especially earthworms. Abundant microbial activity, along with healthy macro-organisms (earthworms, etc.), are one of the ways that your garden soil is improved and how your fruit trees will fight off disease via a healthy immune system.

Natural organic plant foods enhance and feed the biology of soils and promote diversity and a natural system of competition among organisms. This results in a soil that is ideal to support plant growth and assist in the suppression of harmful disease and viruses. When natural fertilizers are combined with an ample supply of organic matter (mulch/compost), it doesn't take long for your soil to improve to a point where many pest problems are suppressed.

Another benefit is the improvement of overall soil structure. Increasing the use of organic fertilizers and composts increases the porosity of the soil, allowing for better water penetration and retention (field capacity). In plain English, this means that you water less because the soil absorbs more water before runoff occurs. This also means that you save money on your water bill while improving the overall fertility of your garden soil and fighting disease and pest problems. It certainly seems to make sense to use natural products in the garden. Maybe that's why so many of you are switching congratulations.

I really like a few prepared organic plant foods that are formulated especially for your citrus and avocados. Two particular products are manufactured by Whitney Farms and the Gro-More Corporation. Both of these products are available at Grangetto's Farm and Garden Supply stores. I also have a personal favorite that I mix myself for subtropical fruits at this time of year. The mixture is as follows:


1 part hoof and horn meal or feather meal (you can use blood meal if you can't find it)

1 part cottonseed meal

1 part fish meal

1 part alfalfa meal

1 part Kelzyme (fossilized kelp) or kelp meal

Apply this mixture to your fruit trees at a rate of 2 pounds for each inch of trunk diameter. Apply again in 60 days. Then, don't worry about fertilizing your trees again until next winter. Now that's what I call easy.

Remember, a nice thick layer of organic compost around the trees will help keep the roots evenly moist and will feed all of those good guys living in your soil. All of the materials listed above can be ordered from Grangetto's or are already on the shelves. Your fruit trees will appreciate it today, and you'll appreciate it when it comes time to harvest all of that ultra-sweet and nutritious fruit.

Next month we will be discussing the care and feeding of some of the more exotic fruits that we southern Californians can grow with a little help from natural, environmentally responsible gardening practices. Come up and see me sometime!

  Got Questions? Fax your questions to the Goddess at (760) 632-8175 or email the goddess with your questions at The Garden Goddess is a trademark of The Organic Gardener's Resource and Centre of Encinitas.