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What to do about chlorosis on my orange tree?

 
steward
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I have a year old Calamadin Orange tree in a pot that is showing chlorosis problems.  Per the chart below I think it's a pretty classic iron deficiency.



The causes for that (as I understand it) are:
  • Low soil temps and slow root activity
  • High pH
  • Lack of iron
  • Soil has too much clay
  • Compacted or overly wet soil
  • Too much phosphorus in soil

  • The tree is in Promix organic potting soil.  I tested it with a crappy pH tester and it was somewhere in the 6.5-7 range.  I just potted it up from a plastic to a clay pot and I don't think it's too wet.  It's summer so I don't think the soil is too cold.

    Based on my list above, it's down to either too much phosphorus or too little iron.  Any hints on how to tell which or how to fix this?

    Thanks!
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    gardener
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    =Mike Jay
    Any hints on how to tell which or how to fix this?



    I'm not sure how to tell which it is, but here are a few thoughts.

    I used to work for a garden shop that sold pro-mix, and pro-mix is steam sterilized. Some of the pro-mix varieties have mycorrhizal inoculants then added back to it before packaging. I do remember at the shop we stocked a regular pro-mix that was just peat, coir, perlite etc. with no inoculant added. Do you know if the kind you bought has inoculants in it or have you added any yourself such as a store-bought inoculant or compost or compost tea? Lack of or low populations of bacteria and fungi is my first guess.

    One option to get iron in quick is iron chelate. I used to have blueberry bushes, and while I was trying to get the soil pH down because it was too close to neutral, my bushes looked terrible, leaves turning red and not happy. I mixed up a little iron chelate and they responded very well to the iron they were screaming for. I eventually got the soil pH acidic enough and no longer used the iron chelate because they showed no signs of deficiency.
     
    Posts: 142
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    I dunno but...

    "Although iron is an abundant trace element in soil, plants may have difficulty in absorbing enough in high lime or calcareous soils."
    http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/science-and-innovation/agricultural-practices/agroforestry/diseases-and-pests/iron-chlorosis-of-trees-and-shrubs/?id=1198883715612

    I've got the same with a laurel in my drive.
     
    Mike Jay
    steward
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    Thanks James, I use the fancier promix with "mycoactive".  


    I guess I'll look for some iron chelate.  If anyone has more ideas, let me know!
     
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    The quickest way to get some more acid in your soil is to water with a 50/50 solution of leftover coffee and water, and put the used grounds, under leaf mulch, around the base of the plant.  Or tea, and put the tea bags on the soil, under some leaf mulch so they won't dry out.  It's going to take about a month.   Collecting any leftover coffee and tea from glasses every day will give a good supply of acidic liquid that can be added to the garden.

    Checking the pH of your water and soil is important, too, because they play a role.  Citrus likes very sandy loam, so if it is in clay soil it may not do well and show some of these same signs, too much water around the roots.

    Other solutions, because they are much slower, like gypsum, can take up to 6 months to take effect.

    Those leaves might fall off, so don't worry about that.  As long as it is putting out new leaves that are green.  A mature citrus tree might have some leaves that look like this, but if it's 10% then it's not a problem.

    And any fans of using pee as a source of nitrogen and rich environment for soil critters, be aware that pee can tip the pH into alkaline when used by itself.   It, too, can be mixed with coffee or tea.
     
    Cristo Balete
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    Mike, those also look like very small containers for a tree.  Picture the roots being a mirror image of what's on top, and needing to go very deep, at the tap root, to get water and nutrients.   If the tap root starts to circle, rather than go straight down, it will stress the tree and you'll see similar results on the leaves.

    Plus those clay pots are alkaline and when mixed with water put off their alkalinity.  

    That tree will take off in the summer, so a 2-gallon plastic pot will stay ahead of the roots, for a while.  Sometimes the local nurseries will sell them at a decent discount, or an avid gardening friends will make some available.  Once the roots get a good rootball in a 2-gallon pot, it should be planted out, with thick leaf mulch around it to try to keep the moisture at an even level, not going from dry to too wet and back to dry, on a small tree like that.

     
    pollinator
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    Hi Mike,

    You can get a test kit for NPK and pH. Leaf Luster sells these test kits with the capsules and they work well enough. Once you've determined with testing, those parameters are adequate, you'll know iron is the issue. Most people who container garden citrus have regiments they follow, with chelated iron being one of them. Because citrus like acidic soil, people tend to make their own soil mixes spacifically for citrus. They will also use Cal, Mag and Zinc in regiments like the chelated iron, as those tend to become deficient fairly quickly in container growing of citrus. Especially considering the acidic mix doesn't allow much use of alkaline mineralization like lime. Even with the best soil mix, using worm castings, mycorrhiza, azomite, greensand, rock phosphate, compost both fungal and bacterial dominate, the best compost teas, even foiler feed, and every good ammendment, even a little lime in the original soil mix, to keep the pH perfect: the citrus will quickly grow filling the pot, and strip that soil deficient of the elements in that regimental line up. So thats why people augment with those supplements as needed, foiler feeding, and watering them in as needed. Welcome to container gardening with citrus: its a whole new ballgame, keeping those guys happy in containers.

    I hope that helps!
     
    gardener
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    First, as Cristo mentioned, that container is about half the size it should be judging by the growth of the tree.
    Second, you might try adding some DE to the top of the soil in the container, silica is a major player in mineral uptake by any plant.

    Chelated iron is easy to find in the vitamin section of most grocery stores, look for either capsules or tabs unless you want to stick with the nursery type products.

    Good luck, that tree should end up really good with the right amount of soil to live in.

    Redhawk
     
    Mike Jay
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    Thanks Cristo!  So is a pH of 6.5-7 too high?

    I've owned it for a year and kept it in the original plastic pot till now.  I potted all my plants up a month ago and aimed for 1-2 inches of new space on each side of the root ball.  I've heard that putting them in an overly large pot can cause other root problems.  That pot is a good 10" across at the top.  I attached a side pic of it (it's the one on the right).  The "tree" is probably 16" tall.

    I do plan to plant it in the ground next year or the year after, once I'm sure it will survive winter in my greenhouse.  For now I need it mobile in case it gets too cold.  Although, I may want to keep it in a pot long term so it doesn't take over the greenhouse.  It's competing with a bunch of other citrus and tropicals that will be in the ground...
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    Mike Jay
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    Sorry, while I was replying and getting the photo, R and Bryant chimed in.  I'll get some test kits and chelated iron and figure this pH thing out.  Looks like it will be an ongoing need as long as I'm in containers.  I'll test that and report my findings
     
    Cristo Balete
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    Mike, a half barrel is probably the size of container you'd want for a citrus tree if you are not going to put it in the ground, and want it mobile.  Wood and soil are pretty good insulators, but not sure just how cold your winters get.

    Yes, 6.5 should be fine.  Too much water and stress (wind, repotting) can also make leaves yellow.  Make sure the soil drains really well, they like sandy loam.  Citrus has its fussy moments, so get it stable, in a big container, keep it in one place as consistently as you can, let it have a "home" location, then see what the new leaves look like.

    All you have to do in a greenhouse is keep it from going below 35 F. , not necessarily try to keep it warm in the winter.   Day length in the winter is too short for most perennials to do much growing then, even if it is warm.  They are getting a lot more cues than just temperature, so Nov-Feb only needs to be not freezing.

    Roots will probably grow between 1-2 feet per year if they are in the ground.  You can tell what they are doing by the length of the branch shoots you are getting on top.  If it's 2 feet from spring to fall, then the roots are probably doing the same.  In a container, once the roots hit bottom, they will start to circle, and the branch shoots will shorten.  
     
    Cristo Balete
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    Since nutrition is something good when it comes to food trees, your own soil, plus compost, plus compost tea, and leaf mulch would be a desireable mix, and you want the roots to "recognize" the soil you put it in once you put it in the ground.   Potting mixes are fine for starting things, but once they have sterilized the mix, it's just not the same as really healthy soil from compost/worms/trace minerals/soil critters that mature plants need.
     
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