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citrus and olive tree help

 
Rob Sigg
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Location: PA-Zone 6
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I bought a lemon, lime, orange and arbequina olive for my patio container area. Since im in zone 6 I will have to bring them inside for the winter. Do you think I can just put them in the garage with just a little ambient light or do they need more sun even though they will be dormant? Thanks for any wisdom anyone can share!
 
Paula Edwards
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As far as I know, lemons, lime and oranges don't go really dormant. They can stand temperatures below freezing I would say up to -5°C depending on variety, some even more.
Maybe a good mulch and horticultural fleece  would be an idea? If you have crappy windows (single glazed) then you can put them on the outside of a window too.
 
                            
Posts: 27
Location: Southern California, Zone 10
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I'm not sure about olives, but citrus fruit is generally ripe sometime in winter or spring (about November to May, depending on the variety), so winter is not really a dormant period for citrus.  I would think they need as much light as they can get.
 
Rob Sigg
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Location: PA-Zone 6
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OK let me rephrase this since I think its not clear. When I say dormant I don’t mean the traditional sense, but rather when the trees get to a certain low temperature they slow down their production. It is not killed but its not really growing either. Im not sure they would need any fertilizer or a lot of water during this period. My assumption is that they wouldn’t need as much direct light either since they aren’t actively growing. Make sense? I just don’t know anyone that has potted citrus/olives that bring them for the winter.
 
                            
Posts: 27
Location: Southern California, Zone 10
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Here in Southern California, winter is the time of year they get the most water (since it only rains in winter and spring) but I think it's the opposite in Florida (wet summers, drier winters?).  Hopefully someone who's done this in a wintery climate will come along with the answer for you.  Good luck!
 
Isaac Hill
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Posts: 356
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
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Did you get those from Starks Bros? I'm thinking about getting that deal. How do they look?
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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I actually got them on sale through directgardening.com.....I think thats the name, its a combo of a whole bunch of companies. They are only 8inches or so high, and looked really good to be honest. I planted them this past week.
 
John Polk
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Even in zone 9, citrus will need some occasional help.  Zone 6 is certainly taking them out of the context of "Permaculture".  As much as I love lemons & limes, I would have to weigh the costs (time & money) of maintaining them in zones 7-8.  I wish you all the luck, as they are a wonderful addition to many recipes.  Necessary to many.
 
Jonathan Byron
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I'm in zone 9, and don't think that citrus needs much help. After planting my first citrus trees ~15 years ago, I went out prior to each heavy freeze and wrapped the trunks and covered them with sheets. Gave up on that after a few years, thinking that the older plants would be thicker and hardier.  Have planted more citrus over the years, and now I don't bother to do anything for smaller trees. Even thought the last two winters have had some very cold temps (for this region), all trees survived. There was some leaf damage on some trees, but no big problems. Your zone 9 mileage may vary.
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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Here is the response I got from Stark Bros, who I really like using as a source for edibles. Top notch company IMO.

CITRUS – LEMON, LIME, ORANGE, TANGERINE

PLANTING
Upon arrival, citrus trees may lose all or some of their leaves. This is normal, and new leaves and shoots will appear shortly. Transfer your new plant to a 6-10 inch pot within a few days of arrival. Protect until outdoor temperatures warm and the chance of frost is gone. Move the plant into a protected, sunny location, preferably with a southern exposure. By your tree’s second summer, you can plant it in a larger container, usually 16-20 inches in diameter. They have a shallow root system, so a wide diameter container is far better than a deep one. This can be the tree’s permanent home. Just remember that refreshing the soil every one to three years will provide soil nutrients and encourage healthier growth. These pots can be moved around as you wish. Just remember not to make a major change in light exposure all at once, but in stages. Citrus plants thrive in temperatures between fifty-five and ninety degrees. Ideal temperatures for the spring and summer are between 75 to 90 degrees F and spring and summer are between 60 and 70 degrees F. They should be grown near a bright sunny window, or under fluorescent 'grow' lights.
If you plan to plant your citrus plant in the ground, find a sunny, frost and wind free location with southern exposure is best. Citrus can tolerate a wide variety of soil, but good drainage is essential. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root system.  Straighten out any circling root before planting and remove any broken ones.  Do not add fertilizer to the soil as you are back filling, you can apply some to the soil surface after planting. Be sure to tamp soil lightly as you go and water your plant thoroughly after planting to eliminate any air pockets. 

In Zones 4-6, overwinter in a protected area where the temperature does not drop below 60º F. This does not apply to olives, as they need some cold temperatures to produce fruit. However, do not allow them to freeze.

PRUNING
Citrus trees respond well to pruning. Keep all the dead branches trimmed off, and thin the plant to the three strongest trunks.

SPRAYING
Lime Sulfur Spray for red spider mites, thrips                                                       
All Seasons Horticultural and Dormant Spray Oil® for scale insects, red spider mites, mealybugs, whitefly larvae

WATERING
Water consistently. Allowing the topsoil to dry out is fine, but the roots like to be moist. However, never let them stand in water. Make sure there is adequate drainage when they are planted. They prefer deep watering to frequent, light watering. Creating a watering basin around the tree can aid in deep watering.  As the tree grows, be sure to expand the basin as needed to keep it as wide as the spread of the branches.  Deep watering promotes deeper root growth and strengthens your tree.  Water quality is important to consider when growing citrus.  If your tap water hard (alkaline), it will cause certain elements in your soil to become unavailable to the plant.  Add a teaspoon of vinegar to a quart of water to adjust pH.

FERTILIZE
Citrus plants need an acid type soil. If the leaves turn yellow, the soil needs to be made more acid. To maintain the acidity of the soil, dissolve one half teaspoon of magnesium sulfate (epsom salts) into one quart of room temperature water. Use this solution every two or three months. They should be fed with a complete acid type fertilizer (rhododendron, azalea type food) every three months.

ACCLIMATE
When you are ready to move your citrus tree indoors for the winter or outdoors for the summer, it needs to be acclimated to it new environment to avoid a severe shock. When the indoor/outdoor temperatures are relatively close to being the same it is safe to move the plant, but before the permanent move outdoors, the temperatures should be moderately warm and consistent over a 2 to 3 week period. Before moving citrus indoors, it should gradually be shaded over a period of 3 weeks. When the tree is moved outdoors, place it in an area that receives only the weak morning or evening sun.  Over a period of 3 weeks, gradually introduce it to more sunlight.  After the tree has been properly acclimated, place it in a sunny location but sheltered from the strong winds.

Pollination
Citrus plants are self-pollinating.
 
John Polk
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I lived in an area of SoCal that the USDA erroneously called 9b.  Our micro-climate had one hard winter that wiped out every citrus tree in the neighborhood.  Even the Sunset zones were off by a couple of zones.  When you have a daytime high of 17° F, you know you are not in zone 9.  The dog's water dish in the kitchen froze solid.  LOL
Unprotected, mature trees can survive in zone 9, but don't expect much of a crop.
 
                  
Posts: 114
Location: South Carolina Zone 8
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Citrus trees do not shut down or go dormant but grow year round. If you bring them inside follow the instructions and keep them warm as well as well watered (plants inside need watered more frequently). If you do not allow them enough sunlight you will have to provide a grow light. Citrus trees (even the most hardy) have issues in northern parts of zone 9 even more here in zone 8 because you got to start thinking micro-climate or overwintering indoors. In zone 6 you may as well be considering it more a houseplant than anything. I have decided after several failed attempts to grow citrus in the ground (an abnormally cold winter froze them dead) and containers once they do get larger and heavier it is a pain to move them plus if you leave them out and the weather report is wrong you can cold hurt them. I have decided my best bet for fresh organic citrus is to go down and visit my Sister-in-Law in Florida and have a few fresh ones off her trees. That said I get threatened every time I go near them and I have no idea why
 
Cris Bessette
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Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
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Rob S. aka Blitz wrote:
I bought a lemon, lime, orange and arbequina olive for my patio container area. Since im in zone 6 I will have to bring them inside for the winter. Do you think I can just put them in the garage with just a little ambient light or do they need more sun even though they will be dormant? Thanks for any wisdom anyone can share!



This is my first message on this forum, I just saw all the confusing answers you were getting so I couldn't help but register

I grow various types of citrus (also bananas, and other tropicals) indoors and out in zone 8A (avg lows 10-12F)

I think the reason you are getting conflicting answers about dormancy and care is people are basing their advice on their own zones, temperature ranges,etc.  and not yours. IE- in warmer zones or situations- citrus never goes dormant, in yours, it will unless it is in temps average 60F or above.

Citrus goes dormant when the root ball temperature falls below 55-60F for a few weeks generally. Dormancy actually protects the plants from cold damage as normal processes are slowed down and the plants are more hardened off. (like a bear hibernating)  A dormant tree is much hardier than an actively growing tree.

So in your garage:
How much light are you talking about?
What will be the average temperature? What might be the coldest temperature?

A dormant tree needs not much light because the light is used for the active photosynthesis processes of chlorophyll.  A non dormant tree will need more light or you will end up with scraggly weak branches seeking light.  ( and a more vulnerable tree)

I kept a variety of citrus in an unheated laundry room one winter. On rare occasions in dead of January, the temp could fall close to freezing in here, but not for long.
This was on the North side of the house and had two large windows.
Everything survived, and stayed exactly the same all winter.

The next winter I decided I wanted the same trees to NOT go dormant, so I put them in my warm living room in front of a South facing window. This caused them to actively grow all winter.

Lemons and limes are about the least cold hardy of all citrus beside grapefruit.
A point someone else brought up also is that many citrus in the Northern hemisphere ripen their fruit in fall/winter.  You might have to keep them actively growing to get fruit. The fruit on any kind of citrus will freeze and be ruined before the tree itself.

So there are a number of variables here including the actual varieties of plants you have, the min/max temps, avg temps, etc.

The most important: In zone 6 average lows are 0F > -10F. If your garage gets this cold, your trees will die.


 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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Wow excellent info, just what I was looking for. My garage gets to 40F at the lowest over the winter, with a regular exterior door with a window on the south side. The north side has the large garage door windows so it gets some direct sun and quite a bit of ambient. Fruiting issue aside, my assumption was that it would slowly go dormant and do fine overwinter in there. It sounds like you are confirming that? Thanks very much.

BTW, my lime tree is less than a foot tall and has 16 flowers on it already, its only been outside for 4 weeks or less! I will thin them out so it doesn't stunt it too much.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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