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Citrus - removing dead and dying wood  RSS feed

 
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Hi, rookie here
I am in the midst of trying to make my citrus trees look better. They have been neglected for a while and so have a lot of dead or dying branches. Should I remove all of those branches? If there is a branch that looks almost dead but still have a few green leaves on it, is it best to get rid of it?
Why is it necessary to remove dead wood on trees in general, I assume they are not using up any nutrients? And in the end the tree gets rid of it without help.

Any other tips and tricks?
 
pollinator
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Location: Ashhurst New Zealand
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It's usually best to take out any branches that are dead or dying. As you prune, look for signs of what caused the die-off. In citrus, it can be a number of things: competition and shading from more vigorous branches (normal and not really a problem), borer damage (hopefully they haven't gotten into the centre of the tree), sunscald (mostly a problem in desert regions and easy to spot when it happens), disease or dieback.

Is the tree getting enough water? If a significant part of the tree goes sickly or dies, something systemic is underway and it's usually not good. Citrus are sensitive to salts and alkalinity in the soil, and this can be expressed by wilting and loss of branches. The worst case would be a shelf fungus or collar rot, which usually happens when the bottom of the trunk is submerged for extended periods but can happen to trees planted too deeply in poorly drained soils. I saved a grapefruit that was starting to get collar rot by lowering the ground level around the trunk and cleaning the affected area, then painting it with a Bordeaux mixture. The tree recovered and thrived for years, giving bushels of massive fruit until the guy who bought the place neglected the watering and killed it.
 
William Fly
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Hey Phil, thanks for the answer.
Lack of water is probably what caused most of the die-off. The trees were left to themselves a whole summer in central Portugal which means about 4 months without water and temperatures sometimes around 40 C (104 F). So I am glad they are still alive.
But I'm still wondering about exactly why it is a good idea to remove dead vegetation. Besides that it looks better.
 
Phil Stevens
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The main motivator for removing dead or dying wood is to reduce the number of entry points for disease and predators. A ragged branch is an invitation to wood-munching insects like borers, who will lay eggs on them and then the larvae will burrow into the heart of the tree. Wood-rotting fungi and bacteria will begin work on the compromised branch and then try to move into the healthy part of the tree. The other thing you can get is a split or break in the dead wood that results in mechanical damage to a healthy section.

Taking it off and letting the tree seal off the much smaller wound with living tissue is just good insurance. Cut it back cleanly at the collar, and if the diameter is small just leave it dry and exposed. If it's more than 2-3 cm across you might want to put a thin sealer on it such as white glue or a clay tree paste.

One more thing: Citrus really don't like lots of sun on the interior of the tree. If the branches you're taking out used to shade the inside, paint the exposed bark with whitewash or thin latex to keep it from getting sunscald.
 
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if you are in a dry area you could make a basin around the tree put some fertilizer like some composted manure or green grass clippings then dry leaves over the top then soak the trees really good. then see what branches come back
 
William Fly
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I attached a picture of one of my trees. Maybe it's difficult to see, but lot's of dead wood. Is it a lost cause?
IMG_0976.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_0976.JPG]
 
Phil Stevens
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That doesn't look too bad for the aftermath of a hot, dry summer with no irrigation. From the photo it looks like most of the tree is alive and pretty healthy, with the dieback mostly in the form of smaller branches and twigs. Prune out the dead stuff, mulch like crazy and give it a deep soaking if you can. Be careful if you use any animal manures and make sure they are well rotted, and keep all dressings and mulch from contact with the base of the trunk.
 
William Fly
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Yeah, it's not a good picture. It looks much deader in real life. I put most of the prunings underneath the tree to increase organic matter and top with lots of grass clippings. Since the wood does not look like it died from disease I guess it's ok. And it has been getting soaked by the rain for some months now, now it's time to tackle the summer drought. I plan to give the trees a few bigger soakings through summer instead of many small ones. I think that is what the previous owner did, and thats how they managed to survive a summer without human help.
 
pollinator
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If you soak the tree, do it in several days in a row and NOT near the trunk. Really near the outside. If you can guess any undergound slope, if rocky, you can even water further away, upward. You want water where needed and not near the surface where you already have big roots, as they do not suck anything. My citrus roots go much much further than the outside of the crown! This is where you want to water, to avoid diseases.

I was very happy to learn that we should not prune the center, as this is what everyvody seems to do! I have seen many citrus in full sun in the south of Spain, but MY guess is that citrus love ....shade. My best oranges are in my most shaded tree, and my best overall place is where it is shaded early in the afternoon. Then I learned that they also grow oranges under palm trees in California, to shade the ground in between the palm trees, but also I conclude that the trees beneficiate from the dates shade?

Thinking that they come from easter Asia where you find tall trees, and seeing that citrus are not that tall, it makes sense that they like some shade. Also, they are not mediterranean trees and seem to originate where they receive summer rain.

Then another tip I share to get feed-back... they seem to take a lot of fungi and cochinilla type of acaros, and to be sensitive to an excess of water, while needing quite a lot and coming from a wet zone of the globe....
+ add that they produce an essential oil that is considered as a good medicine....
= why would they produce this for us if not for them?
-> they produce their own medicine and we do not let them have it. So the problem is that we sell oranges outside and deprive the tree. If we eat them, in that case, where do we have to put the peels? Under the trees... I would sell juice at my place, but no way to let the fruits out! Of course impossible for big producers.... unless they comercialise juice and get back the peels.

Also, as they are affected by fruit fly, that finishes its cycle in the ground fron fallen fruits: I put all fallen fruits in a bucket with water, hoping to kill the larvae before letting the medicine on the ground.....

Rats are better than us.... they cave the orange and leave the peel to the tree!
 
William Fly
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Hey, thats a good point! I will give the peels back to the tree.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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William Fly wrote:Hey, thats a good point! I will give the peels back to the tree.



Hopefully somebody will come with a scientific explanation of what do the essential oils!
 
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