Sunday, August 03, 2008
There are some people in this world you just bond with. I am not sure what causes it – maybe there is some kind of reflection of ourselves in what we see – but I have found myself becoming closer to many of my older relatives as I age.
Last weekend one of my favourites died in her rest home in Wanganui. My Aunty Molly was my father’s youngest sister, his last surviving sibling. She was the last link to a past my father spoke little of, so it was always enlightening to speak with her.
But more than that, she was one of the world’s great optimists. Even when struck with a terrible back problem that basically immobilised her, and despite being functionally deaf, she found delight in the world. In her room perched high above the Wanganui River, she kept in touch with family goings on and, despite her age, crocheted lace edgings to handkerchiefs.
She was a good gardener too, and a great story teller.
When she was admitted to the rest home she sold her home of countless decades in Gonville, Wanganui. It was a quick sale and she received the price she wanted.
About six weeks later she was visited by her neighbour across the road, who had been away for months on work. The neighbour came bearing a large armful of freshly picked flowers.
“Oh, you honey” Aunty Molly said. “All my favorites.”
The neighbour looked slightly perplexed.
“Of course they’re your favourites Molly. I picked them from your garden early this morning.”
The neighbour had obviously not realised the house was sold.
She had also picked a bucket or two from Molly’s famous grapefruit tree and made pots of marmalade, much to Molly’s delight.
Gonville is, of course, a great place for growing citrus. Although Wanganui’s climate is not so warm as the east coast it has mild winters, and lemons, grapefruits and their allied plants thrive there.
August is a good time to start planning for spring plantings of citrus trees. Ideally,
They should be planted in a warm, sunny protected position out of cold winds. The soil should be free draining so if your soil is a little stiff dig in some compost and some sharp sand. If you have terrible clay loam and it is impossible to get a good position, remember citrus can be grown in pots.
When planting out make sure you plant your tree no deeper than it is in the bag and be careful with the roots -citrus do not like their roots to be disturbed. As well as adding some compost, add a slow release fertiliser too. I use Osmocote but there are other brands available. If you are going to put your citrus in a pot use a quality outdoor potting mix to ensure good water retention and slow release fertiliser to help your plant through summer.
You will need to feed your plants once they are established. As citrus are gross feeders they require regular feeding for best fruiting and growth. A branded citrus fertiliser (your garden centre will probably stock more than one) can be applied monthly, or again, a 3-4 month controlled release fertiliser can be applied 3-4 times a year. I think the slow release is best for potted plants as it prevents salt build up in the soil. If you prefer a more organic approach, pelletised sheep manure can also be used as a top dressing in spring and summer
I am a great fan of mulch, and my citrus all grow with bark mulch at their feet. You can spread mulch around the base of the tree in spring and summer to help prevent water loss, and keep weeds down. Make sure the mulch does not touch the base of the trunk as this can lead to rotting.
Keep the watering up during summer especially, and at fruit set, as lack of water at that time can lead to incomplete pollination and dry fruit later.