Monday, June 12, 2017

When you want life to give you a lemon

Things to consider when deciding on a lemon type. 

a) Temperature / climate would be my first point of decision. Lemons in general need more warmth than large areas of NZ can provide. So hence the major lemon in NZ is a lemon crossed with X (we don't really know, but some kind or orange), and is called the Meyer lemon. This can handle the cold far better than other lemons. 

All the other lemons, like Ben Yen and such (it is the only one coming to mind). Need warmth. So unless you are in Auckland, Northland, BoP or in a warmer micro-climate I would stick to Meyer, irrespective of soil conditions. 

All non-meyer lemons are actually budded onto trifoliata rootstock, so of these non-meyer's soil condition does not make any difference. 

b) When do you want to use them? Most people want a lemon for cooking / drinking purposes on a semi-regular basis. Therefore you want a lemon that has fruit in all stages of development all the time. Again meye suits this, as is blossoms multiple times a year (I think it is just whenever it is warm enough). But most true lemons they call come ripe at whenever they come ripe. 

You can also find more about the lemon types at Cooperfeilds web site., lemon information here.  

Lastly I would not get a variegated variety (I did) these have less green in their leaves, so struggle compared to the non variegated types. So unless you have ideal conditions (which it doesn't sound like!) then better to go more vigorous. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Using prunings as fire wood

Success at last using prunings as firewood. In the past when using pruned / chopped down wood, it has been still green/wet when burned, even though it had been ageing for two years in dry conditions!
In removing trees, I would chop off the leaves, then cut the firewood to length while still in situ, before stacking. The large bits were chopped with an axe. What really perplexed me was that the large axe cut pieces would dry. But the small diameter bits would still be wet.
What I found out, is that the bark was keeping the moisture in. So with a high moisture level, and small area of ends of the wood, it was trapping in the moisture. Where as in splitting up a log, it would have at least half, if not two thirds not covered in bark. Thus lots of area for the moisture to dry out from. 

Thus the greeness needs to be sucked out by the leaves first before cutting up. So I have changed my system, and it know works perfectly. It is as follows:

With pruning (mostly citrus) or cutting back nitrogen fixers and/or hedges, the larger bits are left in the sun until the leaves significantly wilt. I try not to let them go brown as then the branches are harder to cut. But it is somewhat ad hoc.
Foreground is the mostly chopped back Tree Lucerne and the back is newly felled. It takes a lot longer in winter to dry the trees out, compared to summer. As much as that is expected, it has surprised me.
Then I take loopers are trim everything off that can be easily cut with loopers / secateurs. They are then transported to a pile someplace to age a year.
This pile is then cut up, currently by daughters with electric scissor like chain saw and stacked into the shed in summer for winter us.
Tree Lucerne stacked over citrus pruning.
Close up of last Spring's citrus pruning. What you might just be able to make out is that the bark on some of these is peeling, and degrading which shows it has dried out well.This produces wonderfully dry wood, giving high burn temperatures and of course being smaller diameter highly efficient burning.

What is even better is that my slave labor aka teenage children can do a large proportion of the work, once I have done the initial pruning and selection

Gave my teenage daughter who was earning money for an overseas school trip a stick showing ideal and maximum length. She did a much better job of cutting to length than I ever do! Then stacked it for us. 
Probably cost us more than say commercial production, but that isn't always the point is it !

I will upload a nice fire photo and a thermometer shot when we restart the fire, since the day hasn't been that cold.....

Photos of issues in citrus

Yellow new growth caused by lack of nitrogen 

Healthy new growth with good nitrogen

Old leaves, showing both magnesium, as well as zinc / manganese deficiency   

Lemon borer damage. Look in center top. Leaves are yellow and struggling  

'mild' zinc and manganese deficiency 

Whole shoot showing signs of zinc and manganese deficiency (sorry should be rotated 90 degrees) 

Yellow leaves on Citrus

Taking a step back, there are a few fundamental reasons why citrus leaves go yellow. They all center around not having enough nutrients. The options are outlined below. A photo of the whole plant, and a close up of the leaves, would be very helpful to determine exactly what option it is: 

a) The leaves are naturally dying. This is the time of year that some leaves will die and drop off citrus. It happens all year round, but more so now. These will be old leaves, and the tree is removing their nutrients, so when they fall, the tree retains as much as it can. If this is the case, it should only be a few leaves, and they are most likely be where they don't get much sun ie in the middle of the tree. 

b) Lemon / Citrus borer. A NZ native, that loves to lay eggs on citrus trees. The grub then tunnels down branches / twigs. This can either cause the branch to die due to the bug chewing through the nutrient supply, or from weakening the branch, which causes it to break in the wind. If this is the case, then a sector of the tree will be yellowing, and only this sector. 

c) Magnesium deficiency. This shows up on old leaves, and is a more blurry yellow, kind of like a smeared yellow paint, compared to the zinc / manganese issue in (d). As others have said, epsom salts which are high in soluble magnesium will help this. 

d) Zinc and/or Manganese deficiency. This produces yellow leaves with green 'veins' which looks different to the Mag lack mentioned above. Since these two minerals are used at a high level by citrus, I would hope that it is in citrus ferts, so make sure you read the packet for what is in it. If not you can buy a trace element mix. 

e) Nitrogen deficiency. This shows up with new growth. Instead of being large leaves, dark green (not as dark as the old leaves still), they are small and yellow. Hence people suggesting nitrogen fert. 

The question I have is why doesn't the soil have enough mineral and biological life to supply the citrus needs. So some things to poke around at. Concrete, concrete is high pH and tends to turn soil alkaline (high pH) where as citrus like slightly acid (lower pH) soils. Thus if you have buried concrete (common if a house is a new build, and they just tip the excess wheel barrow of cement some place and it then gets covered with fresh top soil! Or close to pathway etc. If this is the case then think about getting a pH test kid (cheap) from bunnings etc. You can use iron sulfate to drop the pH. Little and often is better than a lot at once. 

Also is the soil cold. Citrus like it warm, and NZ is marginal for citrus. So if you have clay soil, or water logged soils. Can you increase drainage / temperature. For example things like gypsum are supposed to clump the clay into particles to make for easier drainage. Can you prune back trees etc, for more sunlight. Think about planting on a mound if has wet feet etc. 

Chemical lack. You probably not going to do a soil test, but if your citrus is lacking in zinc, it is likely your whole place is. So a trip to farmlands, for a larger volume might be wise, so your other trees / plants are not working hard to get it. 

Biological. Citrus trees have mycorhizal relationships with fungi. This is a symbiotic relationship where the fungi provide the tree with minerals, in return they get carbo's for living on from the citrus. Things like round up or other fungicides kill / harm the mycorrhizal fungi. So reducing / eliminated these can help. Also having mixed species of plants growing under / around the tree ie not just ryegrass. This means that the mycorrhizal fungi can move about so to speak from plant to plant in the soil, so they can connect with your tree better. 

Of course building organic matter is also very helpful for the soil biology and then tree health. 
Wide shot  of Meyer lemon with yellow older leaves

Close up shot shows that this is due to Zinc / Manganese 

A new leaf

Funny how one grows in life. A decade ago when I started this blog, I assumed my future was in public speaking. But due to the dynamic nature of life, I know find myself living an idyllic life on a hobby orchard. And as much as I would love to be speaking, I am very content (but also frustrated as there are 2 million things that I would like to have done yesterday!) with where I am.