Two large, yellow lemons on a lemon tree in the daytime

There are several kinds of lemon tree problems that are common in California. Fortunately, many of them can be prevented through the cultivation of the soil and attention to climatic conditions. Read on to learn about four potential lemon tree problems and what to do about them.

Root Rot and other Lemon tree Problems - Infographic

  1. Waterlogged Roots

In order to thrive, lemon trees need to be kept in well-drained soils so that the trunks and major roots are kept dry. If these parts of the tree become too wet or waterlogged due to overwatering, shallow watering, or watering the wrong part of the plant, the tree can become more vulnerable to citrus diseases and root rot, and absorb fewer nutrients from the soil.

To avoid or remedy lemon tree problems related to watering, it’s essential to improve the structure of the soil — particularly the topsoil — and implement a lemon-specific irrigation system that waters at the drip line and not at the trunk. With the drought we’ve been experiencing for the past eight years in California, keeping your water use consistent year-round and avoiding waste through evaporation is especially crucial for the long-term health of your citrus.

    1. Sunburnt Trees

The sun in a clear blue sky in the daytime

At the other end of the spectrum, the hot sun coming from the south and west can actually damage the trunks and branches of lemon trees. Young saplings are especially susceptible to sun-related lemon tree problems. If you notice rough, peeling, or cracked areas of bark that eventually lead to deadwood underneath, you may be dealing with a case of sunburn.

For very young trees, consider protecting the young trunks with sleeves made from paper or cardboard. In older trees, white latex paint mixed with water is your best defense against sunburn. Once a lemon orchard is established, make sure not to over-prune the orchard. The internal branches and ground should have adequate shade to protect from sun damage and discourage the growth of weeds.

  1. Alkaline Soil

The best soil pH for lemons — as for most plants — is in the range of 5.5-6.5. In alkaline soils with a pH of 7.0 and above, the iron in the soil is rendered unavailable to the tree, resulting in iron deficiency or more specifically, a citrus disease called chlorosis. Iron deficiency can also result from waterlogged soil, root rot, and damaged roots. To identify chlorosis, look for a yellowing of the leaves between the veins. New leaves that appear are usually yellow or light green in color.

The best remedy for lemon tree problems like chlorosis is to improve the pH of the soil. You can acidify overly-alkaline soils by applying a solution of ¼ -½ cup of white vinegar in 2 gallons of water, planting citrus fruits cut in half face-down in the soil or using a commercial soil acidifier. You can also improve soil pH by adding plenty of appropriate organic matter and making sure that your irrigation water is the right pH for citrus.

  1. Nitrogen-Deficient Soil

Chickens picking through the grass

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for most fruit crops — including lemon. A lack of nitrogen can be seen as yellowing older leaves while new leaves are green and healthy. To raise nitrogen levels in the soil, apply a fertilizer like chicken manure underneath mulch or mixed with water at a rate of one cup of dried manure per 4 gallons of water at the drip line. If you are using fresh manure, use a half cup in 4 gallons of water.

It’s important to be strategic when applying nitrogen to your lemon trees because too much nitrogen can lead to overly-lush leaves that attract harmful insects to your orchard. Applying nitrogen early in the fruiting cycle can also lead to issues with delayed or reduced lemon production. To find out exactly how much nitrogen your lemon trees need, it’s sensible to conduct soil testing after noticing symptoms and before applying any amendments to the soil.

Prevent Lemon Tree Problems with Fruit Growers Supply

At Fruit Growers Supply, we’ve been around for over 100 years and we’ve seen it all when it comes to the kinds of citrus disease and lemon tree problems that affect orchards in California. After specializing in corrugated packaging for fruit for most of our history, we now offer a wide variety of services to help fruit growers thrive from planting to harvest.

In addition to custom commercial irrigation design, we also have a chain of full-service retail stores located in Orange Cove, Woodlake, Riverside, Porterville, and Santa Paula. Here, you can purchase a diverse array of soil amendments, fertilizers, organic and conventional sprays, hose fittings, agricultural tools, and everything else that you need to make your fruit-growing endeavor a success. 

Experiencing lemon tree problems? Contact Fruit Growers Supply today.

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