Growing Satsuma on the Gulf Coast, Part 3
My Spring Hill Garden
By Stephen L. Stringham
Unless affected by a hard freeze below 20 degrees F., satsuma is a beautiful evergreen addition to any garden with colorful and delicious, mostly seedless fruit available through the cool gardening season. Now is the best time to plant the most recommended, most cold-hardy satsuma for our Gulf Coast growing area: the Owari Satsuma.
Site selection. Well-drained, acidic soil that is high in humus, with west, north and east protection from cold wind and unobstructed southern sun exposure, is best. Allow a 20 to 30 foot diameter circle clearance around the tree (plant 10 to 15 feet a away from buildings).
Planting. Dig a hole larger than the root system in the pot. Mix a cubic foot or more of peat moss into the soil at the bottom of the hole. Inspect the roots. Don’t plant roots that are curled around in the growing pot (called J-rooted). Spread the roots outward from the center of the tree. Any J-rooted roots that won’t straighten must be trimmed above the bend before covering all the roots with soil. Plant pot level trunk even with ground level.
Rootstocks. Three choices are available for rootstocks. Trees available for purchase have all been grafted into either Poncirus trifoliata (the most cold-hardy), Swingle citrumello (provides the fastest growth of graft) or Flying Dragon Trifoliata (which produces a dwarf tree with a 10 foot diameter). All top grafts are the same. Your root choice determines how the tree performs.
Pollination. Citrus flowers have both male and female parts in the same flower and are self-pollinating, self-compatible and self-fruitful, but Owari satsuma do not have viable pollen and set fruit without pollination. The seeds that may appear are attributed to viable pollen from other citrus reaching the ovum to make a cross seed. Therefore, don’t plant your satsuma near your lemon or kumquat trees.
Fruit drop. Citrus trees set more fruit than the tree can sustain to maturity. After the fruit sets, some of it will naturally fall off as the tree decides how many fruits that it can make. Typically, a tree will have a good crop if 3 to 7 percent of the fruit set grows to maturity.
Fertilizer. The first year, after the tree shows signs of new growth, add one cup of 8-8-8 or 13-13-13 broadcast around the tree. Each year thereafter, in late January or early February, apply 2 to 3 cups of fertilizer for every year since the tree was planted (2 to 3 cups multiplied by tree age in years). It’s best to not put this near the trunk, but to spread it around the periphery of the tree branch overhang. Add dolomite if your soil is calcium deficient. If the leaves are not vigorously green, use more nitrogen starting in the fourth year. Do not fertilize from June to January or the vigorous growth will delay fruit maturity, damage your crop and weaken the tree’s cold-hardiness during the next winter. Handy conversion: 2 cups of fertilizer equals one pound.
Pruning. Initially, pruning is done to build a scaffold of strong branches that balance each other from the center of the tree. This prevents breaking limbs from the weight of the fruit and tipping the tree over in a storm. Thin, high limbs are kept low to allow the root system to grow to equal the limbs. Any dead branches, branches crossing each other or through the center of the tree, or branches touching the ground or growing downward, should be removed. Always cut off limbs at the point of attachment. Pruning should only be done once a year in January or February, unless freeze-killed limbs are removed when they become visible in July or August.
Spray Schedule. When 75 percent of the petals have dropped in the spring, 2 teaspoons of Malathion 57EC per gallon of spray will eliminate scales, whiteflies, citrus blackflies and Asian citrus psyllid. Malathion in the spring is best when sprayed with an ultra fine oil. Spider mites require Kelthane MF at 1 teaspoon per pint of spray. Thrips and leafminers (a very common pest) require Spinosad at 1 teaspoon per 4-6 ounces of spray.
The summer spray is applied July 15 to August 15. Same as above but don’t apply with oils when the temperature is above or can be above 85 degrees F. The autumn spray is applied October 15 to November 15. Don’t apply within seven days of harvest.
Thank you to all those who responded at our website with emails and in person to me with stories of your success with satsuma in our area. This cool weather season has enjoyed a bumper crop of satsuma!
For recipes and gardening tips, go on-line to our website www.MySpringHillGarden.com. Copyright 2013 by Stephen L. Stringham. All rights reserved.