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What should you be doing for fruit tree care in February (Growing Zone 8+ and Patio Citrus Trees)

Our family likes to travel and I remember one time while we were vacationing at an RV park in Florida, our RV neighbor came over and shared a sack of satsumas he had purchased from a local grower. Y’all! These were THE BEST oranges we had ever tasted… sweet, easy to peel, and perfect snack size. I was hooked.

Upon returning home, I quickly learned that the shelf life of a Satsuma is not conducive to the grocery store system where food must be able to handle transportation time and sit on the shelf until sold. I did find it at an asian market much to my delight. But, alas, I wanted a Satsuma tree I could call my own…. so I bought four Satsumas. (I justified my purchase telling myself that even though these trees were self-pollinated, if I got a few others, it would produce more fruit.)

satsuma orange citrus

Satsumas can grow in large pots if they are on a dwarf rootstock and pruned to limit their height and overall size, but they are best in the ground as the limbs will get heavy laden with fruit anywhere from October through December (typically, but will vary by cultivar.) Fresh Satsumas for Thanksgiving and Christmas? Count me in!

As I was caring for my young citrus trees and other fruit trees, I thought it might be a good time to talk about how to care for these wonderful trees that provide us with the healing nutrient vitamin C (among other beneficial antioxidants!)

Not a pic of me, but these are an example of the kind of pruners you want to have sharp and clean (with rubbing alcohol.)

When should I prune my fruit trees?

The time to prune and treat your fruit trees is late January and into February, so now is the perfect time to be looking at your citrus and other fruit trees if you live in growing zone 8+ or if you grow indoor trees of this nature. I also have peach trees, olive trees as well as roses in pots that I plan to use the following treatment on in preparation for spring and summer growing season.

And when we prune, we need to protect. Make sure you always use sharp pruners appropriate for the size of the limb your are trimming. Always clean your pruners with 80% or higher alcohol in between each tree or bush you prune. Follow up by sealing cuts with an organic sealer to protect the plant from bacteria and pests. As we look at pruning and protecting our investment, I personally like when I find a product that has multiple benefits with one application. Here’s a quick rundown of one that makes logical sense to me to be a good solution and I am currently testing it out on my trees and ornamental bushes.

One Step Protects Tree Three Ways

As I study and learn from other growers on this beautiful citrus option, I’ve learned from Charles Malki, Director of Horticulture and Education at IV Organics that even though citrus are heat-loving, the intensity of the sun can actually burn the trunk’s outer bark layer inviting disease and pests to attack the tree in the sun-damaged region. I encourage you when you have an hour or so to check out his video series on fruit trees as it is very informative.

Malki has developed a product called IV Organics, a 3-in-1 Plant Guard, that is organic and can reapplied annually while doing spot checks on your tree(s) called IV Organics. This product is purported to tackle three things: sunburn on trunk (and leaves), protects from pests and open cuts (caused by pruning or breakage) that promote bacteria to enter the tree. and protects from rodents who may want to chew on the bark towards the base of the tree.

He also notes that using latex paint or tar-based products to protect tree trunks may last longer without reapplication, but you’re exposing your tree to toxic chemicals which can affect the health of the tree.

Painting on 3-in-1 IV Organics onto trunk and lower limbs of citrus satsuma tree during month of February to provide protection from pests, sun, and rodent pressure.

What is IV Organics 3-in-1?

This IV Organics 3-in-1 Plant Guard reminds me of a milk paint, but it contains beneficial compounds that not only coat a “sunscreen” to the tree trunk’s exterior, but it also contains essential oils that are known to naturally repel most insects and rodents. The mix of essential oils included are: castor, cinnamon, clove, garlic, peppermint, rosemary and spearmint.

Castor oil, spearmint, peppermint and rosemary are known to repel rodents. Garlic, Clove, Peppermint, Rosemary are known to repel various insects including but not limited to: aphids, ants, beetles, borers, caterpillars, slugs, termites, and whiteflies. Some of these oils also have anti-fungal properties.

IV Organics 3 in 1 label

You can also choose from five color options to fit your aesthetic preferences: Greige, Grey, Brown, White, Green. I personally chose “Greige” as I wanted it to look natural, but keep in mind that certain colors absorb light (and heat) and other colors reflect light (limit heat). (White would have shown up better for example pictures and easier to see to apply while wearing my sunglasses.) I am really happy at the results of my color choice as from a distance, you can’t even tell anything has been applied to the tree in my opinion.

How much will you need?

If you have an orchard of several mature trees, you’ll want the gallon size, otherwise, the pint-size is ideal from one or two trees or several tree starts. Keep in mind, that the product, once mixed, will last for 2 weeks in the refridgerator.

The product comes in a paint can with a package of clay-type powder and a vial of essential oils. You mix the two and add water until it becomes combined and then paint onto the trunk of your tree. You can also add some of the product to a spray bottle and dilute it down further to spray as a foliar application to leaves during the hotter months. They also have a ready-to-go option if that suits your preferences better. (Note: be sure to apply this foliar spray at dusk after bees have gone and the heat of the day has ended.)

I recommend getting two when you purchase… one to use now as you prune and spot-check your tree(s) and another later for reapplication if needed and to apply a foliar leaf application as you enter the more intense sun in the Southeast as we approach the summer months. Keep in mind that rain will eventually affect the leaves, so reapplication may be necessary if you begin to see sun damage on your leaves. Remember, you can also use IV Organics on roses, fruit & nut trees, as well as ornamental trees & shrubs. You can get a combo pack which includes the product to paint your tree trunk and limbs, a foliar spray, and nutrition your tree needs throughout the growing season which makes it easy to treat your trees and bushes all season long.

IV Organics Product Line for fruit trees and ornamental bushes

Malki also reminds us to not neglect feeding our citrus, avocado, and olive trees during the winter with a light foliar application once a month. In spring, you will want to amp up the soil fertilization with the heaviest feeding of nutrition during the peak growing season of summer. Kelp and or a worm casting biological tea makes for a great foliar nutritional feeding. Malki also has a a super blend of your main nutritional needs of your fruit trees (ie: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium), but also essential micronutrients.

Let me know in the comments below if you try this method and how it works for you. Or, if you have any questions or want an update to see how it’s going with this product before you try it, just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to get back to you. In the meantime, happy garden planning and don’t forget to buy some fruit trees if you have space to put one!

Grow without chemicals and eat what you grow!

—Erin