Gardeners living in warmer climates often enjoy growing lime trees to produce their own fruit. Though not difficult to grow, lime trees, like all other citrus trees, need special care to keep the tree healthy and well nourished. All citrus trees are heavy feeders, which means you must apply a high-quality fertilizer periodically throughout the growing season.
Lime Tree Nutrition
Lime trees, like all citrus trees, are heavy feeders and take up a great deal of nitrogen. They can quickly deplete the nitrogen in the soil, so replenishing it is important for the growth of the tree and the production of high-quality fruit. Lime trees also require phosphorous for bloom production. Micronutrients like magnesium, boron, copper and zinc and also needed for the production of fruit.
Chemical Fertilizers for Lime Trees
Commercial chemical fertilizers are available for lime and citrus trees. These fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in various percentages of composition. An 8-8-8 commercial fertilizer contains 8 percent nitrogen, 8 percent phosphorus and 8 percent potassium. This is a good composition for young, non-bearing citrus trees. A mature, fruit-bearing tree would require a higher percentage of nitrogen, so a 12-0-12 mix is ideal. Slow-release fertilizers that dissolve their nutrients over time, usually a 6- to 9-month period, are often recommended.
Organic Fertilizers for Lime Trees
Many gardeners are concerned about the run-off from chemical fertilizers into the environment. They may choose to use a natural garden compost or animal manure fertilizer to add nutrients to the soil around lime trees. Nutrients in this type of fertilizer become available to the tree less quickly than chemical fertilizers, however, and may have to be applied more frequently. Chicken manure is higher in nitrogen (2 percent) than cow manure (1 percent), and so may be more suitable for nitrogen depletion in the soil. Fish emulsion can also be used for additional nutrition.
When to Apply Fertilizer
For mature trees, 3 applications of fertilizer per year is sufficient, one in the fall or winter, one in early spring, and one during the late summer. If slow-release fertilizers are used, apply every 6 to 9 months according to package directions. Apply additional fertilizer only when signs of nutritional deficiency is evident.
Young lime trees should not be fertilized during the first year to avoid problems with burning. After the first year, fertilizer can be applied to the soil around young lime trees in a 3-foot circle, making sure that the fertilizer does not touch the trunk or roots directly. Avoid use of soluble nitrogen fertilizers during periods of heavy rain to minimize groundwater contamination.
- Photo Credit lime tree sprinkled with raindrops after rain image by nerpa11 from Fotolia.com
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