If you missed the citrus field day at Jenny Iriondo’s place you missed one of the best! Jenny’s knowledge, commitment and enthusiasm are an inspiration to anyone who has a passion for growing trees. Jenny established the business in 1989 and for some time was the largest citrus propagating enterprise in Queensland. However, the recent drought led to significant cut-backs in staff and tree numbers bringing it to a point today where only Jenny and three others are running the whole business. Cedar Creek Nursery on the Sunshine Coast is a major citrus supplier to Bunnings. In addition, it sends large batches of trees to prominent citrus growers in areas like Emerald, Gayndah, and Mundubbera. Most of the major citrus lines are grown at the nursery – currently, 5 varieties of oranges, 4 varieties of lemons, 4 varieties of mandarins, 3 varieties of limes, 2 varieties of cumquats, and 3 varieties of grapefruit.
In times past Jenny has used every known spray to combat the perennial problems of insect and fungal diseases. However, for health and environmental reasons she (like many others) has turned to safer practises and now uses basically oil and copper sprays. The scale problem is dealt with by the introduction of predatory mites that she buys in from Bugs for Bugs at Mundubbera.
Jenny’s talk left my head spinning trying to take in so much good information! By way of practical help we were shown how to monitor the soil health in the top and bottom of a planter bag – the tree and soil were removed from the bag and analysed. Also, she demonstrated the process used in budding and cleft grafting. She used the scion wood from George Allen’s “much sought after” finger lime which I might add is a most agreeable piece of fruit – no resin and a very red coloured globules.
After a great morning of learning, good fun, and friendship we headed down the hill to the nursery. Here we spent the next hour or so looking around the thousands and thousands (and thousands!) of young citrus. While looking we were invited to choose any variety or number of citrus we wanted to buy all at a very fair price. I purchased a few trees of my very favourite citrus – the Meiwa or Marumi cumquat. If you haven’t tried this fruit you should (must!). Even the skin tastes good.
Jenny was the perfect hostess accommodating all our questions and giving interesting information on the various varieties and the running of the nursery. I considered it a privilege to be invited to the field trip and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.
In closing, here are a few things of interest I learned from the day:
1. I don’t know as much as I thought I did about propagating citrus!
2. The ‘Villa Franca” lemon bears in summer, Eureka bears in winter.
3. The variety of a rootstock affects: the size of the tree; the size of the fruit eg Swingle will produce larger fruit especially grapefruit. Troyer rootstock tends to overgrow the graft restricting the sapflow especially with Imperial mandarins and this is why Troyer is not chosen for Eureka lemon. Troyer is used mostly in Qld because it is resistant to Phytophthora in heavy soil and its ability to withstand dry conditions.
4. Eureka lemons are normally only grafted on to Benton rootstocks, but trials are now being done on a rootstock called “Cox” and Fraser.
5. Healthy soil is critical to the health of a plant.
6. Use Troyer rootstocks when grafting Finger Limes!
7. Fertilize citrus in the warmer months when the tree is showing signs of growth.
8. Citrus do best with a pH of 5.5-6.5. Below 5.5 essential nutrients can’t be taken up by the plant.
9. Trees grafted on the very hardy rootstock “Trifoliata” produce smaller fruit – this rootstock tends to grow better in the southern states where it is colder. Finally, for all those people out there in citrus land who are wondering what to graft onto their dwarfing rootstock “Flying Dragon” here is Jenny’s judicious judgement: Emperor and Ellendale mandarin; Meyer Lemon; Tahitian Lime; and Washington Navel Orange. (I’m going with the last and planting it in a pot).
Thanks, Jenny, for a great day – it was worth it every bit.