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My organic potted citrus plants need help

Hi everyone. I'm posting from Manila, and hope to get some advice on my lemon and calamansi plants.

Please see pictures attached.

I got them about 6 months ago, they were small plants at the time. And they have grown taller since. I've been trying to grow them organically, using only epsom salts, coffee grounds, pee, and worm castings. I fertilize using any of those once a week. The soil is a mix of organic potting soil, some sandy soil, and compost. It is well draining. The plants are in my roof deck garden, where it gets full sun. Since we have El Nino right now, it sometimes gets quite hot, and there is also some wind. But it's not anything too strong I think. The smaller plants like my basil seem to do ok in the sun and wind there. I water as soon as the soil looks dry. Usually every other day.

My concern is that my plants, both the lemon and the calamansi, just don't look their best, or even really healthy. The leaves are pale green only a few of them are dark green. Some of the leaves are deformed from the start. They often just drop. The remaining leaves seem somewhat dry to me, and kind of brittle to touch (actually they feel "crispy" almost). They often get quite dusty up there, so I tried hosing the leaves every now and then to get them clean. And also I thought it might have been some kind of pest so I've been spraying them at night using a simple Ivory soap spray, that I leave overnight and hose of in the morning before the sun gets too hot.

Some of them have actually started to flower, but you only see a couple of flowers. And then they just turn brown and fall off. No fruits ever.

I'm new at this, so would appreciate your advise. I'd really like to stick to organic too.

Thank you very much :)

Greener Thumb
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Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:12 am
Location: central Ohio

Re: My organic potted citrus plants need help

I found a site which gives the symptoms of nutrient deficiencies in citrus;
It might be nitrogen deficiency, I'm not really sure. Check the site to see if it matches.

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Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: My organic potted citrus plants need help

Actually it cannot be nitrogen deficiency because the older leaves would yellow first. Since the newest leaves are yellowing and the older leaves ar darker, and the fact that you have used an organic soil with compost, it is more likely to be a pH problem and a sulfur deficiency that is causing the yellowing.
https://www.rsc.org/learn-chemistry/cont ... ciency.pdf

Coffee grounds, pee, worm castings and compost does not provide a sufficient quantity of nutrients and may not be complete. compost has an npk of 1:0.5:.05, pee, worm castings and coffee ground provide nitrogen but with the exception of the worm castings it is not in a form that the plant can use until soil microbes convert it into a form more readily used by the plant. Organics in pots are hard to balance because you just do not get a thriving soil web in a pot. The bigger, hungrier plants have the hardest time. It is why when you go to the garden center the organically grown plants are smaller but cost so much more. They have to be fed fish emulsion and compost tea weekly. I don't know how they mix the soil. I tried to do organic in a pot. Compost and manure killed the plants in a pot, too much salts accumulate, the pH was too alkaline and for me it just held too much water.

The following is an exerpt from this site.
https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic- ... cleContent

"In his book The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible, Edward Smith recommends the following organic fertilizer mix:

1/3 cup blood meal (for nitrogen)
1/3 cup colloidal phosphate (for phosphorus)
1/3 cup greensand (for potassium and trace elements)

Even if you use the greatest potting soil in the world, amended with excellent fertilizer, after a month or so you should start feeding your plants with liquid fertilizers. Fish emulsion/kelp mixtures are popular among organic gardeners, or you can make your own liquid fertilizers (see Free, Homemade Liquid Fertilizers). Whenever a container-grown vegetable looks unhappy, drenching it with a diluted liquid fertilizer is the first remedy to try."

The other think that can cause yellowing is environmental stress. You said you have been watering and there doesn't look to be a lot of pests however, dusty conditions can bring mites which are hard to see. Hosing off the undersides of the foliage every time you water will help to keep the dust off and knock down any mites that may be in the dust.

These plants are on a roof in the middle of El Nino and P.I. is humid and stifling hot in summer with temps soaring above the century mark often. The pots may be getting too hot and overheating the roots. Larger pots help and what I like to do is double pot and group the plants together so they shade each other. It keeps the pots in the center better insulated. For the outer pots I double pot and if I can get styrofoam sheets. I like to place styrofoam between the inner and outer pot to add more insulation. If the roof is too hot to walk on in the middle of the day. try putting down a reflective sheet to reduce reflective heat from the roof and put the pots on feet to get air under the pots and put some distance between the pot and the hot surface. A rack , pot feet, plant stand, bamboo lashed together to make a bamboo mat should work. Overheating and stress could also be causing the blossoms to drop.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2016 10:26 am

Re: My organic potted citrus plants need help

Thank you both for your advise! Appreciate it very much. Will be considering all this info in my new plan of action for the plants. and hopefully soon I would have figured this out and will post much healthier citrus photos soon. Thanks again!

Greener Thumb
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Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 1:20 am
Location: Canada zone 8b

Re: My organic potted citrus plants need help

You wrote that you use pee as a fertelizer. This may not be such a good idea. Because unless the urine is diluted with about 50% water, it can be quite harmful.
So, I'd recommend diluting the urine with water and see it that helps.
Zone 8b, Canada

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Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 5:59 pm
Location: TN. 50 years of gardening experience.

Re: My organic potted citrus plants need help

epsom salts is a man made chemical.

Pee works great if you pee in a bucket full of organic material and let it compost until it looks like potting soil, add wood ash it helps.

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