The most common fruit in our gardens is citrus
THERE'S no doubt that the most widely grown fruit in the home garden in our part of the world is citrus.
Lemons, limes, oranges, and mandarins are really easy to grow.
And they produce vast quantities of delicious, juicy fruit packed with vitamin C in winter, right when we need it most.
I think they are worth growing just for the fragrance of the blossom in spring.
The fruit is an added bonus.
Most citrus fruit last very well on the tree, sometimes for several months after ripening.
So you don't have to pick the fruit and use it all at once, which makes a citrus tree an ideal choice for the home gardener.
All you need is a position that receives at least six hours of full sun every day, and well drained soil or a large pot full of premium potting mix.
If space is a problem, choose one of the dwarf varieties available now.
Eureka lemons bear several crops each year, have few seeds and not many thorns.
Lisbon lemons have a high acid content and are pretty thorny, especially when young. They are more cold-tolerant than Eureka.
Meyer lemons are actually a cross between a lemon and an orange, so they are sweeter, with a lower acid content, and a thin skin.
The most popular orange varieties are the navels, such as the Washington and Lanes Late, which both produce seedless fruit with good flavour, and the Valencia, a late, seeded variety.
If you have room, you can plant one of each and have fresh oranges almost all year. Washingtons mature May-June, Lanes Late around August, and the Valencias mature September-October and last on the tree for up to six months, as long as the fruit fly doesn't get to them.
Good mandarin varieties include the easy-to-peel Imperial, the Emperor, which has excellent flavour and is really hardy and the Honey Murcutt, which can be a bit seedy and difficult to peel, but makes up for that with superb flavour.
Tahitian limes produce the round, green fruit much loved for gin and tonics. The Kaffir lime is grown mostly for its leaves, which are a mainstay of Thai cuisine.
The fruit is very bumpy, and not as juicy as a Tahitian.
And don't forget the Citrus Gems range of native limes. Sunrise Lime is a cross between a finger lime and a calamondin. It produces elegant, sweet, pear-shaped golden fruit which can be eaten whole. Outback Desert Lime has masses of sweet, tangy grape-sized fruit with very thin skin. Macerate them in sugar syrup or just eat them whole.
Red Centre Lime is a cross between a finger lime and a Rangpur lime. The fruit are rich red, with red pulp and gorgeous pink juice. Rainforest Pearl is a finger lime and the fruit contain masses of lime pearls, which are just sensational in drinks, salads and desserts.
Caring for your citrus trees is easy. Water them deeply and protect them from scale insects, aphids and citrus leaf miner with regular applications of organic Eco-Oil. Feed them a couple of times a year and prune to keep them a manageable size.
Protect the root zone with a layer of mulch. If you are growing your citrus in a pot, use a premium potting mix, feed and water diligently and re-pot every couple of years, trimming the roots as well as the canopy and adding fresh premium potting mix.