1. Soil matters. With nasty clay soil in our yard, we planted a lot of our citrus in raised beds and in pots. Our garden soil is a compost mix from Larry’s Building Materials in Costa Mesa. To improve drainage, we add cactus mix.
2. Plants can get bored with the same food. We use various fertilizers, depending on when we’re buying. Often it’s Dr. Earth Fruit Tree Fertilizer but also bat guano, liquid fish fertilizer, and other stuff.
3. Leaf trimmings from a hedge have a second life. They serve as mulch for shallow-rooted citrus, which needs to be protected.
4. The assassin bugs are plant-protecting ninja. They hang out in our Algerian tangerine. When aphid infestations occur, the assassin bugs wipe them out.
5. Assemble a mostly organic arsenal. For sooty fungus, we use neem oil. And if leaf miners are really hammering new growth, a little Monterey Garden Insect Spray.
6. Exotic fruit calls for exotic wisdom. We turned to an old Japanese gardener when our yuzus didn’t flower. He told us to stress the plant by tying garden string around several of the branches to choke them. A tree often flowers as a preservation mechanism. Breaking off the ends of the branches by hand—instead of pruning them—has the same effect.
7. It cheers up the neighbors. In the winter especially, citrus works its magic.
8. Sharing is easy. A little juice goes a long way in cooking. And so do the 600 pounds grown in our yard every year.