Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

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Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby Talyda » Tue Nov 25, 2008 9:05 am

Hi there! Hoping someone can help me =) (so much so that I'm cross posting this onto more than one forum ;) LOL!)

I bought a lemon tree about 4 weeks ago, I've planted it and been watering it every other day.

It's in clay soil, but when I've planted it, I made the hole twice as big around as the base of the tree (maybe even a little bigger) and filled with potting mix, and am buying a bottle of stuff tomorrow that is supposed to help break up the clay soil. (sorry if I'm going on too much, want to try and make sure you have all the information! ;))

Anyways, I seem to be losing a lot of leaves. There's a few black ants on the tree, only like a half dozen or so, I know that there's earwigs in the peastraw that I've mulched with, but I haven't noticed any in the tree (they are in EVERYTHING around here =P)

When I looked today, I thought I'd grab a few leaves and see if they are just "pulling" off with nearly no pressure put on them, but then I noticed that there's at least a half dozen that seem to be bent in the middle of the leaf stem, and that where they are bent, they seem to be "thinner" not sure if they are being eaten right there or not, but that definitely seems to be where the problem is.

I can't see any obvious signs of anything else wrong, just losing SO many leaves!

I can take photo's if it will help at all =)

Thanks in advance for ANY help!
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby Mister Wisteria » Tue Nov 25, 2008 9:21 am

Welcome to the Forum, it could be earwigs, they can be a pest, not sure that they like lemon leaves but its a good starting point. Lemons don't like being moved and when you do they usually take a little while to settle down. Make sure you don't over water it and as it is sitting in a basin of potting mix with clay around it be even more careful, its a fine line between over and under watering with new Lemon Tree's. :roll:
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby littlegarden » Tue Nov 25, 2008 9:25 am

Hi and welcome to the forum! My first guess would be that you are watering it too much - every other day is a lot unless it's been really hot. And if your clay soil is very dense, it won't drain well. Which means if you're watering it too much, the water is soaking through the nice soil and then sitting against the clay, soaking the lower roots. Where are you located? Has it been cool and/or raining as well as you watering?

In the future, the way to test how well your soil drains is when you first dig the planting hole, put a hose into the hole for a while (yes I know it wastes water but it'll save you grief later). If the water just keeps running in, the drainage is great. If the water puddles and fills up a bit, that's ok, let it fill up a bit then turn off the hose and leave it for a while. If the water is still there 15, 30, 45 minutes later, that means your drainage is slow and you have to be careful or your plants will water-log.

Don't worry about the ants, they're only a problem if they're "farming" scale or aphids - they protect then and eat the dew they produce, but you're better off treating the scale (if you get it) than fighting the ants.

I also want to double-check that you haven't put the mulch right up against the trunk - you always want to leave a space around the trunk otherwise you can get collar rot where the bark rots off.
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby Talyda » Tue Nov 25, 2008 10:06 am

*waves* Thanks for the welcomes both =)

Attaching an image this time of the damage to the leaf stem, more I look at it more it looks like something is eating it. I noticed what looked like two *tiny* dried up baby caterpillars on the back of one leaf - and found where the half dozen ants were congregating, and there's what I assume is a scale? there - a small orangey looking.. blob (for want of a better description!)

I'm not a very good gardener, but I am *loving* doing it! Just I can go out and look at the tree 20 times, and not notice somethign glaringly obvious til the 21st time ;)

I'm sprinkling derris dust around the bottom of the tree to help with the earwigs, and I'll spray white oil for the scale, but I'm still unsure about the leaves =)

Littlegardgen, I left about a 10cm diameter clear around the base of the tree from the mulch - justhave to move it out as it gets moved back in =)

Would I be better off digging him back up, and planting him on a raised mound? I can fill the garden "bed" that i've made around him with soil, then mound up the centre a bit more? I was going to do that in the first place, but I thought that making the extra big hole to plant him in, and then using the stuff to break up the clay soil would be good enough =)

Thanks again!

*edits* that photo looks blurrier than I thought, I'll try take another =)
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby Mister Wisteria » Tue Nov 25, 2008 10:11 am

The leaves have been eaten by something, if earwigs are present I would suspect them.
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby Talyda » Tue Nov 25, 2008 10:24 am

Ah, thanks =)

I'll do my best to get them under control then, I'll try some oil traps =)

Oh, forgot to say in the last post, I'm in mid-north Sth Aus, if I said we get no rain, I'm only *slightly* exaggerating =P Pretty much the only water the tree will get (until it gets bigger) is from me - when it gets bigger it will no doubt tap into the grey water pit - it's planted about 3 metres away from it

Have attached what I hope is a clearer photo - it also looks like something is taking off a small layer of bark along the stems where the damaged leaves are? Not sure if it shows clearly, kinda looks like whiteish trails along the stem.

Gah, I'm really not good at gardening! But I DO love it! =D
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby littlegarden » Tue Nov 25, 2008 3:07 pm

Your camera has the same problem as mine - it's not made for close-ups!

Those bumps are definitely scale, you're spot-on with the white oil and you can also scrape them off. You've also got a nibbler there of some kind, it could be those caterpillars you mentioned I know I get some here that roll up the leaves, make a little nest that looks like a spider web, and munch away. A little bit of munching and scale shouldn't be enough to kill it though.

But I'd also cut back on the watering - don't water it until if you stick your finger in the soil, it's dry for more than an inch.

I should ask, which leaves are dropping? Is it just leaves toward the trunk that turn yellow and drop, or new growth as well? It's part of their life cycle to grow new leaves at the tips whilst the old leaves near the centre fall off.

I found a guide to watering citrus:

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/trees-s ... -trees.htm
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby karyn » Tue Nov 25, 2008 5:06 pm

If you look really closely at the stems/branches, can you see patches where the green is gone, leaving a thatchy/fibre-y sort of patch? This happened to mine, I couldn't take pics as they were too small. I pruned it hard and it's coming back nicely. I too have earwigs, and I wondered if possums were assisting? I kept feeding mine and still don't kniow the culprit.
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby liam81 » Wed Nov 26, 2008 11:08 am

The same thing has happened to one of mine, all the leaves have fallen off! Does wind bother them? they fell off about a month or more ago, and still havent come back.
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby Honeyeaterg » Thu Nov 27, 2008 6:03 am

I agree with others and I think youre giving it too much water, I think that's most likely the reason the leaves are falling off.
Im on sandy soil and this is what Ive done with newly planted citrus and they thrived on it - water once a day for a week, water twice a week for a week, then water once a week deeply for the first summer. Ive lived in places where the lemon trees never got watered once established and they still used to load up with fruit.
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby Talyda » Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:02 pm

Well, I was hoping to come back and thankyou all and tell you how much better my tree is doing - but I'm not sure if it is =P

I've pest oiled it, and sprinkled derris dust all around, and it seems like there's not any more leaves being eaten off - so that's something at least!

Thing is though, the tips of every branch are damaged, and tehre's no way that they will grow that I can see - it's like the tip of each branch has been chewed a little (nibbled more like) and are (just right on the tip) dark and dead looking

I found roo poo around the bottom of the tree, but the damage on the tree is too delicate to be the roos - I think they were after the flowers I planted around the bottom that no longer seem to be there =P

I kinda feel like I should prune the branch tips, cos of the damage, but if I do, they can't grow where I prune them, so where would they grow from?

I don't understand how fruit tree pruning works really =)

Is my instinct right though? Should I be pruning the damaged tips off? And can anyone explain to me how it grows if it has no tips left?

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby Talyda » Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:08 pm

littlegarden wrote:I should ask, which leaves are dropping? Is it just leaves toward the trunk that turn yellow and drop, or new growth as well? It's part of their life cycle to grow new leaves at the tips whilst the old leaves near the centre fall off.

All of them =) I have about 20 leaves left now, som e of which are slightly damaged around the edges =)

Thanks for the watering guide too - this past week I actually havent had to water - YAY for rain! =D (And WOW for what the rain is doing to my pumpkin plant - it's almost growing as fast as Jack's beanstalk!!)

karyn wrote:If you look really closely at the stems/branches, can you see patches where the green is gone, leaving a thatchy/fibre-y sort of patch? This happened to mine, I couldn't take pics as they were too small. I pruned it hard and it's coming back nicely. I too have earwigs, and I wondered if possums were assisting? I kept feeding mine and still don't kniow the culprit.

It does look kinda like that - whatever was eating it was almost leaving "trails" behind, where they out like the outer green layer off the branches, and left behind the raw-looking inner wood.
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby karyn » Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:06 pm

Same as mine. I cut it back HARD and it's coming back quite nicely. the leaves are still nibbled looking, but it's not dropping them now. Good luck with it, lemon trees are brilliant to have!
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby Longy » Fri Dec 19, 2008 6:38 am

"I made the hole twice as big around as the base of the tree (maybe even a little bigger) and filled with potting mix, and am buying a bottle of stuff tomorrow that is supposed to help break up the clay soil."
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I don't think this is a mystery at all. Put simply, your soil prep is not suitable for citrus, or most other fruit trees for that matter.
Basically, you dug a hole in clay, (which will be poor draining), filled it with potting mix, (which is for pots) and now it's just a bucket in the ground with a lemon tree in it. The root system is too wet because you are overwatering. This causes the leaves to fall off and will eventually result in, at best, an unthrifty tree. Or at worst, the tree will die in a wet period. The chewed leaves etc are irrelevant. The use of any pesticides is a waste of time and money until the tree is planted properly.
So, what to do?
Well, if it were mine, i'd dig it up and plant it in a big tub, say 2 feet across. SOmething it can get going in. Trim off crook branches. Shape the tree frame like a wineglass. Then, i'd invest in at least 1/2 a cubic metre of compost, manures etc and dig it into the soil where you want the tree to grow. More would be better if you can get it. Make a mound about 2 metres in diameter and 400mm deep. Mulch it with whatever's available and leave it to settle over Summer. Maybe add more organic fert and grow a crop of spuds or pumpkins in it.
Then plant the lemon in Autumn with some frost protection. It'll go berko next Spring/Summer.
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby kelly3 » Sat Dec 27, 2008 3:37 pm

Agree with the others. I had two failed attempts at planting my lemon and lime trees.

They do not like wind, frost or sudden heat when they are young.

I would dig it up re prepare the soil, dig in plenty of organic matter.

Then I ended up setting up a hessian surround mine to protect it from the wind, heat and frost to baby it along, until it gets a bit of size about it. It has its first lot of fruit this year, so I think it worked.
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Re: Lemon tree leaves falling/being bitten off?

Postby liam81 » Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:24 am

I think you guys are spot on with the over watering thing. I stopped watering all together a month ago and to my amazement there are new growth shoots coming up on my lemonade tree (which I was about to pull out) and my washington navel. Just waiting for my Lisbon to snap back too.

My apricot and peach tree is going well, while some of the other citrus is still looking a bit scraggly. Hopefully they will snap back. I have tonnes of chook poo. How often should I feed it to them?
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