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Bath Time for your Citrus Tree

People who have talked to me about pest issues on their Citrus Trees know I’m a real fan of bathing my trees. Spraying soapy water onto a leaf is only useful if used as a biodegradable wetting agent to maximize adhesion to the leaf surface, so foliar nutrients don't just roll off the leaves.Although the soapy spray will probably drown the offending bug, it won’t fix all the issues the pest caused your tree. So I don’t recommend it.

If you are spraying soapy water to drown the offenders, you are not fixing the massive problem of honeydew.  Honeydew is a sweet, sticky liquid that plant sucking insects excrete as they ingest large quantities of sap from a plant. Eventually, if the honeydew isn’t washed off, fungi will begin to grow which is sooty mold. Although sooty molds don’t infect plants, they can indirectly damage the plant by coating the leaves so it reduces photosynthesis,  which can stunt plant growth and cause leaf drop and in sever cases branch die-back.
THINGS YOU WILL NEED

  • ☼ Warm Water
  • ☼ Dishpan
  • ☼ Dawn Dish Soap
  • ☼ Washcloth
  • ☼ Toothbrush
  • ☼ Ziplock Bag
  • ☼ Wide Masking Tape
  • ☼ Tanglefoot

 

  1. 1. Squirt Dawn dish soap into a dishpan with warm water, make sure your solution is nice and sudsy.
  2. 2. Pick one branch and start washing top and bottom of leaves with a wash cloth. Pay attention to the bottom of the leaf, this is where most eggs and pests will be found. Also pay attention to any distorted leaves. Some aphid species inject a toxin into plants, which causes leaves to curl and distort. Depending on the severity of the underside of the leaf determines what approach I take. Sometimes I will wash the leaf repeatedly, most the time If I find a pest and it’s distorted the leaf I will  remove the leaf and store in a ziplock bag.
  3. 3. Use toothbrush in crevices that the cloth can’t reach.
  4. 4. Once the tree is completely washed, treat top and underside of leaves with Horticultural Oil OR Neem Oil.
  5. 5. Wrap masking tape above or below the graft area, STICKY SIDE OUT.
  6. 6. Add Tanglefoot to sticky part of tape, this is a barrier to keep crawling pests from gaining an access point to your foliage.

 

Do NOT place tree against anything where foliage is touching a railing or wall. Check tree in a week, you may have to rewash only a section. Re-apply oil to the whole tree again.

I give my trees about 6 baths annually, because happy trees are clean trees.

Wishing you the best success in your citrus growing!

Nancy

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