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Gardening: Ring the changes - with orange and lemon appeal.

YOU don't have to live in the Med to grow orange and lemon trees.

During the summer months both orange and lemon plants, plus all other easy-to-grow citrus varieties such as kumquats and calamondins, can be put outside on the patio to soak up the summer sunshine.

However, as soon as you feel a nip in the air they must be brought indoors and protected from frost.

Large pot plants should be stood in a greenhouse or conservatory where they'll be exposed to plenty of light throughout the winter.

The temperature must be at least 40F and it must be kept more or less constant, otherwise the plants will shed their leaves. Be stingy with watering too, allowing the surface of the compost to dry out to about 3in below the rim of the pot before giving your trees a good drenching from the top.

You'll find that citrus plants are hungry plants, and need feeding all year round to keep the leaves fresh and green.

Give them a fertiliser that's rich in iron at every watering, and during the winter months spray them occasionally with a foliar spray of Epsom salts to perk up yellowing leaves.

Pests can sometimes be a problem too, and it's worth hanging a yellow sticky trap in the tree to catch whitefly and greenfly.

If these sap-sucking pests are left undetected you may also find a sooty mould growing on the sugary honeydew that they leave behind when they feed. Washing the leaves with tepid soapy water should clean off the dirt and mould as well as washing away scale, insects and another devastating pest, the almost invisible red spider mite.

To keep your plants a manageable size give them a light trim in late winter. Cut back by half any long thin shoots and pinch out growing tips to encourage a bushy habit.

Plants cost at least pounds 20 and a number of varieties are available by post from Highfield Nurseries (01452 740266).

If you've got the time and patience you could start your own plants off from pips, which are surprisingly easy to sprout. Start them off in a pot of moist compost in an airing cupboard and wait for about three weeks for the shoots to appear.

As soon as the leaves emerge put the pot on the windowsill and care for them as you would any other citrus plant.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Wild, Adrienne
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 8, 1998
Words:399
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