Ask the Garden Guru

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Frost damage in lime tree

Dear Garden Guru,

I have a 5 year old lime tree that has been frost damaged. Is there anything I can do to save the tree?

Pete in Novato

Hi Pete,

Of the citrus, limes are the least tolerant of cold weather. They are notorious for defoliating. After our cold snap, I imagine that your tree looks forlorn but do not lose hope for its recovery. You will not know the extent of cold damage until March. It may be that some of the branch tips and twigs have been killed but the rest of the tree should still be quite alive. If you scrape off the bark and see green beneath, it is alive. Wait to prune or feed until late March. New leaves should resprout in April. If the tree is in a container or planted where it will not receive rain, water periodically through the winter to keep the soil from completely drying out. If there is a chance we will have another freeze, cover the tree with burlap, a sheet or frost blanket to prevent further injury.

Hundreds of slugs on my lemon tree. help!

Dear Garden Guru,

We are overrun with snails. Our beloved Meyer lemon tree is INFESTED with about 200 snails. They're everywhere and they are quickly devouring the tree. We have a dog and a small child who spend a lot of time in the backyard, so snail bait is not an option. Any suggestions? We've tried the beer in the pie dish route, and that didn't work. I would hate to cut away all the affected branches, as there basically wouldn't be any tree left. We don't want to use poison, as we would like to use the lemons. Many thanks.

Amy in

Hi Amy,

There is a safe, non toxic bait available for snails! It is called Sluggo and has been listed by OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute). It is composed of iron phosphate that occurs naturally in the soil. This compound is highly attractive to slugs and snails. They ingest the pellets and this causes them to stop feeding on your plants (or anything else). They become less mobile and crawl away to die. Dead snails are not toxic to birds or other wildlife. Uneaten pellets decompose and go back into the soil. The bait is not toxic to pets, children or other wildlife. The iron phosphate will not make your lemons toxic, they will more likely feed your tree.

Dry citrus on tree. Can you help?

Dear Garden Guru,

I have a blood orange tree that is 3 or 4 years old. The oranges have very thick skin and dried out (almost no juice) -- they really are not edible. Can you help?

Susan in Kentfield

Hi Susan,

Here are some reasons for dry citrus fruit:

1. The fruit is left on the tree for too long. When fruit becomes overripe, the pulp will begin to dry up and the rinds will puff up.
2. The freeze we had in December desiccated fruits that were exposed. Freezing also causes bitterness.
3. The tree is not given sufficient water, especially in summer and fall as the fruit is ripening.
4. Thick or puffy rinds can be mitigated by supplying a fertilizer supplement containing zinc in spring and fall. We like Growmore Citrus Growers Blend or Liquinox Iron and Zinc.

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