What is wrong with my citrus trees?

Hey Alan,
I have major issues with gophers I believe:

  • Golden Nugget is 4 years in ground, and purchased as a 3-year old, finally growing fruit but yellow and dry looking leaves despite 2x watering and monthly fertilzing.
  • Cara Cara is 3 years in ground, purchased as a 2-year old, super green and healthy looking but hasn’t grown more than 6 inches.
  • Tango is 2 years in ground, purchased as a 2-year old, it’s yellowing and hasn’t grown a bit.
  • Kishu is 2 years in ground, purchased as a 2-year old, it’s yellowing… and I dug it up and noticed 2-3 gopher holes and the top portion of roots gone!

I’m wondering if gopher nets do the trick:

  • Golden Nugget, do I dig it up and place in a gopher net, or look to find and kill the gophers?
  • Kishu, have you had success reviving a tree that’s been eaten up by gophers?
  • I’m guessing a 2-year old tree should experience 12" or so of growth in 2 years if things are right?

There are two things about growing fruit in S. CA I don’t miss. Drought and gophers. I don’t know anything about the current state of the art of gopher control. I relied on Macabee traps and it was a constant battle. I know some people built rat-wire cages for the root systems to keep them out, and I’m sure that works. All those years ago when I was there, trees often came from the nursery in big metal cans and it was sometimes recommended to just plant them in the cans.

I figure you have to also stop the gophers from climbing into whatever you use to deter them, and that it would be a difficult process to stop them from slipping between the trunk and the material without girdling the tree. I’m guessing this is where the good old standby, finely broken glass, comes in handy.

Here in the northeast we have a somewhat smaller but similar subterranean pest called pine voles. I find I can trap them like any mouse with traps placed under trays baited with nuts. They come up for food in the fall and early winter. It is also possible to kill them with bait stations and baits are sometimes used to kill gophers, but care needs to be taken not to poison pets or wildlife. Sometimes bait stations are driven into the ground where tunnels are.

Thanks Alan!

I’m in San Diego and do not have any gophers in my yard. Any time I have an issue with citrus defoliating, it’s usually a watering problem. They really do not like wet feet! Definitely check the soil before watering if in a pot, where I’ve had the most of my problems.

I did have issues with a couple of potted citrus and so I put them in the ground. One (Australian Finger Lime) made it, although it struggled for quite some time. I stopped giving it any supplemental water and I think that did the trick, it’s finally started to leaf out and is finally out of the ICU, although it still is not what I would call super healthy. The other I put into the ground never really recovered and I pulled it after a year.

As a note, I have several other very healthy citrus trees in pots and in the ground…


Curious, do you have any potted citrus in-ground? I’m curious to try this method in order to keep the size small.

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I pulled them out of the pot when I put them inground. Burying the pot will give you a little bit of time, but eventually the roots will escape through the drain holes. The main reasons to bury a potted plant is to try and protect the roots or to make it easy to dig up the plant at the end of the season to move indoors.

If you want to keep your citrus small, just do summer pruning and trim back any shoots that start to get too big.

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Cool, thanks for the insight… yeah I thought the roots may use the drain holes eventually.

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