The growing popularity of courtyard gardens with seasonal fruit trees attracts home owners accross the globe. High priority fruits such as citrus, is gaining immense popularity among the home gardeners and creating ripples in the ancient art of growing citrus as a wall or hedge.

These days container growing with its dwarfing effect on tree growth is also being used, particularly for many of the more compact citrus, such as Meyer lemon, West Indian lime, cumquats and most of the mandarins.

Citrus trees react very favourably to being clipped. This is a management technique often used by commercial citrus growers to achieve maximum fruit production on canopies that are also easy to handle.

 It is all to do with the way citrus trees produce their fruit, which is on branches that have grown during the previous season. Apart from reducing canopy size, clipping every three to four years increases the number of short fruit-producing laterals or branches.

Citrus are very responsive to light and produce most of their fruit within 90cm of the outer canopy. If you have a typical 3m to 4m-wide tree in your backyard, check this out. In most cases, there will be very few fruits produced well within the canopy. For fruit growers, this means you can expect maximum production from a wall or hedge of citrus that is no more than 1m to 1.5m wide.

Citrus trees lend themselves to hedging, particularly if the training begins soon after planting. Standard-size trees should be positioned at least 50cm from a wall with at least 2m to 2.5m between them.

Branches that grow away from the wall should be tip pruned, with any major clipping carried out late in winter or early spring. Once the trees have formed a hedge, clipping should be carried out only every three to four years. Annual clipping is likely to produce excess vigour and limit fruit production.

While a thick 1m to 1.5m-wide canopy is ideal for maximum production, it is possible to produce a very attractive but thinner wall capable of producing satisfactory yields as an espalier. Meyer lemon and limes are very suitable for espaliering.

Citrus trees adapt well to containers, but because their root system is confined to a relatively small space, overall canopy size is reduced.

While it is very difficult to manage trees that would normally grow 3m or more in a container, smaller trees – particularly those on dwarf and semi-dwarf rootstocks – are ideal for this practice.

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