The Mediterranean habitat most conducive to the cultivation of citrus trees has very low rainfall, with precipitation predominantly during the autumn and winter months. Adequate irrigation is therefore needed for lemons and citrus fruits in general, as they cannot withstand summer drought.
Moreover, citrus trees are particularly demanding of water. Although tolerance of the various minerals present in irrigation water varies according to the root stock and species of the plant, it must be remembered that in general excessive amounts of chlorine, boron or sodium in the water can detrimental to lemon trees, in terms of quality and quantity.
One of the most suitable irrigation systems for citrus fruits is undoubtedly the drip method, favoured in plantations in Sicily and Calabria.
ADVICE ON PRUNING of lemon trees
Lemon trees should only be pruned in summer, if possible in the second half of July. In fact, before the summer season, particularly in the months of February and March, the plants are in full flower and building up essential nutritional reserves which are vital for the subsequent setting, in other words the initial stage of fruit formation. Normally, pruning is avoided during very hot and very cold seasons.
Pruning involves thinning the foliage of the trees, removing branches which are dead, broken, bend downwards of have already flowered. Long branches without fruit (known as “suckers”) should always be removed (in young plants as well as mature trees) if they spring from the base of the largest branches, or simply trimmed if they are in the outer part of the foliage. As a general rule, pruning of citrus trees should never be overdone, in order to maintain the correct balance between growth and fruit production.
Pruning is essential in cases of parasites such as the cochineal, an insect which colonises in large numbers the young shoots and leaves of the plants, perforating the tender surface of leaves and stems to feed on the sugar-rich sap inside), or when the tree has become too tall, making it difficult to harvest fruit from the ground.