Citrus trees can be planted using a method known as “intensive planting” or “intensive backyard orcharding” in which up to four citrus trees on compatible root-stocks are planted in a single hole and spaced 12 to 24 inches apart. Root stocks from the same species and/or genus will grow together underground in a natural process called “fusing,” so that multiple original trees begin to function as a single tree, sharing water and nutrients. Intensive planting allows larger yields from smaller spaces and progressive harvesting of smaller crops; for example, plant 4 orange varieties that ripen successively to allow for a continuous, year-around orange harvest, rather than planting one single tree that ripens at one time and becomes difficult to harvest easily from the ground once the tree gets too large.
One caveats: watch your root-stocks. GardenZeus does not recommend using the intensive backyard orcharding method for Eureka and Lisbon trees, which perform best as single format trees. Eureka lemons are incompatible with Trifoliate Orange and most Citrange root-stocks. Other lemons may be grafted onto Troyer or Citrange root-stocks.
Intensive backyard orcharding provides many benefits, but requires careful planning, a degree of skill and experience, and ongoing, regular maintenance and pruning to avoid closely planted trees becoming crowded and unmanageable. This method is best used by experienced home gardeners and orchardists.
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