Wink Lindsay explores the benefits of citrus plants

In the garden: Kaffir lime/Mukrut. Photo: Supplied.
In the garden: Kaffir lime/Mukrut. Photo: Supplied.

This time of year, Citrus fruit is abundant. These evergreen trees are equally at home grown in a pot or in the ground.

A wonderful variety of lemons, limes, oranges, mandarins, tangelos and grapefruit will grow in our climate. One of my favourite citrus is the Kaffir lime or Mukrut (Citrus hystris).

Despite being a subtropical species, it grows well in our Mediterranean climate, surviving and fruiting during our frosty winters.

The highly fragrant bi-lobed leaves can be used in soups and curries. Best used fresh, or they can be frozen with little loss of flavour.

The green fruit are knobbly and round. Instead of providing juice, they are actually most prized for their zest. You can add them to lime tarts, pickle or make a refreshing cordial.

They can also be used to make natural beauty and home cleaning products. Citrus are heavy feeders and have a dense mat of fibrous roots.

Their shallow root system means they are very susceptible to drought stress so need to be adequately watered and mulched.

Ants are often a sign of dry soil.

Citrus benefit from pruning, little and often. Keep the trees a manageable size by cutting off any excessively tall growth.

To keep them healthy and producing well, apply an organic based fertiliser with trace elements, around the drip-line of the tree in Spring (August) and Autumn (April).

Another way to add nutrients and increase tree health is to companion plant.

With citrus, underplant using deeper rooted plants such as comfrey, chicory, dandelion and borage.

Nasturtiums make a lovely living mulch.

These will help to bring nutrients from deeper in the soil profile and make them available to the tree.

Another added benefit of having flowering plants around the base of the trees are they attract pollinating insects, helping to increase anyone's fruit set.