When Life Gives You Lemons . . .
. . . Be happy, as lemons are expensive!
What could be more rewarding than walking into your garden and picking fresh lemons, limes, oranges, and other juicy citrus fruits from your own trees? Properly tended, citrus trees are beautiful plants, with lustrous dark green leaves, intoxicating fragrant blossoms that attract honey bees, who in turn make orange blossom honey (my favorite!) and fruit that comes in a cornucopia of varieties, shapes, sizes, colors and tastes. Citrus are like any other plant: give them their basic needs and they should thrive and then reward you well.
Citrus trees come in ‘dwarf’ (6-10 feet full growth), ‘semi-dwarf’ (8-14 feet) and ‘standard’ (15 feet plus). These are all grafted, so the fruit variety will be the same regardless of the size. Fun fact: dwarf citrus are grafted onto a hardy citrus rootstock called “Flying Dragon” . . . how cool is that? For container growing, dwarf citrus is your best bet.
Citrus Growing Needs:
Location: Pick areas of your garden that receive the most heat and sun per day, as they are very happy in full sun. Citrus require well drained soil, so check the ground to make sure water easily drains through it, as they don’t like ‘wet’ feet. Cold/frost sensitivity varies from variety to variety — kumquats being the most cold tolerant (taking many degrees of frost), to limes, that should be protected from freezing temperatures. So, if you want your winter margaritas, make sure to cover your lime trees with N-Sulate frost cloth!
Pests: No matter how well we take care of our green friends, there are pests that will sometimes attack them, and citrus are no exception. However, just like people, a healthy vigorous plant can fight off ‘bugs’ and diseases much easier than a weak or unhealthy one. As there are a number of insect pests, the easiest way to correctly identify the problem and solution is by bringing in a sample of the affected plant in a Ziplock bag.
Soil: Loose, gritty, slightly acidic planting mix works the best, and we sell an excellent EB Stone Citrus and Palm soil, that can be used in the ground as well as in containers.
Water: Moderation is the key word here — don’t keep the soil soggy all the time, or that will encourage root rot, but also don’t let the soil completely dry out either. For best results, water slowly and thoroughly, and then wait to water until the soil is showing signs of drying out 2-3 inches down from the surface. (Hint: your index finger makes an excellent ‘moisture meter’)
Fertilizer: Just like people, a happy plant is a well-fed plant. Central Valley sells a great organic fertilizer: EB Stone Organics Citrus Food which gives basic nutrient needs with the bonus of added minerals for optimal health.
For more information, please come into the nursery and talk with one of our knowledgeable and friendly sales staff. We will be bringing in new citrus, as they are available, starting in March, and continuing well into the summer months. Are you daydreaming of a fresh made Lemon Meringue pie or a margarita with a twist of lime by now?
By MARK ERICKSON