From the garden
I wanted to take a moment to write about my lemon tree. I have this dwarf improved Meyer lemon tree in a fat blue fiberglass pot in our garden. When we lived in Santa Cruz, we had an ancient lemon tree in our front yard. The house was a Victorian; the lemon tree might have been that old too. We loved the lemons, the year-round bloom and sweet fragrance, pies, lemonade, and juice to take our cooking up a notch from typical college fare. So when we “settled in” mentally a bit here, we got a lemon tree. This was before falling for limoncello in Italy, though it made trying to produce it fortuitous!
This little guy may be a dwarf, but the lemons, which are hardy, are also very sweet, like a lemon drop candy. Meyers were originally a Chinese cross between lemons and mandarins. The Improved variety came out of the mid century years when the Meyers in the U.S. developed a citrus virus and had to be eradicated. This new lemon tree could withstand the virus, though Meyers have had a resurgence in popularity.
I try to take care of my little lemon guy and try to give him the best I can, and try to keep fairly natural about it. Our soil is clay, so he’s in Miracle-Gro organic potting soil in his happy pot with some Miracle-Gro Citrus Food to keep the soil full of nutrients – just a handful every couple of months, but I noticed that the tree needs more if in active fruit production.
I don’t really have to water him in winter with our rains, but during summer/warm spells, I add enough water to moisten the soil if it starts to get dry. I am reminded of the warm summer rains on the lemon trees in Sorrento and along the Amalfi coast in Italy – those suckers get drenched! But it’s a hardy tree, and I think I’ve only had to cover him with a pillow case during freezes once or twice. And yeah, a large pillowcase can just about cover it up all the way! But the Italians inspired something else: all the trees grow on stakes, like tomatoes. Their varieties are all climbers, and the grid of stakes (and sometimes rafters) help keep the weight of the fruit off the tree. I’ve been using tomato stakes to help my guy grow right, and they’ve been helping a lot.
I’ve had problems with both aphids (we have a lot of roses) and snails. I have a resident spider that’s helped with the aphids, but the snails practically ate up my guy! The solution is a simple deterrent: copper tape! The garden store sells copper tape that has a sticky underside that I have run along the top of the pot. I personally evicted all the snails I could find and no new ones have appeared. This works because the copper gives snails and slugs a slight charge from the Cu+2 ions. They don’t like it, and back away! Interestingly enough, serious scientific research has been done on copper banding for trees, and is backed up (and suggested) by the University of California as a humane pest barrier. Who needs chemicals when you have a molecular electric fence? 😛
Right now the flowers are falling off and turning to buds for another growing season. Can’t wait for the fruit to grow and ripen! Here’s hoping for a decent summer!