Growing your own lemons right there in your own backyard is not only a great way to create a regular supply of lemons, but the lemon tree itself is one of the best trees to grow at home. Consider these points:
- It’s an evergreen
- Produces a wonderful fragrance throughout the garden
- Makes a great shade tree
- Produces a fantastic edible product
Below you can find an outline which explains all the key points from start to finish. Follow these steps and before long you can have a healthy, productive lemon tree growing right there in your own backyard.
Selecting a Suitable Tree
The variety you choose may be dependent upon the area in which you live. If you live in a cool to temperate climate where regular frosts occur, you may need a cool climate variety such as Meyer.
The Meyer lemon is a very productive tree and it’s smaller than other lemon trees and really grows quite well just about anywhere. The selection process is just as important as the growing process.
Make sure the tree is already healthy, disease and pest free. It should be grafted, and have at least three leading branches coming out of the main trunk—the higher the graft the better. It is always a good idea to have a new tree correctly pruned before planting, so just ask your local nursery person for assistance on this.
Apart from acting as a stabilizer for trees, the roots of any plant have a function to search for nutrients and water. If they find a good source of both these, roots can stop developing. This can cause the tree to grow slowly. In the case of lemon trees and citrus in general, this rule applies.
Encouraging roots to grow and strengthen requires dry periods between watering. So locating a spot that drains well is essential. If you cannot provide this, there is an alternative solution.
If your soil is generally muddy or clay-like, dig an extra deep hole and try adding about 6 inches of crushed rock, river sand, or even gravel in the hole, then place some good soil or rich compost above the rocks and then plant your tree. Mixing some garden lime and gypsum with existing soil is also a good idea.
Other than water, a crucial part of growing fruit trees is feeding. Citrus trees should be fertilized at least twice a year—once at the beginning of autumn (fall), and once at the beginning of spring.
You need to encourage root growth and foliage health during the cooler months of the year, so nitrogen rich fertilizers are required. This can be found in most manures and organic based fertilizers.
During the warmer, growing periods when the tree is flowering and fruiting, potassium and phosphorous are required. Pre-manufactured fertilizers such as citrus food should be applied.
Although classified as an evergreen tree, it is not unusual for a lemon or any citrus variety for that matter, to lose some or all leaves. This is usually due to shock and it is the tree’s way of saving itself while fighting to survive. Less leaves, less work.
During spring leaves can re-grow and the tree benefits overall. Other problems which lemons suffer from are listed below.
Citrus Gall Wasp
This tiny insect penetrates branches and sets up home within the branches of the lemon tree. Telltale signs are the ugly lumps that form on branches. Unless the infestation is intense, the tree can survive this onslaught but will need extra water and fertilizer.
Unfortunately there is no cure for citrus gall wasp but it can be prevented. Following is an experimental home-based recipe:
1) Collect some plastic juice or soda bottles, about six, and perforate these with several holes approximately the size of the width of a pen.
2) Add about six moth balls (naphthalene), to each bottle.
3) Attach a piece of string to the neck of each bottle and tie other end to branches within the tree.
These should hang like Christmas decorations and may look slightly out of place, however the results are great. No gall wasp infestation.
Alternatively you can purchase adhesive strips, much like old fashioned fly traps, and hang these in your tree. Garden centers and hardware stores should have these in stock.
Your tree should benefit from an occasional spray of bluestone, usually applied during early spring, to combat some leaf and petal diseases. Place old pieces of iron such as rusted nails just beneath the soil around lemon and other citrus trees.
As these rust further they produce iron oxide which the plant eventually takes in through its system. Iron oxide is an important trace element for most plants and especially for lemon trees. Trace elements are required in small portions by all plants and iron (Fe) is used in the formation of chlorophyll. So save those rusted nails!