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The Gardening Life – February 11

If you are a gardener, one of the joys of winter can be picked off of an indoor citrus tree. Large, round, fragrant Meyer lemons are waiting to be harvested in my kitchen right now and I’ll have several more ripening over the next three months. Think fresh fish finished with Meyer lemon and basil butter. Think Mayer lemon Risotto. Think sipping a Mayer lemon Tom Collins. Go all out: finish the meal with Mayer lemon Pudding Cake.

Will you have enough lemons to pick them throughout the winter? Probably not. I usually harvest eight to ten off of each of my trees every winter. Often one tree will have a heavy crop and the other only a few fruits. Occasionally there will be a year when one or the other plants has no fruit at all.

This variation makes the lemons that much more precious. I start to think of ways to celebrate when they are ripe. Who can we invite to dinner that will appreciate this bounty? Do I want to save a lemon in the refrigerator to use in the salad dressing at Passover?

We are so spoiled when it comes to the availability of food in this country. In the dead of winter I can buy blueberries from Chile and fresh strawberries can be had twelve months a year. They do not compare in taste to locally grown fruits in season, of course, nor do they compare to the citrus that ripens in my own windows.

The food that we grow organically, fuss over, and cherish because of its seasonal nature always tastes better.

The first three lemons, ready to harvest.

Sharing The Wealth
Growing tips for Meyer Lemon Trees

  • After purchasing a Meyer Lemon transplant it into a slightly larger pot. Mix some organic fertilizer such as Plant-Tone into the new soil before repotting.
  • Keep your tree in the sun during the summer. Water it daily in hot weather and every two to three days in cool weather. Although citrus trees don’t want to be kept wet, the soil shouldn’t be allowed to dry out completely either. An even level of moisture is preferred.
  • Apply either an organic, slow-release fertilizer or time-release product every month all year. Unlike most plants, these don’t require a “resting period” in winter.
  • If your tree blooms when outdoors you should have bees to pollinate the flowers. If you don’t see any bees take a soft paintbrush and move from one open flower to the other, brushing over the stamens and pistol. Do this daily when the plant is in flower inside so that you are assured of good fertilization and fruit production.
  • Control citrus mites and scale with at least two good coatings of insecticidal soap or olive oil cooking spray, applied under the leaves and over all the stems. I find that this is most necessary at the end of January. Hint: placing the plants in a cooler room helps keep scale populations down.
  • As the lemons grow they will weigh down the branches. Any branch with more than two lemons on it might have to be propped up, especially in heavy winds.
  • Pick lemons when they are fully yellow. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to three months after picking.

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