If you can only grow one citrus tree, the lemon is the ideal choice. It takes a lot of oranges to make a pint of juice, and not everyone loves grapefruit, which anyway grow on a large tree. But one lemon goes a long way, and if you only have room for a tree in a pot, then a lemon tree will give you enough fruit to make growing it worthwhile. Lemon trees are among the easiest citrus to grow, and they look beautiful in a pot, decorating your terrace in summer, or a sunny window in winter – where the ripening fruit look beautiful.
When growing your own food at home, it’s a good policy to always grow something different from the varieties you can find in stores, and with lemons there is an outstanding variety – the Meyer Lemon – that is almost never available at the grocery store, but regularly suggested on the top cooking sites. This, combined with the ease of growth, makes the Meyer Lemon the ideal choice for a lemon tree to grow at home. It has very juicy fruit, and they are less acidic, with a unique flavor, that top chefs love to use, to give a special twist to classic lemon desserts.
Where to Grow your Meyer Lemon Tree
If you have a sunny, sheltered spot in your garden for your tree to spend the summer months, and a sunny place indoors for the winter, then you can grow a Meyer Lemon Tree, no matter where in the country you live. Of course, if you are lucky enough to live in Florida, southern Texas, or much of California, then you can grow the Meyer Lemon tree outdoors, in your garden. For everyone else, it needs winter protection against frost. It will happily spend the winter in a cool place, so if you have a frost-proof porch, then that is an ideal place for your tree to overwinter. Otherwise, it will grow well indoors in a large pot, especially in that window that your other indoor plants find too sunny. Even if your tree gets some shade, it will do well, but the more sun you can give it, the better.
Pollinate Your Meyer Lemon for a Bumper Crop
Lemon trees begin the year with beautiful white blossoms in spring. These are sweetly scented, like the better-known orange blossom scent. The petals are white, curving backwards, and the flowers are carried in clusters, making your tree a beautiful sight when it is in bloom. Although, unlike many other kinds of fruit trees, you only need one tree to have a bumper crop of lemons, the flowers do need pollinating. Outdoors, bees would pollinate the flowers, but indoors you need to step in and do your part, to encourage a good crop. Look at the open flowers. In the center you will see a single structure with a knob-like center, surrounded by several parts with yellow ends. You need to take pollen from the yellow parts, and transfer it to the center of different flowers. This is easy to do. Take a soft artist’s brush and pick up some of the pollen from different flowers on it. Then dab the center of other flowers. Do this at random all over the tree, on several days, as the flowers open and develop. It’s easy and fun!
The Fruit Develops. . .
Once the flowers have been pollinated, the petals fall, leaving a tiny green lemon behind. Gradually, over the summer, that green fruit grows larger and large, and as winter comes it has reached full size. During the winter months, the yellow color will develop, and once a fruit is completely yellow, it is ready for you to pick it, and enjoy your harvest. Lemons you don’t need will sit safely on the tree for a couple of months, and they can be stored in a cool place for weeks and weeks, so you will have fresh lemons from your tree for a big part of the year.
How to Grow the Meyer Lemon in a Pot
Choose a large pot for your tree, one perhaps 18 inches across. Make sure it has a drainage hole, and cover that with a piece of door-screening, or a single stone. Do not put a layer of gravel in the bottom, this common mistake only slows down drainage – yes, its true! You can use a plastic pot, and there are also beautiful decorative clay pots available, that add to the beauty of your tree, and are ideal for citrus trees. A half-barrel or wooden box is another suitable alternative.
If you can find a potting soil designed for citrus trees, then obviously that is the best choice. If not, mix equal parts of regular house-plant soil with cactus soil, because all citrus trees need good drainage. Place your tree in the soil at the same depth it was in the pot it arrived in, with just a thin layer of soil over the top of the roots. Leave the top of the soil at least an inch below the top of the pot, to make watering easy.
Always water so that excess water flows out of the drainage hole. If you use a saucer to catch it, do not leave water sitting in the saucer – it will encourage root diseases. Only water your tree when the soil has begun to dry. Several inches of the top should be dry between each watering, especially in winter, when your tree will probably need less water. Use a liquid fertilizer for citrus trees, or one for tomatoes, from the time you see new growth in spring, to the time you harvest the last fruit. After that, reduce watering to a minimum, and stop feeding. This rest-period is important for the development of new flowers.
Where did the Meyer Lemon come from?
This unique tree is named after Frank Meyer, who worked for the US Department of Agriculture. He travelled all through China between 1905 and 1918, collecting crop plants to bring back to enrich American agriculture. He found the Meyer Lemon being grown as a popular pot-plant, throughout the country. It is believed to be a hybrid plant, a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, and it has a sweeter, less-acidic flavor than regular lemons, with a skin that is a deep yellow color. The skin is thin, so there is a greater amount of juice in a fruit of the same size, making this a very productive tree to grow at home.
Once you taste your first Meyer Lemon, from your own tree, you will know how great it feels to grow something for yourself, and if you choose this tree, you are almost guaranteed success, with just a little effort from yourself. Enjoy!