Growing Lemon Trees in Home Orchards: Harvest Lemons Fresh From the Garden
The lemon tree (Citrus limon) is a simple tree to care for once its basic requirements are met. Because lemon trees are evergreen, their year-round color and handsome structure enhance traditional foundation landscaping around the home. Their sweet blooms and deep green, glossy leaves make them a welcome addition to the home garden. Lemons can be used for a large variety of things, from creating lemonade, to squeezing out essential oils for use in a home cleaning product.
Lemon trees come primarily in two sizes; standard and dwarf. While the typical standard lemon tree can grow from 12-30 feet at maturity, the dwarf types are a short 4-10 feet tall. Smaller varieties can even allow the home gardener to plant small orchards. They also make make finding the right place to plant them an easy task. Little lemon trees also make excellent container plants.
Lemon Tree’s Growing Habits
- Botanical Name: Citrus limon
- Origination: Asia
- Family: Rutaceae
- Zones: 8,9,12-24; H1; H2 and indoors.
- Habit: Evergreen tree or shrub
- Height: Dwarf specimens 4 – 10 feet; standard specimens 20 – 30 feet
- Blooming Time: Spring to summer
- Planting Specifics: Full sun with well-draining soil. Lemon trees like regular water but once established, may be watered every other week.
- Propagation: Semi-ripe cuttings in fall; grafts
How to Grow Lemon Trees
Before a gardener purchases a lemon tree for the garden, the space where it’s going to be planted should be assessed. In this way, the gardener is able to research several lemon tree varieties that’ll thrive in that specific garden area. Both space and sun availability should be considered. Lemon trees need full sun which is considered to be 8 hours. Also, some lemon trees have extremely large and sharp thorns so placing them near a walkway could be disastrous.
In extremely hot zones, they’ll tolerate some afternoon shade. Lemon trees like regular watering, but once they’re established for a couple of seasons, they can be watered once every other week during the warm months. They don’t like soggy soil or wet feet, therefore planting them in fast-draining, amended soil is best.
Frequent over-head watering as well as rain, leave the lemon tree’s leaves susceptible to disease and should be avoided. The perfect climate for this citrus is cool weather such as along the coast and areas with little rainfall.
Lemon trees are hardy to about 20 degrees and not much lower. In fact, when temperatures fall to about 26 degrees, frost protection becomes necessary especially in young trees. At the opposite end of the spectrum, to protect the bark from sunburn, lemon trees may be painted with a diluted latex paint.
Because most citrus trees are self-pollinating, they don’t need insect pollinators to bear fruit. Lemons are harvested throughout the year. Ripe lemons needn’t be harvested immediately; they can be left on the branch for 3 months. However, the fruit tastes best if picked right after the skin turns a bright yellow.
Lemon Tree Tips
Adding mulch to the base of lemon trees is an excellent practice as it keeps the soil and roots cool. The key is to keep the mulch away from the tree trunk so as not to encourage pests or disease. Lemons need very little pruning with the exception of weak or spindly branches as the heavy fruit may cause them to snap. Gardeners may also want to prune lemon trees for shape by taking off the cross branches and twigs which will prevent tangled limbs.
Applying a special citrus fertilizer is recommended twice year. These are high in nitrogen plus magnesium, iron, zinc, and manganese. Lemon trees in the home garden suffer little in the way of pests, but sometimes aphids, ants, spider mites, or mealybugs are found on them. Spraying them off the tree with a strong stream of water several days in a row usually takes care of the problem.
Lemon Tree Varieties
- Improved Meyer – Very juicy and bears fruit all year round.
- Eureka – This is the standard market lemon.
- Ponderosa – Bears huge fruits with thick skins at an early age.
- Variegated Pink – Green and white leaves and the fruit is light pink.
- Sungold – This variety boasts white and cream variegated leaves. The fruit is green-striped.
Lemon trees are versatile and shouldn’t be over-looked as potted plants both outdoors as well as indoors. They’re also quite at home in a cool-greenhouse with bright light. Currently, the lemon tree is making a comeback and taking its rightful place as a fresh fruit producer in the home garden.