***You can find more posts by Kristyn at her fantastic blog This Natural Dream***
I have wanted to be able to pick fresh lemons from my own lemon tree for longer than I can remember. Since I first discovered how easy it is to grow citrus in a container, I have asked for a lemon tree. My lemon tree love isn't without just cause. Lemon water is my favorite way to start the morning, lemons are a part of my natural cleaning and beauty regimens, and they seem to always be on the shopping list. This week my husband helped make my lemon dreams come true!
Nothing makes me happier than knowing the life of what I am consuming. Saving money in the process is just the cherry on top. Growing a citrus tree feels a bit like getting a pet; it's a long term commitment with lots of love and care. Like a child with a puppy, I am eager and willing.
Growing citrus in containers
It doesn’t take much to keep a lemon tree happy (or so I am hoping). You can grow many citrus trees in a container if you have an area that gets full sun most of the day. They can easily thrive with regular watering and a little bit of fertilizer, but you do have to protect them from freezing temperatures, frost, and harsh winds. They are even self-fertile, so they don’t have to be paired with other varieties.
Finding a great source for your lemon tree is step one. There are a number of great mail-order nurseries on the web, but we wanted to be able to pick it out ourselves. After calling around to local Atlanta nurseries, we found a 1 gallon lemon tree for a great price…so we decided to pick up two.
When growing citrus in a container, you want to get a pot that is at least a few inches wider than the root ball. Ultimately, the size of the tree will determine the size of the pot and you'll want to re-pot it every three years.
As easy as lemon trees are to keep, they are also a little bit sensitive particularly the roots. Getting the potting soil mix right is important. We went with a lighter weight mix that drains well inspired by a formula used in a well-known citrus nursery.
Here is the potting soil combo we used:
60% Organic potting soil (Acid-loving mix)
30% Composted Pine Bark
5% Peat moss
5% Worm castings
With your soil mixed, start adding some to the bottom of your container. Add enough soil to raise the level of your lemon tree to a few inches below the rim of the pot. Carefully removing the tree roots out of the old container, place the root mass into the new pot. After transferring your lemon tree from the container to its pot, you want to make sure the root flare does not get buried while planting. Fill the container making sure to cover the surface roots while gently packing in soil around the sides.
Potted lemon trees require more frequent watering, especially when it's hot, dry, or windy. When you water, you want to saturate it enough to allow water to run through the bottom, though caution needs to be taken not to over water. Allow the soil to dry a little between watering.
For the remainder of the summer, our new beloved lemon trees will live on the deck where the sun can hit it for the better part of the day. You want to try and give these guys 8-10 hours of sunlight daily. When cooler temperatures roll in, you’ll want to bring the citrus inside to protect from frost and get it back outside on the sunniest days of winter.
Citrus trees are heavy nitrogen feeders, as well as a number of micro-nutrients. Use a slow release organic fertilizer regularly. There are many great specialized citrus/avocado fertilizers available (follow directions on the package for frequency and quantity to use).
With my lemon tree happily tucked in, I am excited to see what its future will be. I hope to see many tart faces made from lemons straight from my very own tree.