Lemon Tree care is not as difficult as it sounds. You do not need to be an arborist or professional of some sort to grow lemon trees. Even if you live outside the tropics, you can still grow lemon trees successfully.
The only thing you need to do is establish that the environmental conditions around your lemon tree are perfect.
Lemons are not only delicious to eat but are a joy to grow as well. Lemon trees smell heavenly, especially in the blooming season. It also gives you access to lemons for your dishes at any time.
Now I’m not saying that growing lemon trees is a cup of tea because lemons are sensitive to even the slightest environmental changes. That can be scary to a new farmer. If you are looking to grow lemons, read on for an in-depth guide on caring for your lemons from seeding to harvesting.
Growing conditions for lemon trees.
The best care for growing lemons begins with growing them in the perfect conditions. The lemon trees adapted to warm tropical climates and well-draining fertile soils. This makes growing lemon trees outside the tropical region challenging because the tropics’ conditions are not favorable for lemons.
The best growing conditions for lemons are;
1. Full sun
Lemons need at least 8 hours of full sun. Lemon trees need sunlight only for photosynthesis and fruit formation, fruit ripening, and pests and disease prevention. But just because the plant needs full sun and doesn’t mean that you need to scorch it.
2. Lemon Tree Care In Warm temperatures
If you live in a warm climate, you can grow your lemon tree outdoors. Otherwise, if you live in cold and winter prone areas, grow the lemons indoors.
Control the temperature around the lemon tree. It is essential to keep a lemon tree from radiators and heat sources because that could dry out the leaves and the soil in which the lemon is growing.
While the lemon likes natural sunlight, artificial heat sources could damage it.
3. Well draining soils
Buy a well-draining potting soil, or create your own well-draining mixture by adding perlite and vermiculite to garden soil.
4. Watering at least twice a week
Lemon trees are thirsty trees, and just like the heavy feeders, they tend to drink a lot. A lemon tree farmer needs to water adequately and consistently.
Judging when to water is one thing that keeps puzzling farmers because there’s no sure way to know the amount of moisture in the soil unless the farmer uses a moisture meter.
If you are an inexperienced farmer, it is wise for you to invest in a moisture meter to avoid over and to underwater.
Lemon tree care outdoors
Lemon trees growing outdoors have a disadvantage in that they interface directly with harsh climatic conditions. Unless the lemon tree is growing in a greenhouse, farmers growing lemon trees outdoors need to monitor them daily. That way, you can curb infection, or damage from harsh conditions can be contained earlier on.
Best care tips for the lemon tree is grown outdoors.
Lemon trees are water-intensive and require regular watering at least once or twice a week, depending on the environmental conditions in which you are growing the lemon. The soil drainage and the tree’s age also determine the watering frequency.
Older trees require to be watered more frequently. The key to ensuring that you’re watering the lemon tree enough is to regularly feel the topsoil around the tree. If the soil feels dry to the touch, you may need to water; however, you might have overwatered if the soil feels soggy.
Underwatering and overwatering are detrimental to the plant because underwatering can result in water stress and its death. 0verwatering can also cause root rot and fungal infections, eventually killing the plant. The farmer needs to strike a balance and water just enough.
Lemon trees, like other suggestions, are heavy feeders, and they require regular application of fertilizer to replace the declining level of nutrients in the soil. A farmer needs to fertilize with nitrogen-rich slow-release fertilizer at least thrice a year.
It is essential that whichever fertilizer farmer uses, they follow the manufacturer’s instructions. All fertilizers on the market are approved, which means that they’re efficient; however, if misapplied, the fertilizer could end up doing more harm than good.
Most scholars argue that pruning is not necessary for lemon plant growth. And that’s true, but a farmer stands to lose nothing by not pruning than if they pruned.
Pruning reduces the chance of pest disease attacks because pathogens incubate in deadwood. It also curbs the spread of disease because it is through pruning that you can get rid of diseased branches.
4. Control of pests and diseases
Pests and diseases can undermine the general health of a lemon plant. If unchecked, some person diseases can cause death to the lemon tree.
The most common pest that lemon tree farmer is bound to encounter are;
- Scale insect
Pests on lemon trees can be controlled by horticultural spray, neem seed oil, and soaps. If none of these natural pest remedies fail to work, a farmer can then use pesticides.
The most common diseases a lemon tree farmer is bound to encounter are;
- Fungal diseases like root rot and gummosis.
- Bacterial diseases like a citrus greening citrus canker.
- Viral diseases like Tristeza and leprosis.
Diseases can be controlled depending on the causative agent. Bacteria and fungal diseases can be treated by using copper fungicide and soap washes. Sadly viral diseases have no cure and can only be controlled by pruning off diseased parts of the tree and destroying them.
5. Temperature control
Lemon trees are sensitive to colds and fluctuating temperatures.
Too high temperatures can cause a tree to have a sunburn. Sunburn is irreversible damage to the plants and, in severe cases, can result in the death of the tree.
The other extreme low temperatures can result in the first damage. While mature lemon trees may not die from frost damage, younger lemon trees can be killed by frost damage.
A farmer can protect a lemon tree from damage by too high temperatures by;
- Putting a screen overhead the tree during hot summers and misting that leaves with water to avoid sunburn.
- By whitewashing exposed branches, especially after pruning with a horticultural wash, can also prevent sunscald.
There’s no cure for sunburn, so the best thing I found I can do is to cover exposed wounds with a horticultural wash to avoid pathogens and pests. A farmer can also prune off sunburnt branches.
A farmer can protect a lemon tree from shallow temperature by;
- Transferring the lemon plant indoors for potted plants ahead of winter to protect the lemon tree from cold outside conditions.
- Sometimes a farmer cannot transfer a lemon plant, maybe because it is planted on the ground. In that case, to protect that lemon plant, a farmer can erect a frame around and above the lemon tree and cover plastic for insulation.
- The family can also wrap the stems of lemon trees with insulating blankets.
Like sunburn, frostbite cannot be cured, so the best thing I found I can do is print off damaged parts to avoid damage to plant tissues when the frost damage plants eventually fall off.
Lemon tree care indoors
Lemons make excellent houseplants. Thanks to grafting technology, lemon trees that often grow up to 20 ft can be brought down to less than 6 ft by grafting on dwarf rootstock. It makes the lemon perfect to be grown in small indoor spaces.
Indoor conditions are different biome than outdoor conditions. There are extra creatives that farmers growing lemon trees indoors must consider, besides watering, fertilizing, and pruning.
Indoor lemon tree care practices.
1. Lemon variety selection
The lemon varieties that do better in those than others, so farmers will have the highest success rate in growing those varieties over others. The first step in caring for lemon in the plants is growing the right variety.
The best lemon for growing indoors include;
- Variegated pink Eureka lemon
- Eureka lemon
- Meyer lemons
2. Growing pot selection
Most of the farmers who grow lemon trees indoors grow them in growing pots. It is expensive to construct an indoor garden for lemon trees. Some growing pots can hold moisture longer than others and even promote better aeration around the roots.
Before a farmer decides to grow a lemon tree in a growing pot, they need to choose a pot whose design and make is best suited for that lemon variety. Characteristics of the best growing containers include;
- They have large draining holes at the bottom.
- Farmers who live in winter-prone areas need to choose plastic pots because they are light and easier transferred in and out of the house before winter and spring, respectively.
- The best growing pot is also dependent on the root ball. The general rule of thumb is that the size should be three times bigger than the root ball. This means that that root ball should be quarter the size of the growing chosen pot.
3. Potting mix prep
Lemon trees like well-draining soils. It would be best to buy a well-draining citrus potting soil or even cactus soil if you can afford it. However, suppose you can’t access or are not able to buy potting soil. In that case, you can mix garden soil with vermiculite and perlite to improve the soil’s drainage.
4. Hand pollinating
Indoor-grown lemon plants do not have access to insects and green pollinators. It makes it challenging for the lemons to get pollinated.
To ensure that you get lemons during harvest season, a farmer hand must pollinate indoor-grown lemon plants during the blooming season.
Potted lemon plants typically tend to outgrow the pot they are planted in after 2 to 3 years of growth.
This usually goes on until that tree reaches its full size, beyond which you do not need to change the pot size but need to periodically change the soil.
In repotting a lemon tree, all the farmer needs to do is transfer a lemon from a smaller pot to a larger pot.
The general rule is that the new pot should have a diameter of at least twice the original growing pot you’re transferring from.
Lemon tree fertilizer
Lemon trees, like the rest of citrus trees, are fertilized with nitrogen-rich slow-release fertilizers.
The most common fertilizers on the market in no particular include;
- Dr. Earth
Lemon tree care in winter
Lemon trees are sensitive to cold. Most lemon tree varieties can not stand temperatures less than 50 degrees and will get frost damaged.
Lemon cheese can be protected from first damage in winter by transferring them indoors if grown in gardening pots.
However, suppose the farmer cannot transfer the plants. In that case, maybe because it’s growing on land, they can insulate the stem with blankets and erect a frame around the tree. The farmer will put a plastic covering his insulation.
Lemon tree care south Africa
Lemon Tree Care in South Africa is similar to Lemon Tree Care practices elsewhere in the world.
Best lemon care practices that can be applied in South Africa include;
- Pests and disease control
- Ambient temperature regulation
Yes, lemon trees need at least 8 hours of full sun to be healthy, so ensure to grow your lemon tree in the sunniest part of your garden or balcony. You can also place indoor growing lemon trees on your sunniest window.
A lemon tree can take an average of four years to bear fruit if it is gone from seed; otherwise, if it’s grown from grafting like most commercial lemon trees, the lemon tree will take 1 to 2 years to fruit.
The best fertilizer for lemon trees is a nitrogen-rich slow-release fertilizer that is enriched with micronutrients.
Sometimes the world doesn’t throw lemons at you. Sometimes if you want lemonade the times when you have to go through the hustle of growing and caring for a lemon tree. With the tips and guidelines above, you’ll be able to successfully look after and take care of any lemon tree.