When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Sure They Are Meyer Lemons
When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Sure They Are Meyer Lemons
By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin
|Meyer Lemon (Citrus limon)|
Meyer lemons have become a culinary prize for chefs adding their zestful and tart flavor yet floral sweetness to recipes around the world. Meyers are some of the most loved lemons grown in a home environment. In a small pot, Meyer Lemon, or Citrus limon, has the ability to produce an abundance of lemons, which are more flavorful and juicier than the ordinary table lemon.
The exact origin of Meyer Lemon is unknown. Some sources say it is a cross between a lemon and a sour orange; others say it is a cross between a Eureka lemon and a Lisbon lemon. Whatever the exact cross, Meyer Lemon was identified by and named after Frank N. Meyer in 1908. Meyer lemons have thin skins and because of this, they have typically not been used as a commercial lemon crop but with an increased demand for their unique flavor, they are becoming more widely available. However, you no longer have to wait for them to be commercially grown because you can produce an abundance of your own fruit at home.
The Meyer Lemon is the hardiest lemon and it performs well if night temperatures range between 50-60°F in winter. Meyer Lemon can take cool temperatures down to 35°F for short durations. It produces an abundance of flowers and fruits year-round even at a young age.
Gardeners have been growing citrus in containers for thousands of years. The attractive and edible fruit combined with intensely sweet flowers makes citrus a prized potted plant. Some gardeners grow citrus outside in pots in tropical zones while others grow citrus inside in pots in northern climates. Whether or not you live in a temperate or tropical climate or live in an apartment or home, growing citrus fruit successfully in containers has a few common cultural requirements.
Outdoor Citrus Garden
Sun, Sun, and more Sun
Make sure you have a sunny growing area. Light level and light intensity have a lot to do with growing citrus successfully. Citrus plants need at least 6 hours a day of sunshine and temperatures above 65°F for rapid growth.
Choosing Your Container
Glazed ceramic, plastic, terra cotta (clay), cement and wood are all viable choices for containers. However, if you grow citrus in anything but terra cotta, you must be careful and accurate with your watering. We recommend using clay or terra cotta so the soil can dry between each time you water. A clay pot allows for better soil aeration because the pot is porous. Clay pots dry out sooner than other types of pots. If the potting mix stays damp for long periods then this invites in root disease. This rapidly turns into root rot and can kill the plant. Also, pot size is something to become aware of. Do not over pot (choose a pot too big, too fast). This also can lead to over watering and again invite in root disease. Citrus like to be somewhat root-bound in a pot. We've grown some of our most productive Meyer Lemon plants in 8" pots for years.
|Dr Earth Fruit Tree Fertilizer|
Chelated Liquid Iron
Soil & Watering
We use a standard soil-less mix of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite and composted bark. Limestone is added to bring the pH up to around 6. Accurate watering is needed; the biggest threat to growing citrus is over watering. Citrus benefit from being grown in soil that is brought to near dryness between watering. As a general rule, water only when the surface of the soil mix appears dry and the plant shows a little wilt.
Feeding Your Plant
Citrus benefit from regular applications of a balanced fertilizer. Slow release fertilizer can be used as well as organic fertilizer blends. Both are sprinkled on the surface of the soil and give many weeks of nutrition to the plant. Most fertilizers contain trace minerals necessary for healthy growth. However, many citrus varieties are prone to iron chlorosis, an interveinal yellowing of the young leaves. This most often happens during the winter when growth is slow and temperatures are cool. Adding chelated iron as a foliar spray will correct this problem. The general rule is to feed plants when they are actively growing and discontinue fertilization during the winter months. It is best to reduce fertilizer as late summer approaches to allow the new root and leaf growth to harden off. Citrus plants stop growing in late fall and early winter as the days shorten and excessive nutrients cause weak or soft growth especially in the root system and that can lead to root diseases. Once new growth is visible in late winter, you can begin your fertilizer program once again.
When grown in containers, citrus need occasional pruning to help maintain a nicely shaped plant. Often a branch will reach out or rise up giving the plant an unsightly look. These branches can be trimmed back. Also when plants are young, some strategic pruning can help create a full form and good plant structure as the plant matures. Generally, little pruning is needed. Remember that the flower buds for the next season's crop often form on the late summer's growth and over pruning at this time can cause a diminished crop. For this reason, the best time to prune is right after the fruit is picked.
|Fruit & Flower|
|Green fruit on plant|
Meyer Lemons flower in the spring and small green fruit appear soon after. These fruit will continue to grow and develop until late fall or early winter when they ripen to yellow. Ripe Meyer Lemons hold on the tree for several months and they will be juicy and flavorful when they are picked.
Enjoy the harvest at the end of the season but more importantly enjoy the journey along the way: the fragrant flowers, the ripening fruit colors and the delicious taste of your own freshly picked citrus.
All about Meyer Lemons, What are they and how to use them by Molly Watson
Growing Tasty Tropical Plants in any home, anywhere. By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin, (Storey Publishing, 2010)