Sunday, September 11, 2005

Lemon aid

We have just spent the bext part of the day gardening -- cropping old plants, killing privet, planting nice things like herbs and strawberries, and we made our third attempt to plant a happy lemon tree. The first was planted straight over a freshly-dead cat, which I don't think it liked very much; the second was dug up by the dog to get to the cat, and the poor tree never recovered.

This third one is in a different spot, more convenient for a wee stop for the boys of the family. After the heavy rain of the past day or so the soil was beautiful. We (well, BB) dug the hole, we mixed lots of nice things in the soil, and then planted the tree. BB didn't think we'd get another frost, but I thought it was best to make it a little shadecloth tent just in case. We've had frosts as late as October before. Then the sky clouded over, and we did a little joyous rain dance! Hooray! The new things get some water!

Then it hailed.

My father will laugh his guts up. He is incredulous at my bad luck with lemon trees. I have never been able to make a lemon tree grow. My last marriage killed a couple too. I'm hoping the hail just gave the tree a little shock, not a big shock, and the little tent certainly helped. But of all the days to frigging hail! Faaarrrrrrrkkkk! Now that the hail has stopped I'm going out to sing to it and make it feel welcome. Poor little thing.


Anonymous said...

Must be a bad day for gardening today. I spent ages digging out dandelions and privets - they came out so easily after the rain.
Then I sent hubby out to get the last one. I told him it was a stump, under a black plastic bag. He dug out my lilac tree instead.
I'm still recovering.

Ampersand Duck said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. I love lilac!

I think our tree came through ok, but the next few weeks will tell. At least all the rain meant we now go from stage 3 to stage 2 water restrictions. Hooray!

Naomi said...

Hey Ducky,

Gardening tips are my specialty! just remember that lemons have one of the shallowest root structures of all plants. As they grow their roots fan out like a lace doily under the surface, and they are prone to drying out, particularly in Canberra summers. This means they need mulch, mulch and more mulch in a gigantic circle around their base (not up to the stem), but the more benign the mulch the better to avoid burns (weed on mulch is fine). They will also benefit from judicious application of citrus food, for trace elements, and lots and lots and lots and lots of water, especially for the first three years - drip irrigation is best. As the tree grows, the guide to where to mulch and water is 'the drip line', that is, the branch circumference. Make absolutely sure that you white oil to repel scale and that you protect the tree from snails while it takes off. It does take about five years to settle in a lemon.

I hope youse are all well. Guess you've seen the oldfolks?

Naomi said...

PS: take off all the flower buds for the first year or two, so that it can't fruit and will try to grow. It's a shame as they smell so nice, but it makes them stretch out (and your fingers smell great after doing it).

Ampersand Duck said...

Thanks! I've emailed your advice to BB, especially the PS, because I told him the same thing with the last tree (he bought it with lots of flowers and refused to remove them even though I said it, until my dad told him to... men!)

It's all good advice, and hopefully we'll get there this time. BB was hopeful of fruit in the first year, but I said 'we're in it for the long haul, honey, in more ways than one, and if you want lemons you're going to have to let the tree grow stronger...' Hem hem. :)

Yes, had dinner with the olds tonight at a family restaurant which served obscene amounts of food. I'd hate to see their hopper every night.

Anonymous said...

Gosh - I don't do any of that stuff to my lemon - except water it when hubby is not home (he is stricter than the water restrictions).
It is on a north wall though - I thought that was the one crucial thing for lemon trees?

Ampersand Duck said...

Oh! That's good -- we planted it next to a north-facing fence. Hopefully another good omen!

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

the northerly aspect isn't neccessary, but probably nice if you get frosts (as you do down there).

we were always taught to take all buds and fruit off for the first three years, too. it's kinda hard to sacrifice a few years of fruit but it's really worth it for a good strong tree. but then it's also a little sad to see a tiny tree bending under the weight of a fully grown fruit!

don't forget to prune out the middle a bit, for air circulation, and to prune out any vertical growth (they're too weak to support fruit properly, so they bend and snap).