Meyer lemons from heaven

Last spring, I purchased a Meyer lemon tree.  I’ve had one before, which succumbed to neglect at the hands of my housesitter while I was off gallivanting about London.  Recently, Thomas at A Growing Tradition posted about his Meyer lemon tree, which inspired me to post about mine.  Meyer lemons are a cross between an orange and a lemon, and have an amazing bright lemon flavor, tart but with a sweet undertone and a lovely floral essence that in retrospect has me drooling.

I purchased my tree from Four Winds Growers, which specializes in dwarf citrus trees.  Before ordering the tree, I purchased a large self-watering pot from Gardener’s Supply with a gift certificate, hoping this would solve problems when I am away (or, more honestly, when I forget to water).  I planted the tree in purchased organic potting soil amended with lots of my well-screened compost, and placed it in my sunny sewing room window on the very cool second floor of the house.  I mulched with some tumbled stones I had hanging around (no doubt from a tag sale) to keep my errant kitties out of the plant.

Things were going quite well until last month, I noticed I had a bad outbreak of scale, probably soft brown scale, ugh.  Scale is a tiny insect that as an adult, has a waxy shell that appears a mottled brownish color.  The adult lays eggs under the shell; upon hatching, the tiny instars move about sucking the life out of your plant until they settle down to lay more eggs.  If that isn’t bad enough, scale insects, like aphids, secrete a sticky honeydew which can lead to sooty mold or other ailments in addition to just being gross.

I did a lot of Googling, and apparently the best control is to use an insecticidal soap spray, or to remove the scale by thoroughly cleaning each and every leaf and branch with a cotton swab or ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.  I did try the insecticidal spray, but as things did not improve, I’ve moved on to the rubbing alcohol treatment, which has the added benefit of cleaning off the nasty honeydew as well, a good thing as this tree is heavy and located upstairs from the shower.  I think it is working, although clearly I’m going to have to be vigilant about a 2-3 times per week cleaning, and once the population seems knocked way down, I’m going to remove the stone mulch and wash that thoroughly.

I was feeling a lack of enthusiasm for this process until I noticed the tree is forming buds (the largest bud id on the left side of the photo, a whitish dot in the leaves just below the curtains).  Years ago, I managed to harvest six Meyer lemons from my tree before I killed it, and I made some of the best ice cream with them I have ever tasted.   And I mean EVER.  Here’s hoping I can keep this baby alive for many years of lemony deliciousness.  Lemon ice cream, lemon custard, lemon pudding, lemon meringue pie, candied lemon peel, lemon marmalade….. I may need 2 trees.

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10 Responses to “Meyer lemons from heaven”

  1. Cheryl Fuller Says:

    I have a Persian lime, a Ponderosa lemon, and a Meyer Lemon, all purchased from Logee.com. I’ve had the lime for 6 years now and as I am writing it has 8 golfball sized limes on it. Last year I got a terrible scale infestation. I battled it all winter on all three plants. I inspected them every day and went after what I could see with rubbing alcohol. Then when summer came and I could put them outside, I hosed them off really well several times, sprayed with insecticidal soap and I am happy to say they are all free of scale now. Of course, now I am battling spider mites on the Ponderosa lemon.

    Sometimes I wonder why I keep at them, but there is something just deliciously perverse about growing citrus in Maine that I remain committed to them.

    • Ali Says:

      Cheryl, great to know scale can be conquered, thanks! I’m thinking a lime would be nice… and your right, it the ability to grow citrus in Maine that makes it so worthwhile.

  2. JP Says:

    I’ve been wanting an indoor lemon tree , but thought it might be too cold in here. I noticed that you intentionally placed yours in a cool spot; I’ll take this as inspiration! Sorry about your troubles, keep us posted…

    • Ali Says:

      Hi JP, Well, my alternative was the room where the woodstove is, and I know the wild temperature fluctuations and dry air didn’t make the tree happy. I don’t know exactly how cold it gets in that room, but I’d say low 60s or high 50s for the low.

  3. chook Says:

    i started a lemon from seed from a lemon i appropriated from a San Fran home. it has survived being frozen, dragged inside and out, and hasn’t really had any problems with scale and other buggies. we get some sweet blooms and a few tiny fruits, but no full-blown lemon yet. the leaves smell amazing!

  4. Ali Says:

    I wonder what the fruit will be like? I can hardly wait for the blossoms, they are wonderfully scented. I’ll have to pay more attention to the leaves and check their sent.

  5. Daphne Says:

    Oh yum. I want homemade lemon sorbet. That would be the ultimate for me. Though lemon custard would take a close second. Good luck on getting rid of the scale.

  6. Kim Says:

    Funny I just read about those. Very cool. You always give me good ideas.

    • Ali Says:

      Kim, I have another great idea! You don;t need all those ribs for your hoophouse, so I’ll take them off your hands! :-)

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