Saturday, June 16, 2012
I used to have a Persian lime tree that I nurtured for years. It had its occasional bout of spider mites, but otherwise was an attractive, trouble-free house plant. And I actually got real limes from it. It was always tough to decide what to do with each lime, since they were so special. Eventually it got old and wasted away and I let it go. But I always wanted another citrus.
This April while looking for sources of supplies for square foot gardening, I had occasion to visit Bigelow Nurseries in Northborough, MA. In one of their greenhouses they had citrus and I purchased a Meyer lemon on impulse. It is now on the back deck and seems to be doing great. despite the days of rain and colder weather. As you can see, it is flowering like crazy now,even though it already has several fruit of varying sizes.
It is still in the tub from the nursery but I have purchased a nice ceramic pot for it. I am uncertain when I will move it to the new pot. I have been too busy with garden startup chores to think about it. I am also planning to use a special soilless mix and am trying to assemble the ingredients.
Apparently citrus do not like their feet wet, so you have to use a soil mix that drains very well and be careful to let it dry out between watering. In addition, they are long lived plants and the conventional potting mixes deteriorate over time, requiring frequent repotting. By using a soilless mix that drains quickly and doesn’t degrade, you can improve the health of the plant and minimize repotting.
The trick is to use a mix of granules of a uniform size that allow lots of air space throughout the pot. This will ensure quick drainage and maximize oxygen to the roots. The mix I am going to use is called “Al’s gritty mix” and is one part granite chicken grit, one part fir or pine bark, and one part Turface. The Turface is a fired clay pellet that is used for baseball infields to improve drainage and is a little hard to find. I’m still trying to find a source. I may have to substitute NAPA Floor-Dry, a calcined diatomaceous earth product used to absorb oil on garage floors.
It is a little fussy to prepare the mix since you have to sieve the ingredients to ensure uniform size and eliminate any fines that could plug up the mix and inhibit drainage. So I have to acquire a set of bonsai sieves. If you want to read more about growing citrus in soil-less mix the GardenWeb citrus and container gardening forums are a good place to look. To zero in on articles on the mix itself, try a web search for “Al’s gritty mix”.
UPDATE: The little tree is now in full bloom with multiple flowers open at once. and more to go. Meanwhile it has set 9 fruit of varying sizes, including the three large ones you can see at the top. I assume a lot of these will drop, but it is still impressive. I am wondering if I should actually remove some until the plant is better developed. Hmmm, off to research that.