Monday, 23 July 2012

Citrus update

My lemon in March '12
Today I did a bit of work on the citrus.

Back in March I introduced my citrus to you via my post Citrus celebration.  I have one large lemon tree, two espaliered Tahitian limes and a finger lime called 'Collette'.

Finger limes are Australian native plants that produce the weirdest long thin citrus fruit in crazy colours. Collete is shiny black on the outside and dark green on the inside (apparently -  she hasn't fruited yet). When you cut the thin skin of a finger lime, the little bubbles of citrus cascade out of the plant. When you eat them the little bubbles 'pop' in your mouth. They are amazing.

My citrus are the best things in my patch. 
If I were only allowed to grow one thing,  I'd probably rebel. But if I really, really were only permitted to grow only one thing on pain of death, I'd choose citrus (although I might think for a minute about eggplants or chillies) but I'd still protest.

I use my lemons and limes all the time and I can hardly imagine two days in a row without a lemon. I am fortunate enough to not have to buy lemons as I am now in the privileged situation to be able to provide my own.  It's wonderful. In summer, limes are essential for the G&T on the back verandah and for the Asian food that gets eaten in vast quantities. One day I will never have to buy a lime.

The plants are so pretty.  Dark leaves (when they are fed properly!), sweet fragrant flowers. "Lemon tree, very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat" - you know the song? 
You can make an incredible variety of things with citrus - savoury, sweet, Asian, Western, sauces, pickled, marmalade, curd, cordial...

Alright, that's enough..
.today it was time to do a bit of tidying up. 

It's a great time of year to do a bit of citrus inspection and maintenance. At this time of year - at least in Sydney - the leaf growth is thinner so you can move about in your citrus a little easier and you can see what's happening.  It's also the time of year when stems start sprouting new leaves and tiny flower buds are starting to form so you can see which parts of the plant are thriving and which parts aren't.

This is what I got up to.

1. Pruning the lemon and the limes
I spent a bit of time looking thru the lemon and the limes to see if there was any dead or barren stems. What do I mean  by 'barren'? This might be my term... not sure, what I mean is stems that are still green but there  doesn't appear to be any new growth coming on. The 'barren' stems and dead ones got cut out.

When I had done that I also looked at opening up the lemon by cutting out weak, thin stems and ones that overlapped.  I also took out branches that had rubbed up against the fence.

Quite a lot of material was taken out of the lemon.  I wish I had take a before and after picture, but I didn't, but here are some of the bits that came off.

2. Shaping the espaliered limes
Some of the wires onto which my limes are espaliered had come loose so I got the hammer and those little u-shaped nails and  re-strung some of the wires. Then I tied  any of the main stems that had come loose on to the wires.

I did a bit of shaping the lower branches to shorten them to make sure the whole plant was getting sun.  There wasn't much to do really, most of the work was done in the pruning above. I don't pretend to be an expert on espaliers at all, but they work and look good and fruit so I am happy with my efforts.

3. Inspecting the leaves
Hmm, lots of citrus leaf miner, particularly in the lemon and the need for a big feed!  I don't do anything about my citrus leaf miner, but gosh the plants really DO need a feed. Some of the leaves are quite light-green or yellowing. They will get better.

4. Enjoyed the fruit and flowers
Then I just spent some time enjoying the fruit and flowers...

The lime flowers come out before the lemon flowers.
Such beautiful lime flowers...they are so white and classically shaped! And look at those little baby limes in the middle...

I still have many lemons on the tree that are basically ready to pick and there are more baby lemons to come.

I am contemplating my next lemon and lime glut, mmmm...

There are some limes as well but they are not ready yet and lots of lime flowers in different stages of development. It's exciting to contemplate the next flush of fruit.

5. Inspected and fed my finger lime
And what of  'Collette' the finger lime?  Well she is well and still in her pot.  Back in March she flowered, the loveliest small citrus flowers and then set fruit.  But the fruit haven't developed at all in all that time.  They are still tiny.  Can you see the tiny purple long fruit in the centre of the picture? And off to the left?  I don't blame you if you cant! They are no longer than they were in March! What have they been doing?

Is it a seasonal thing?  Do they get going when the weather warms up? Or are they duds? Does anyone know? Perhaps our more sub-tropical Australians? Is there anyone out there north of Coff's Harbour? Port Mac?


  1. I'm no help about the finger lime. Mine's done nothing, but I have potted it in crappy potting mix and kept it in the shade. Really should do something about that before spring. Those fruit are very cute ;)

    1. Cute but going nowhere! What I learn I will share in case you have a similar issue. Hopefully they are just waiting for sun.

  2. At least you have baby fruit, I have nothing but prickles everytime I brush against mine. I too love citrus, I have a lemon, a meyer lemon, a lime, an orange, a cumquat, a kaffir lime and a manadarin. So fair the 2 lemons, the lime, and the orange have fruited. The cumquat is a more recent acquisition but I don't know why the mandarin isn't giving me anything. I shall speak to it sternly. Mine are pretty much all dwarf trees and I bought them to grow in pots but I'm now thinking they may actually be better in the ground. Oh too many dilemmas...

    1. Too many dilemas and not enough ground! I'd wiggle my secateurs in front of that manadarin. Such a lovely lot of citrus trees.

  3. My lemon tree is festooned with some almost-ripe fruit again after I over-enthusiastically stripped all the viable ones some time back and turned them into preserved lemons. I'm out of the preserved lemon now and I'm tapping my foot impatiently waiting for this lot to hurry up and ripen so I can make some more. Possibly strangely, I only use the preserved lemon with pan-fried cubed potatoes with garlic chunks and rosemary or thyme. I make them fairly regularly, so I go through the lemon quickly. I must try something more adventurous, one day.

    My fairly recent acquisition of a potted lime is a bit sad with our recent winter. I somehow doubt it will ever look anything but sad. Oh well, worth a shot.

    I'd love a finger lime but those thorns are nasty! One leapt out and attacked me at a nursery recently so it's off the list until it can learn to behave.

  4. Love your recipe for using preserved lemons - must try that. I use my preserved lemons in a limited way too - funny aren't they - cooking habits. I have a fabulous Moroccan Spicy Lemon Chicken with green olives and couscous that I make from time to time... in fact perhaps I should make it again soon and post it .

    Finger limes do have very nasty spines!

  5. That chicken recipe sounds great! Please post it when you have the opportunity, it sounds right up my alley and it'd be great to broaden my repertoire some more. I have to say I just love being able to not only collect gardening tips from the blogs I read, but so many fantastic recipes, as well.

  6. Isn't citrus great - I'd love to plant a finger lime. I only have experience with a mandarin tree, but I love it. Well, most of the time. My latest blogpost 'Revenge of the Mandarin Stinkbugs' documents my adventures with with these pests. cheers

    1. Oh yes, the stink bug! Hmmm, yes, I will be reading your post. I had a lot of trouble with these little devils last season - even got sprayed in the eye and had to go to the optomoptrist. Thankfully my eye recovered but my citrus were quite badly affected for a while - I lost a whole crop of limes.

      What type is your mandarin?

  7. I love trying to grow something different but suspicious finger limes are not so climate appropriate here. love those little tangy jewels. that lemon tree looks amazeballs.

    1. I am lucky to have a great lemon tree and my limes are pretty damn good too. It is hard that frosty places like Macedon are tough for citrus. Do oranges work there? Or mandarins? Are they better with the cold?



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