meyer lemon - hang on baby

davidfromdetroitOctober 11, 2007

My meyer lemon tree (which I bring indoors in the winter b/c I live in Michigan) produced two lemons last fall. They got to the size of a peanut but then fell off mid-winter.

This year it just finished flowering and is LOADED with tiny lemons. I want them to hang on and not drop. How can I affect this?

Did they fall b/c of too little light in my zone (plant kept by southerly window all winter) or is it more likely a watering problem? Or is it because my plant is just too young to keep fruit (about one foot tall with trunk diameter about the size of a drinking straw)?

Thank you,

David

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buckeyejoe(8 Coastal Carolina)

I keep mine in full sun only bring it in when the night temperature gets to the low 40s. I water it every other day and it's potted in a mixer of sand and horse manure that used saw dust as the bedding. I fertilize liberally with osomocote(sp?). My tree was bought spring before last and I'm on my second crop. I had 7 big lemons the first year and now have 35 lemons this year. They are much smaller, but still a normal size. My Meyers has been the most fun plant I own.

Joe Loughlin Southport, NC

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 7:30PM
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davidfromdetroit

Thank you Joe,

Do I understand correctly that you fertilize them even during the winter?

David

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 8:48AM
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buckeyejoe(8 Coastal Carolina)

Well remember that I only need to bring my plant indoors for about 6 weeks. I don't add more fertilizer durring that time, but the slow release is still working. Last year almost all the flowering and fruit set happened while it sat in my bedroom. My wife caught me several times with a yellow cotton swab and making buzzing noises. With 35 lemons, maybe I was too efficient at pollination. My Kumquat bloomed most of the summer, but I was disappointed in the fruit set. I have maybe 50 Kumquats that are now turning color. Maybe next year it will do better.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 10:25AM
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davidfromdetroit

Gotcha. Well we are having a warm, late fall this year and I currently have 19 lemons (the size of a beebee) after my q-Tip polination efforts so hopefully they will hang on this year !

Thank you Joe and good luck with your trees.

David

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 10:36AM
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tee530(z6a MA)

Dave, citrus in general and Meyers specifically will carry as much or as little fruit as they can support. There isn't much you can do to change this, other than provide the best conditions possible. Winters indoors are tough, and trees are essentially hanging on till you get them outdoors again next spring. I would recommend you give your tree as much light as possible (see your artificial lighting post for details) and keep the temps cool (55F nights and 65F days). If you can humidify your growing area to 50+% RH, so much the better. Keep the tree on the dry side during this time, but not dessicated. I might water once every 4-6 weeks in my conditions. The best you and I can hope for in our zones without a greenhouse is a kind of gentle dormancy that avoids the worst leaf drop and keeps the tree ticking over until the longer days return. I generally get a blooming flush with maybe a few new leaves in February.

Best of luck.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2007 at 6:24PM
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davidfromdetroit

tee530,

Thank you for the help. Your suggestions prompt a few more questions. For one, what is the theory behind maintaining cooler temps during the winter? Until reading your post I have been assuming warmer is better as it would better emulate a warmer climatic zone.

David

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 10:48PM
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tee530(z6a MA)

Dave -

I would look at your indoor growing space with a critical eye and think about the following:

IF you can provide really good citrus growing conditions (really good light, like a metal halide/high pressure sodium lamp, good humidity, air circulation) then your citrus will grow well year round and warmer temps are very beneficial. However, I, and most others, don't have these greenhouse-like conditions inside the home.

If, on the other hand, you are growing with natural indoor light, or at most a fluorescent or two, then the light is really too dim to support decent growth. Warmer temps under dim light conditions encourge the tree to grow without the proper energy inputs. The result is usually leaf drop. By keeping temps cool, you encourage the tree to enter and stay in a semi-dormant state and you can make it to spring without losing too may leaves. Added bonus is that cooler temps automatically make your relative humidity higher. I also cut back on watering, as a semi-dormant tree doesn't need much water and the risk of root rot is higher.

Anyway, this is how I think about the winter indoors. Anyone else with successful strategies in the frozen north?

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 9:59AM
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davidfromdetroit

I am getting my brain around your approach here. My last remaining question:

Does this intended subtle dormancy you recommend allow the plant to retain its fruit through spring? I have 21 lemons (the size of peas right now) and would hate to have them drop. But if the dormancy does not cause them to drop off I would certainly embrace your approach.

David

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 9:20AM
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tee530(z6a MA)

Good question. My Meyer has always set its fruit in the spring and summer, and I harvest each year around the beginning of December. Cool temps indoors from Oct-Dec have always been fine for me in getting fruit to ripen. Tiny lemons as you describe, though, might be another matter. I get another big flush of flowers around February, but have never carried fruit to maturity from this bloom.

If you want to get the best chance of getting your fruits to maturity, I would give your tree as much light, natural and artificial, as possible. With _really_ good light, you can keep up the temps and watering/fertilizer, and perhaps keep your tree growing and fruiting throughout the winter.

good luck!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 11:29AM
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davidfromdetroit

Great thoughts Tee,

Thank you for sharing. Look for a post in the spring and I'll let you know how they did,

David

    Bookmark   November 2, 2007 at 8:38AM
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birdsnblooms

Tee, what a great explanation for growing potted citrus in cold climates..Thanks, Toni

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 2:01PM
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