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Growing Lemons In The Backyard – A Full Guide

Introduction of growing lemons in the backyard

Thinking of saving a little money and improving your health by growing your backyard lemons? Lemons are so useful for so many different things that they kind of exist in another universe on their own.  Certain citrus fruits are easier to grow than others, and thankfully, one of the best can be grown right in your yard is Lemon. By growing lemons yourself, you’ll be able to taste the difference in freshness and quality, and keep your body free from any chemical contamination associated with non-organic growing.

You need warm weather to grow Lemons, and your winters shouldn’t drop below 10°C at night. Lemons grow where other citrus trees won’t. They thrive in the cool and dry summer regions of the West, and they can be grown indoors in cold-winter regions.

A step by step guide of growing lemons in the backyard of home garden

Lemons are usually too sour for regular fresh eating, though some people love the taste and will eat them like an orange. Lemons are best known for their juice and lemonade. There are a few different lemon varieties but there isn’t a large amount of variation from fruit to fruit. Most home gardeners grow Meyer lemons.

Even if you can’t grow lemons in your backyards, you can grow them in pots. Meyer lemon is one of the best choices for pot. Its main crop is produced in winter but it can crop continuously throughout the year. It’s a small tree growing to around two meters in height, making it the ideal lemon tree to grow in a pot. Lemons grow faster than other citrus trees. A lemon tree will begin producing fruit by the third year and will be fully productive in eight years.

Lemon varieties for home garden

Below are the lemon varieties for the home garden:

Eureka: classic lemon and is highly acidic and juicy and fewer thorns than Lisbon.

Lisbon: traditional lemon flavor and very thorny.

Genova: It is a variety produced in South America. The fruit has a smooth skin and a substantial and acid pulp.

Ponderosa: a hybrid of lemon and citron has acid and juicy and thick rind.

Meyer: sweetest lemon and very popular for home gardens, it has a light acidic flavor, prolific, and often continuous harvest.

Variegated pink lemon: variegated foliage and fuchsia color bloom, pale pink flesh and the juice is clear.

In case if you plant to grow lemon tree in a container

You can grow lemons in containers, and this can be a preferred method for anyone wanting a smaller harvest of this sour fruit. Select plastic, terra cotta, or wooden containers. Be sure they have adequate drainage holes. Plastic containers are the lightest weight and easiest to move in and outdoors with the seasons. However, the glazed terra cotta containers look more attractive when the plants are being grown indoors as houseplants. When growing in a container, a lemon will grow to about 5 or 6 feet tall. Your container should drain well, and be at least 10 gallons in size. Container lemons will need frequent watering and should be fertilized just as often as a tree planted out in the garden.

Planting lemon tree in the pot

Procedure for planting lemon tree in the pot:

You can plant lemon trees at any time of year in warmer climates, as long as you water regularly.

Lemon tree will thrive in large containers. Choose a pot with a diameter of 50cm or more, with plenty of drainage holes, place your baby plant and fill with a premium quality potting mix. Place your potted plant in a sunny place in the garden, and make sure the plant is kept moist at all times. It’s a great idea to stand your pot on a trolley so you can easily move the pot to a sunnier or more protected position with the changing seasons.

Planting lemon tree in the ground

Procedure for planting lemon tree in the ground:

  • Only in mild-wintered areas, planting lemon trees in the ground is possible
  • Preferably, plant your lemon tree after the last frost spells, in spring
  • Choose a perfect place with sunlight to support its growth and produce nice lemons
  • Dig a hole about 3 times as deep and wide as the soil clump is
  • Dig a planting hole twice a wide and as deep as pot your citrus comes in
  • Place a drainage layer at the bottom of the hole with gravel or clay pebbles
  • Mix garden soil with planting soil mix
  • Fill the hole in with this mix and press it down
  • Water and press down again
  • After that, it will be necessary to water regularly over the 2 first years, but not too much so that roots don’t get flooded

Requirements for growing a lemons in the backyard

Requirements for growing a lemons in the backyard.
Requirements for growing a lemons in the backyard.

Below are the requirements for growing a lemon tree in the backyard:

1. Sunlight requirement for growing lemons in the backyard

All citrus family loves sunlight, minimum of 6 hours sunlight is required for a lemon tree. They won’t flower without getting enough light. If growing a lemon tree indoors, position the pot near a window with ample sunlight, you can also substitute the lack of direct light with artificial grow lights.

2. Use the right soil for growing lemons in the backyard

Well-draining soil is essential to a lemon tree’s health. If your soil isn’t ideal, you can plant a lemon tree or bush in a raised bed to allow more drainage and control over the soil conditions. If planting in a container, choose a well-draining soil and make sure your container has plenty of drainage holes. Use any standard potting soil, and your tree will be perfectly happy. If your soil is still too heavy, try adding hardwood bark chips to the mix to increase the amount of air space.

pH level should be around 5.5 to 7 of soil as this plant prefers slightly acidic soil to neutral soil.

3. Ideal temperature range for growing lemons in the backyard

The best temperature range for growing a successful lemon tree is between 21-25°C. Lemon trees are well grown in warm weather because it is typically coupled with sunny days for optimum fruit production. As a result of warm temperatures and ample sun, foliage and limbs grow steadily for peak flowering and pollination prospects.

4. Humidity for growing lemons in the backyard            

Since they are native to the tropics, lemon trees need a relatively humid environment. Households are often incredibly dry due to central heating and air conditioning, so providing a supplemental source of humidity is essential. Place a humidifier or mister near your tree or sick the pot in a tray of pebbles with water. Make sure that the bottom of the pot is only touching stones, not water, as this could lead to overwatering and rot. 

5. Water requirement for growing lemons in the backyard

Immediately after planting your lemon tree, you’ll want to water well a few days a week, but then you can begin to cut back until you’re watering only when soil is dry. Keep in mind during colder months, your lemon tree will not require as much water. If the leaves are wilting and perk up after watering, then you waited too long to water. If the leaves are yellowing and cup-shaped, and don’t perk up after watering, then you have been overwatering.

Now, wait and watch! It may take a few years for your young tree to bear fruit, but when you’re squeezing your homegrown lime into a drink or slicing up a fresh-off-the-tree orange, the wait will be well worth it.

Overwatering or under watering the lemon tree will cause

Excessive or insufficient water could kill your lemon tree. Assuming that you have a poor draining soil, when the tree gets water-soaked for a long time, the soil gets damp and stays wet which may cause the tree to acquire fungus or disease. This may result in yellow curled leaves, decayed roots, and the tree may not recover.

6. Fertilizer for growing lemons in the backyard

For young, newly planted trees, sprinkle about 1/4 pound of a 6-6-6-2 fertilizer containing 6 percent nitrogen, 6 percent phosphate, 6 percent potash, and 2 percent magnesium on the ground, under the spread of the tree’s branches and slightly beyond. Do this every three to four months, gradually increasing to 1 pound of 6-6-6-2 fertilizer by the end of the first year.

For mature trees, sprinkle 3 to 4 pounds of 6-6-6-2 fertilizer under the spread of the tree’s branches every four to six months. Also, spray with a foliar spray containing zinc or iron to the tree’s leaves two to four times a year.

Growing a lemon tree in a pot

Choose a pot that is bigger than the root ball of the plant. A clay pot is ideal as it was porous and evaporates water from sides, this helps the lemon tree to grow well. The quality and type of potting soil is an essential factor, as well. For growing high yielding plants, use a well-draining potting mix with a lot of organic matter and aged manure.

Repot your lemon tree every couple of years or so at the beginning of spring (in warm climates, winter is the best season). Make sure that use a container that is one size bigger than your previously used pot.

Pruning a lemon tree

It’s best to prune your lemon tree from late winter to early spring, right after harvest. Young trees should be pruned to establish a good shape, remove any sprouts or weak limbs so the plant can focus on growing a strong canopy.

Start by removing the deadwood from the branches of the tree. Take out any thin branches to give the bigger ones a boost! Any cuts you make should be at a 45-degree angle, making sure not to damage the main stalk. You need to make sure that you are cutting the right part otherwise cutting the wrong part of the branch could badly affect your plant.

Pruning isn’t really needed, but if you don’t prune it, your lemon tree will quickly grow very large. Yellow lemon trees are particularly vigorous, and require pruning, especially if grown in pots.

After pruning, the tree has just the right amount of leaves and lemons. The fruits are balanced and the leaves can receive more air and sunlight. Each branch has enough room to thicken and the lemons can reach their fullest potential!

Taking care of lemons tree while growing in the backyard

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Lemon tree care.
Lemon tree care.

In cold winter areas, bring lemon indoors when temperatures dip into the 10°C. In warm winter climates, protect trees left outdoors from the occasional frost with lights, blankets or burlap. Below are the tips for taking care of the lemon tree:

  • Water your lemon trees regularly, about once a week. It’s better to give them a deep watering rather than short drinks more often. 
  • Mulch with compost or aged manure several times during the year to retrain soil moisture and keep down weed growth.
  • Fertilize lemon tree to encourage good tree vigor. Give mature citrus 1 to 1½ pounds of nitrogen each year. Apply nitrogen 3 or 4 times a year; first in mid to late winter; make additional applications every 6 to 8 weeks until the end of summer. Test the soil if trees are growing poorly.
  • Don’t apply nitrogen around the lemon tree in autumn; it can result in tender growth sensitive to frost. Allow growth to harden off before winter.
  • If leaves are yellow with dark green veins after nitrogen is added then apply minor nutrients such as iron, zinc, and manganese.
  • Lemons trees aren’t particularly huge, but a little pruning can help it maintain its shape and keep the height to a reasonable level.
  • If frost is predicted cover the plant with a large row cover or clear plastic sheeting. Make a mini-greenhouse by setting a wooden framework around the plant then cover it with clear plastic. You can also place a string of lights inside the frame to keep the tree warm.
  • Paint trunk with white latex paint diluted with equal parts water to prevent sunburn.

Pests and diseases of a lemon tree

These are the pests and diseases attacked by the lemon tree:

Scale insect: Found on stems and leaves, they have a waxy brown shell.  Scale can be smothered with horticultural oil.

Whiteflies: Suck juices from leaves; control whiteflies with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.

Stink bugs: May appear in large numbers form October. Knock them off the branches and squish them underfoot, but wear protective goggles as then bugs can squirt a painful liquid into your eyes.

Leaf Miner: Fly larvae that tunnel in leaves; remove leaves with zig-zag tunnels to be rid of the larvae; dispose of the leaves in the trash.

Sooty mold: A black crusty coating on the leaves indicating the presence of a sap-sucking insect lurking higher up, such as aphids, scale or mealybugs. Treat the insect above and the sooty mold will clear up by itself. The mold is not harmful, it just looks yucky.

Aphids: They can cause yellowing or wilting of the leaves, or new leaves may have a crinkled appearance. Treat your trees with a standard insecticide spray as soon as you detect the pests.

Thrips: Streaks of silver appear on fruits and white patches dotted with black dots on leaves. Thrips at tiny sap-sucking insects that can cause leaves to become yellow and stippled. Smother thrips with horticultural oil.

To minimize problems plant virus-free, disease-free plants and provide good growing conditions. Proper watering and feeding will minimize pest and disease attacks.

Harvesting lemons

Lemons will usually be ripe enough to harvest about 4 months after the blossoms come out on the tree. The fruit color will be a deep bright yellow with no green remaining.

Pick lemons when they become fully yellow; left too long on the tree they will lose flavor and acidity and become pithy. The best way to tell if lemon is ripe is to pick one and taste it; color alone is not a judge of ripeness. Ripe fruit can remain on the tree for weeks and even months without losing quality. Fruit can be harvested as soon as it is plump and juicy even if the rind is green; a lemon that is not fully yellow will be more acidic and store longer.

Once producing at full capacity, each tree can produce 2 or 3 bushels of lemons each year. For the average family, that is more than enough since they are not usually eaten as whole fruit.

Storage of lemons

You can store your fresh lemons out at room temperature for about 2 weeks. They will keep closer to 6 weeks if you keep them in the fridge. If you only use the juice, you can freeze lemon juice for convenient use. Freeze juice in ice cube trays, and then bag up the cubes in a large Ziploc bag. The juice cubes will last for several months when frozen.

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