Monday, December 23, 2013

A Lemon Tree for Tu B' Shevat

Since Tu B' Shevat falls on January 26 now is the perfect time to start growing a tree from seed for this beautiful holiday which celebrates the "New Year for trees". 

I chose a lemon tree because who wouldn't want fresh lemons growing in the house!  They are easy to grow from seeds although it may take anywhere from 3-6 years for your tree to be capable of producing fruit.
Things you’ll need:
1. A lemon. Make sure you purchase an organic lemon since some non-organic lemon seeds may be “duds”, incapable of germinating. Any organic lemon will do, but if you have climate or space restrictions, you may want to try looking for a specific variety called a “Meyer” lemon. Meyer lemons are a smaller type of lemon, often grown for ornamental purposes, and are thus better suited for indoor containers.
2. Potting soil.  Use one with a blend of peat, perlite, vermiculite, and organic fertilizer.
3. Container/pot. A container (with drainage holes) that is 5-6” deep and a few inches in diameter will be sufficient for sprouting; however, the seedling will need to be re-potted into a much larger container. Mature lemon trees prefer a container that is wider rather than deeper, so plant your seedling in a pot that is 10-16” deep and 12-18” in diameter. Your baby tree will happily make itself at home in this larger container for the next few years, at which time you may want to upgrade again.
4. A grow light or lots of sun. Lemon trees need a lot of light, especially when they are sprouting and require 10-14 hours of it each day. If you don’t have a consistently sunny window, get a grow light. They don’t cost much and will prove their worth in healthy green foliage.

Method for sprouting the lemon seed:
1. Pre-moisten your potting soil. Put some soil into a bucket and mix in some water until the soil is damp all the way through.
2. Fill your container with the pre-moistened soil. Leave about an inch of space below the rim of your container.
3. Slice open your lemon and choose a seed that looks completely full of life. Pop it into your mouth and suck on it until all the flesh is removed and the lemon flavour is gone. Do not allow the seed to dry out at any time. It needs to stay moist in order to germinate.
4. Plant your seed! While it’s moist, plant your seed about 1/2″ below the soil level. Cover it completely with soil and water well with a squirt bottle or gentle watering can.
5. Cover your container with breathable plastic to keep your seeds warm and moist. You can use a piece of clear garbage bag with holes poked into it and a rubber band to securely hold it in place.
6. Place the container in a warm location and observe for the next few days. Keep in mind: your seed needs warmth and moisture in order to germinate. Don’t allow the potting soil to dry out completely. Also take caution that you don’t cook your seed in its little greenhouse. Too much heat and moisture could lead to a rotten seed! You’re aiming to achieve a nice balance, so if you feel like the soil is warm enough without the plastic then it’s probably safest to remove it.
7. In about two weeks you may notice a sprout emerging from the soil. Once it appears, remove the plastic (if it’s still on) and place the little guy in a warm location with plenty of direct sunlight. Supplement sun with your grow light if needed.
8. Care for your new baby and watch it grow! Provide it with:

  • Water. Ensure that the soil is damp at all times, especially when your lemon tree is young. Do not allow it to sit in a puddle of stagnant water though; those drainage holes are there for good reason.
  • Sunlight. Place it in a warm sunny window where it will receive eight hours of direct sunlight each day, or supplement some sun for a grow light.
  • Food. In order to keep your lemon tree healthy and growing the soil will eventually need to be replenished with nutrients.  Feed it an organic fertilizer, such as compost or vermicompost, once it has developed a nice little set of leaves. Dig a little trench around the base of your tree, fill it with compost and water it well. Or, serve it up as compost tea. Try feeding it twice a year or as needed, but do not overfeed! When it comes to fertilizing, less it best; so if in doubt, put it off a bit longer. (Another option is to start your seed in potting soil with vermicompost or worm castings mixed into it).
     PHOTOS AND TEXT: GROWING WILD CEEDS
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