A New Lemon Tree! And Skin Trip Coconut Soap

New Find for Beach Babes: Skin Trip Coconut Bar Soap – Love it!

It was many years ago that I grew a lemon tree from a common grocery store lemon seed. This tree grew to 6 feet tall and would have been much taller if I hadn’t pruned it hard so it could fit in the living room in winter. It had hundreds of perfumy, glossy green leaves and a sturdy trunk. When it was 7 years old and healthy but not showing any signs of budding, and therefore fruiting, I gave it to a friend, who always loved it, lemons or not. But she didn’t keep up with its care, and within a year, that beautiful tree was gone. I was really sad.

This weekend, my Mom gave me a Meyer lemon tree she bought for my birthday, but which was delivered only recently. Thanks Mom, you’re amazing!

I love growing citrus, but it can be hard to do here in our Connecticut zone 5-6. Citrus has to be wintered indoors after autumn, and things indoors can get hairy. Outdoors in summer, a Meyer lemon will thrive, as long as it gets lots of sun, isn’t allowed to dry out but has plenty of drainage, and is fed with a water-soluble, nitrogen-heavy fertilizer. Citrus are heavy feeders.

But come winter, they live indoors. Indoors, there is no summer sun, or breezes, and so no circulating air. No fresh air, and little to no humidity in a dry house. So a lot of citrus trees that are happy outdoors all summer come indoors in winter and start dropping leaves, turning yellow, developing magnesium deficiency, and worse, hosting spider mites (the bane of indoor citrus trees). Many die before spring can save them.

So I have some work to do. I definitely don’t want to lose this gorgeous tree, which is only about 2-1/2 feet tall now. It’s also stressed, likely from the miserable trip it took on a delivery truck. It’s a living gift from my awesome Mom, which makes it super special to me. I want it to live for years.

So yesterday, the day I got it, I potted it up in a large, deep, clay glazed pot, in rich potting soil. It was raining hard last night, so I left it outside in the rain. It got a deep watering all night long and all the pollen and dust washed off the leaves. This morning, I mixed up a cocktail of well water, fish emulsion, Epsom salts, and a synthetic bloom fertilizer, and gave it a deep feeding. 

Tonight, I’ll mulch the surface of the soil with natural brown cedar mulch. The tree will spend summer in the brightest part of our yard, where about 6 hours of direct sun a day makes our potted herbs and hot peppers thrive. I’ll feed it monthly, maybe more, and water it every few days, or as needed.

Come autumn, I’ll start bringing it indoors at night. Eventually, it will be indoors full time. Humidity is essential, so either a humidifier in the room or a spray mist daily (or both) is a must. Watering will be only once every one to two weeks. Overwatering leads to deadly root rot in citrus, so be careful. It’s unlikely I’ll feed it at all until Valentine’s Day, when the tree just starts to stir and thinks of putting out some fragrant lemon blossoms. I probably won’t prune it until next summer.

I’ll take a photo of the tree tonight and every few weeks until winter. If it makes good progress with the care I give it, we’ll be able to look back at the photos and marvel. I’ll post its first photo here this week.

A lot of work. But the reward is a fabulous lemon tree that produces lemons, smells wonderful, looks pretty, and is a cool thing to share with friends.

The Meyer lemon is not a lemon per se: It’s a cross between lemon (about 80 percent of its DNA) and mandarin orange (about 20 percent of its DNA). So the fruit are larger and a bit less tart than common lemons. Meyer lemon trees were brought to North America from China in the early 1900s by a man named Meyer, and they fruit all year long in our sub-tropical climates. They grow outdoors all year long in zones 8 and above. Those lucky 8-and-abovers.

And this gift from my Mom has inspired me to try growing my own lemon tree from seed again. So today I picked up four lemons and a small seed starting tray. It can’t hurt to plant all the seeds, put them out in the sun, bless them, and leave them all summer. I don’t ever expect to meet with another beast of a lemon seed like that one I planted years ago. But maybe I can get a few trees going, and we’ll take it from there. Lemon trees are the best.

The vegetable garden is getting off to a great start, and I solemnly believe it’s the fish emulsion I’ve been applying. The russet potatoes are growing like mad, and I have to earth them up again this week. I think we’re going to have a truck full of potatoes in autumn.

The watermelon is doing wonderfully so far. I really hope we get fruits from those plants, which are being trellised this year. I’ve never trellised melons before. Tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, squash, and sweet peppers are just shooting up.

The latest kale is almost ready to eat, and I planted another Italian parsley bed. The garlic is over four feet tall now. I think we’re going to have early garlic. We pulled up and composted a lot of arugula, which went to seed overnight. Boo. The potted hot peppers, basil, lemon verbena, and parsley are going strong.

As an experiment, I threw a few watermelon seeds in a compost pile. Just want to see if watermelon can grow in compost. I’m pretty excited about it. I planted a couple more tomatoes near the kitchen window. The food garden is my favorite thing in the world, but having some extra sun-warmed tomatoes just outside the kitchen window makes life great.

On the food front, I’m making some orange-pomegranate, agave-sweetened sun tea today. We made some amazing cumin black bean burgers over the weekend. I picked up some smoked paprika on a friend’s recommendation and am looking forward to trying it. I also scored some roasted cumin, chipotle vegan mayo, chopped organic coconut, a flax and chia seed mixture, Pu-erh tea, four Ataulfos mangos, and a potent green superfood powder that is made here in Connecticut. Our wedding anniversary is in four days, and this weekend, my husband wants to try a new restaurant to celebrate. He’s the best, and I’m blessed.

One last thing, and this is for the sun worshippers. There’s a brand of coconut bar soap called Skin Trip. I used Skin Trip coconut body lotion years ago, but have since replaced that with pure coconut oil after a shower. I just tried the soap. It’s super creamy, lathers gently, smells coconut-groovy, and soothes skin that has been out in the sun, is organic and made with kindness. A bar is about $5, but it lasts. Two green thumbs up to Skin Trip brand!

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