Lemon trees (Citrus limon) grow well in organic gardens with the proper care, organic fertilizer, and chemical-free pest control. Organic lemon trees need to be planted in a sunny spot in your garden to thrive. The soil should be well-draining, and you need to feed and water citrus trees regularly.
There are many advantages to growing citrus trees, such as lemons, organically. Evidence suggests that avoiding the use of pesticides in growing fruit and vegetables results in better quality produce. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic report that organic foods may have more nutrients and antioxidants, fewer toxins, and no pesticide residue.
In this article, you will find out how to grow organic lemon trees. Although many of the basics are the same as for growing non-organic lemons, it’s crucial to get the growing factors spot on. The best organic care practices result in a lemon crop that is resistant to pests and diseases.
Where to Plant Lemon Trees
Plant lemon trees in the sunniest part of your garden where there is shelter from strong winds. Ensure that the soil is fertile by working in plenty of manure or compost before planting. If you have heavy soil, you may have to amend the soil with organic matter and pumice or perlite.
The best time to plant organic lemon trees is in late winter or early spring. To plant the citrus tree, you should dig a hole twice the size of the root ball. Plant the tree so that the root crown is slightly higher than the ground level.
The essential care requirement when planting citrus trees is to avoid waterlogged soils—citrus trees are prone to root rot. You should also avoid planting citrus trees on the lawn as the grass will absorb essential nutrients that organic trees need for healthy growth.
How to Feed Organic Lemon Trees
A challenge of growing organic lemon trees is that they are hungry feeders. In springtime, you can add a layer of organic compost or manure around the tree but keeping it well away from the trunk. You could also use blood meal to add nitrogen to the soil. Bone meal will boost the phosphorus levels and encourage vigorous blooming.
Always thoroughly water the soil around the tree after fertilizing. This helps the nutrients to get to the roots and prevents any burn that compost on the soil’s surface could cause.
Organic Lemon Trees Watering Requirements
To grow healthy lemon trees without chemicals, always give the trees a deep watering. Citrus trees prefer infrequent, but thorough watering. This watering process prevents soil from becoming too soggy, which could end up in root rot and cause weak growth. To water your lemon trees, water around the root ball to ensure that the root system gets proper hydration.
Proper watering is one of the essential care factors for growing lemon trees in an organic garden. Citrus trees that grow in arid, parched land are prone to pests such as thrips and mites. Because you need to avoid using pesticides, you should do everything you can to prevent a pest infestation.
Organic Lemon Tree Care — Mulching and Compost
A layer of mulch under your growing lemon trees helps to retain moisture and keep weeds at bay. The best type of mulch when caring for organic lemon trees is dry wood bark chips. Spread a layer of between 2 and 4 inches (5 – 10 cm) thick. There are a few vital things to remember about mulching an organic lemon tree:
- Keep the mulch at least 6 inches (15 cm) away from the tree trunk to prevent rodent burrowing.
- Spread the mulch out to at least 12 inches (30 cm) beyond the lemon tree’s drip line—the area where the outer branches end.
- Rake mulch aside before applying compost, then rake the mulch back over the compost.
How to Prune Lemon Trees
Pruning is essential if you want a bumper crop of juicy organic lemons year after year. Trimming off deadwood and smaller branches encourages healthy, vigorous growth. Pruning also allows you to shape the lemon tree and control its height. So, how should you prune a lemon tree? Here are a few pruning tips:
- Start by removing deadwood or branches that extend beyond the tree’s canopy.
- Remove suckers—small leafy growths near the base of the roots.
- Prune the bottom growth of the tree to concentrate fruiting at the top of the canopy.
- Remove about 20 percent of the canopy—but no more.
Harvesting Organic Lemons from Trees
Even though you are keen to taste your delicious organic lemons, avoid harvesting citrus fruits too early. Lemons need to ripen on the tree, and they will be juicier when picked at the right time. The best way to tell if your organic citrus fruits are ready for picking is by tasting one. Using sharp pruning scissors, cut off one fruit to check for ripeness.
The Best Organic Pest Control for Citrus Fruit
Ensuring the right growing conditions is the best way to prevent pests from infesting your lemon trees. However, pests can affect lemon trees, as they can affect any plants in your garden. How can you get rid of pests without resorting to chemicals? Here are a few organic pest control solutions when caring for lemon trees:
- Spray tree foliage with strong jets of water to remove aphids and thrips.
- Release beneficial insects such as ladybugs that feed on plant-destroying pests.
- Use organically based horticultural sprays to eradicate pests that can infest lemon trees.
- Grow companion plants near lemon trees to attract birds and beneficial insects, as well as deterring pests.