I have seen picture after picture of the vibrant Meyer lemon. All of my plant/seed catalogs have the gorgeous Meyer lemon trees for purchase and I can just picture tree after tree lining my someday perfect patio, but until I bought a bag of them last week at the store, I have never actually tasted the fruit and boy, was I missing out. Not only were they a bright addition to my kitchen counter in the dead of winter, they are really a delicious fruit. Not too tart and not too sweet, this somewhat hybrid fruit is perfect for a sorbet or citrus salad. My first cooking experience with Meyer lemons was to make a sorbet. Sorbet is perfect any time of year. It can be served as a dessert at the end of a light lunch or as a palate cleanser in between courses of a dinner party or to neutralize your palate during a wine tasting. The nice thing about sorbet is that you don’t need a complicated ice cream maker to make it. Total time to make it is about 2 hours, but the active cooking time is relatively low. So now that I know how to cook with it, I definitely think Meyer lemon trees will be on my list for spring gardening purchases!!!!!
This sorbet is perfect for a light dessert or a palate cleanser between courses of a dinner party.
- 1 3/4 cup water
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
- 1-2 tablespoons freshly grated Meyer lemon zest
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine water and sugar to dissolve about 1 minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Stir in juice and zest to combine. Pour into an 8x8 metal pan and place in freezer. Stir every 30 minutes for 2 hours.
- When frozen, transfer to freezer-safe storage containers. Cover tightly and keep frozen until ready to serve.
Another fun way to serve this sorbet especially if you are serving as a palate cleanser is to cut the top off of a Meyer lemon and hollow out the flesh and spoon the sorbet into the lemon. You will also need to cut a small piece off the bottom so it will sit level on the plate.
All About the Meyer Lemon
Information obtained from Local Foods from About.com
Meyer lemons, so named because they were identified in 1908 by Frank N. Meyer, are thought to be a cross between Eurekas or Lisbons and a mandarin orange. They have a sweeter and more floral taste than other lemons and can even have an slightly orange tint. They also have very thin skins, making them difficult to transport and store. Most Meyers are grown in backyards, but rising demand and wide culinary interest means they are increasingly available at markets.
Meyer lemons are more seasonal than the ubiquitous Lisbon and Eureka lemons, with the limited commercial harvest running from December or January through May.
Meyer lemons are, as mentioned, sweeter than regular lemons, making them great additions as fruit (sectioned for maximum appeal) to salads and other dishes without the mouth-puckering sour tartness associated with lemons. They have a beautiful floral aroma that can add great flavor to traditional lemon dishes – lemonade, cocktails, and salads in particular. While their unique flavor can enhance lemon desserts, such as Lemon Bars, they are not as acidic as regular lemons and should not be used one-to-one or blindly substituted in sweet recipes.
Meyer Lemon Tree Instructions
Information obtained from Meyer Lemon Tree.com
Transplant shock is quite common with bareroot mail-ordered plants. Do not be alarmed if some or all leaves drop shortly after your new tree is potted. If you follow our growing instructions, your tree will sprout new growth within a short period. Recovery may take longer during winter months.
Many new gardeners think the tree is dead, but it is just “sleeping.” When planting, the tree should leaf out within 3-6 weeks of planting. If not, try scratching the trunk with your thumbnail. If the underlying tissue is greenish, try “whipping” the tree trunk with a rolled newspaper to stimulate its sap flow. If it is dry and brownish, email MeyerLemonTree.com.
Dwarf citrus are especially suited for container growing as they can be kept at manageable sizes. Container growing allows gardeners to overcome poor soil conditions or limited space in a landscape. People enjoy their trees in decorative pots on their patio or apartment balcony.Growing Citrus in Containers
Many customers have cold winters and bring their citrus indoors during freezing weather below 32 degree for the Meyer Lemon. Just be sure not to shock your tree with a sudden change of environment. Simply place the tree in partial shade for a couple of weeks to transition from full sun to indoors. Later you can reverse this process after any danger of frost has safely passed. You will find that you need to water less indoors.
Citrus grown indoors benefit greatly from the use of a grow light. We recommend turning your light on at sunrise and off at sunset. If the tree is not averaging at least 6 hours of bright sunlight a day, a grow light becomes a necessity for fruit production.
The keys to successful container growing are:
- Select the right size pot with adequate drainage holes.
- Use a soil mix that is lightweight and drains well.
- Develop a watering schedule so the tree stays on the dry side of moist.
- Provide 8 or more hours of direct sunlight or grow light per day.
- Plant the tree so the root collar is above the soil line and the top of the root crown is barely below the soil. Do not cover the trunk with soil at all.
Selecting Planting Containers
We recommend a 12-14″ container for our 2-3 year trees. A variety of decorative plastic containers are available at reasonable prices. Clay pots and wooden containers are very attractive but less mobile choices. When selecting a container, be sure there are sufficient drainage holes. Drilling extra holes is an easy way to improve drainage with wood or plastic. As the tree grows, increase the container size to a 16-20″ diameter pot. Do not start with a pot that is too large as it makes soil moisture levels harder to control with small trees. Be sure your container drains freely.
How to Plant in Containers
We recommend using commercially available potting mixes. Using dirt in a container is not advisable. Our choice is Peters or Miracle Grow 5lb bag for about $7 at Wal-Mart or at any local garden center. Once your soil mix is prepared, the container is selected and the tree’s eventual location is known you are ready to begin potting.
Place one inch of soil in the bottom of your new container. Gently remove the roots and soil from the package. Try to keep the root ball intact. Place the root ball in the new container and fill with your fresh potting mix. The top of the roots should be just barely beneath the top of the soil level. Press the soil around the root ball to provide stability and water deeply. Repotting with fresh soil mix every year or two will provide fresh nutrients to the soil.
Selecting a Location for Outdoor Containers
Sunny, wind free locations with southern exposure are the best. If in doubt, leave the tree in its plastic container and place it in the spot you have in mind. After a week or two, you should be able to tell whether or not it is thriving. Reflected heat from sidewalks or houses can also help to create a warmer microclimate. Avoid lawns that get frequent, shallow watering.
Consistency is the key with citrus watering. Citrus trees require soil that is moist but never soggy. Watering frequency will vary with soil porosity, tree size, and environmental factors. DO NOT WATER IF THE TOP OF THE SOIL IS DRY WITHOUT CHECKING THE SOIL AT ROOT LEVEL! A simple moisture meter, available at garden supply stores, will read moisture at the root level. This inexpensive tool will allow you to never have to guess about whether or not a plant needs water. If you don’t have this tool yet stick your finger about 3″ down into the soil…If it’s dry 3″ down then water deeply.
A wilted tree that perks up within 24 hours after watering indicates the roots got too dry. Adjust watering schedule accordingly. A tree with yellow or cupped leaves, or leaves that don’t look perky AFTER watering can indicate excessive watering and soggy roots. Give your tree water less often.
Citrus prefer infrequent, deep watering to frequent, shallow sprinklings. Creating a watering basin around the tree’s drip line can aid in deep watering. Deeper watering promotes deeper root growth and strengthens your tree. Generally, once or twice a week deep watering works well for container specimens. Be sure to adjust based on weather conditions.
In general, it is probably best to water in the morning, but if plants are dry or wilted it is better to water them right away than wait until morning. See ourwatering page for more.
Citrus trees feed heavily on nitrogen. Your fertilizer should have more nitrogen (N) than phosphorous (P) or potassium (K). Use at least a 2-1-1 ratio. Miracid Soil Acidifier is a water-soluble product that works well and is a 3-1-1 ratio. In some regions, you may be able to find specialized citrus/avocado fertilizers. Buy a good brand and apply according to package directions.
Also important are trace minerals like iron, zinc, and manganese, so make sure those are included as well. Many all-purpose products will work. We prefer slow release fertilizers in the granular form rather than fertilizer stakes. Follow rates on the package carefully as fertilizers come in different strengths, release rates, and application schedules. We recommend that you fertilize more often than recommended with most slow release fertilizers. Yellowing leaves indicate lack of fertilizer or poor drainage.
Know where the graft union in on your tree. It can usually be seen as a diagonal scar between 4 and 8 inches above the soil. Remove all shoot growth below the graft. These so-called “suckers” take vitality from the top of the tree (the fruiting wood). Especially on young trees, they are very vigorous. Remove suckers as soon as they are observed. See picture of a suckering. Some trees are not grafted and this will not apply.
Thorns are removed from rootstocks when they are grafted. Juvenile fruiting wood will sometimes have thorns; this is a young plant’s way of defending against grazing animals. As the tree matures, thorns will not appear as often. Prune off thorns if desired. Check thorny branches to see if they are fruiting wood or rootstock.
Citrus may be pruned to any desired shape. Pruning is fine any time of year, except in the winter for outdoor trees. Pinching back tips of new growth is the best way to round out the trees without impacting future fruit. Citrus will look fuller with occasional pruning to shape leggy branches. Some trees may develop erratic juvenile growth above the graft. If so, prune for shape and balance. Any growth above the graft can eventually bear fruit. Do not be afraid to cut off branches. It will stimulate growth and multiple branches from the site you pruned. Well-pruned trees have higher fruit yields and are less prone to branch breakage.
Most citrus are self-pollinating, even indoors. Some people enjoy pollinating their trees and can do so by using a small soft brush or cotton swab to transfer pollen among the flowers.
Most insects do no harm to citrus trees! Spiders, lady beetles, lacewings, and praying mantis are some of the beneficial insects you may see around citrus trees outdoors. You can even buy some of these predator insects in local nurseries for release in your garden.
Keep your tree free of ants. They will farm scales or aphids, moving them from place to place, milking their secretions, and protecting them from beneficial insects. Ant baits may be helpful.
If you find harmful insects like scales, aphids, or mites, a household spray bottle of water with some mild dish soap could be all you need. If insects persist, the usual nursery treatment is a 1% solution of light horticultural oil.
Even temperate locations can drop below freezing, so it’s good to have a plan in mind for that eventuality. Christmas lights strung around your tree will provide some protection. A frost blanket, loosely draped over and around the tree, will also help. Or, you can winter your tree indoors.
Some Final Rules of Thumb
Regardless of how (or when) you transplant or repot, plants always go through an adjustment period. Some plants rebound more quickly than others. Think of it as a person or family moving into a new home. The new home may better fit their size and comfort requirements, but they still must become familiar with their new surroundings before life can get back to normal. Plants are much the same way. In most cases, transplanting or repotting will only slow plant growth for a brief period. But there are a few exceptions. For example, some plants are more prone to heavy leaf loss. Don’t become overly concerned about this. In the proper conditions, new growth should begin to appear soon.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Can I grow a Meyer Lemon tree at my home in the northeast?
A. Dwarf citrus trees can be successfully grown in containers throughout the United States. For best results, place your dwarf citrus trees on a porch or patio in the spring, summer and early fall. As winter approaches and temperatures begin to drop in the thirties, bring your trees indoors and place in a window with a western or southern sun exposure. The fruit (on most varieties) will begin toripen as you bring the trees indoors. Within a couple months, the trees will bloom again as they’re moved back outside for spring. Some varieties will actually blossom before they go outside.
Q. How large will the Meyer Lemon trees grow?
A. Although some rootstocks will produce a slower growing citrus tree, they all have to be pruned occasionally. If your tree is planted in a large container and never pruned, it could grow 8-10 feet tall. However, with some occasional pruningyour tree can be kept at whatever height you desire. It will be much easier moving your dwarf citrus trees in and out for winter if they’re kept at a reasonable height of 4-5 feet.
Q. When will my Meyer Lemon trees bear fruit?
A. All the dwarf citrus trees grown at MeyerLemonTree.com are grafted specimens and are fruiting age when shipped. Depending on the time of year, your tree may arrive full of blooms and fruit. However, you can usually expect your tree to start blooming within a few weeks or months of receipt.
Q. My leaves are turning yellow and falling. What is wrong with my citrus tree?
A. Yellowing leaves are an indication of a watering problem, which includes over-watering, inadequate drainage or a combination of the two. The problem can be easily treated and prevented by using the correct soil mixture. We recommend using Peters or Miracle Grow 5lb bag for about $7 at Wal-Mart or at any local garden center. Whatever the soil mix, the key is to make sure that it drains and doesn’t stay overly moist.
Q. How often do I water my dwarf citrus tree?
A. Watering schedules can vary, depending on container size, drainage and location of the tree. Containerized citrus trees should be allowed to dry between waterings. If you’re unsure whether watering is necessary, do the finger test – stick your finger 2-3” into the soil. If it is dry, your tree needs water. See: When to Water Your Meyer Lemon Tree
Q. Do I need two citrus trees for fruit production?
A. All dwarf citrus trees are self-fertile, meaning that only one tree is needed for fruit production.
Q. My citrus tree keeps dropping blooms and no fruit is forming. What am I doing wrong?
A. Although citrus trees are self-fertile, if they’re grown indoors year round, you may need to give the tree a little help with the pollination process. This can be done a couple of ways. The quickest and easiest is to give the tree a good shake when the flowers are open. You can also dab pollen from one flower to another using a cotton swab or small paintbrush. However, if your trees are outdoors, bees and butterflies usually do a great job of pollinating the tree. See: From Bloom to Edible Fruit
Q. My citrus tree looks nice, but I notice different leaf types and long thorns. What is this?
A. This is commonly known as a “sucker”. For more information, check out ourMeyer Lemon Tree Pruning on this subject.