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Growing Lemons in Zone 5 and Other Crazy Hobbies


It is nearly time to move my citrus trees in for the winter. I have a lemon, lime and orange in pots which spend the summer outside, then move inside when it is cold. The dream is one day to get a supply of homegrown citrus. 

There's new growth on the lemon tree, and we hope it blooms this winter.

The reality is disappointing. One year we had quite a few oranges, and tremendous blossoms in January, but that was when the plants came to school with me- I had a classroom with north windows, and it wasn’t heated at night, and I think that was the perfect climate for them.  I changed schools, and my current classroom doesn’t have windows ( I wonder what they were thinking, those school building designers of the late 60’s- “I know, those kids are getting distracted by looking out the windows, so lets make it so they can’t!”) so I have to cram them into the boy’s room, which has the best south and west windows, and hope for the best. They are all three in 14 in diameter pots, and some years they bloom and produce a few fruits, but I am a looong way from self-sufficiency in citrus.

Last year I added another edible plant which won’t survive the winter here, a Chicago Hardy Fig.(www.raintreenursery.com)    It arrived at the end of the summer, a twig smaller than a pencil with two leaves and a hefty bundle of roots.  The half  page of instructions said:  pot immediately, not let it get colder than 20, and when it went dormant bring it inside to a cool, dark place, keep it moist, but not wet, then bring it into the daylight when there was no longer risk of freezing temps. It was complicated, and made me a little nervous, but the plant made it through the winter, and is currently alive. 

A porous clay vase turns any pot into a self watering container- it holds about 1/2 gallon, and seeps into the soil slowly.

I set up a large clay pot with a porous clay vase inside- the vase holds about ½ gallon of water and slowly seeps through to the soil. While it is outside I fill it every few days.  I kept it in our guest room in the basement last winter, with the twig under a flowerpot to keep it genuinely dark, and periodically filled the vase with water.  In April, I peeked at it, and saw that there were white buds popping, so I moved it to the back porch, ready to bring it inside when frost threatened.

It has grown beautifully all summer. I didn’t expect fruit for a few years, but there are 2 tiny figs on it. It is probably 18 inches tall, and sometime in October I’ll bring it down to the basement again, to start the process again.

Pomegranates might be next on my list of impossible fruits for Colorado- what else?

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