Of all the types of fruits out there, I definitely love citrus the most. Oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, grapefruits: I just can't get enough of that fresh, citrus goodness! Even though they aren't necessarily that well-rounded nutritionally (you're not getting much protein from that lime, bro), citrus fruits still have a whole range of beneficial properties that make them a staple of any healthy lifestyle.
Certain citrus fruits are much easier to grow than others, however. Most people (renters in particular) probably couldn't have an orange grove in their backyard, for instance. Luckily, two of the best citruses are actually pretty easy to grow within the home! Not only do they add a pop of color and a lovely fresh scent to your home, you'll also have the benefit of knowing these fruits were grown 100% organically! So, what are the two fruits I'm talking about?
Whether you're squeezing some onto your food, adding some to your water, or using the zest to add flavor and aroma to something, lemons are an incredibly useful fruit, and are usually on my grocery list on a weekly basis.
How to grow them:
If you're interested in cultivating your own lemons, I suggest you buy a baby tree (around two or three years old) for best results. Pick a planter pot with plenty of holes in the bottom, making sure it's larger than the root ball from your baby tree. For a mature plant, you'd need a pot that's about 12-15 inches deep and 17-20 inches in diameter. Plant your tree into the pot, with some stones in the drainage container to improve airflow. Some soils are made specifically for growing citrus and are a worthwhile investment if you can find them.
Give the tree plenty of sunlight (8-10 hours daily), and water it fairly regularly, but don't over-water either. In about 6-9 months, your lemons will be ready!
Alternatively, you could also grow your lemon from a seed. This process obviously takes longer, but it's worth it. Here's what you'll need to get:
- An organic lemon (inorganic lemons often have seeds that don't germinate)
- Good quality potting soil
- A pot that's six inches wide and six inches deep
- A seedling pot that's 24 inches wide and 12 inches deep
- A nice sunny area of your house and/or a grow lamp
In order to grow a tree from a seed, you'll have to do the following things:
- Moisten the potting soil until it's damp - but not soaking wet - all the way through.
- Fill your small pot with soil, up to about an inch below the rim.
- Cut the lemon and remove a seed. Clean all the pulp off the seed (you could do this simply by sucking on the seed until clean).
- While the seed is still moist, plant it about half an inch deep in the center of the pot.
- Gently spray the soil above the seed with a spray bottle full of water.
- Cover the pot with plastic wrap, using a rubber band to get a real tight seal around the edges. Poke a few small holes in the top with a pencil.
- Put the pot in a warm, sunny place.
- Continue to spray the soil periodically so it doesn't dry out, but don't get it super wet either.
- In two weeks, a sprout should appear. At this point, you can remove the plastic covering and possibly add a grow lamp (optional) to ensure it's getting lots of light.
- Ensure that the plant is getting 8 hours of light a day and the soil it's planted in is always damp. You can also bolster your plant with small doses of organic fertilizer.
- Keep an eye on your plant. As it grows, it will attract pests and be susceptible to diseases. Prune away dead leaves as necessary, and use a pesticide if you absolutely must. Just protect your young lemon tree!
- Once the plant outgrows the first pot, carefully transfer it to the second, larger pot. Repeat most of the above steps. Older plants don't need quite as much water as younger ones do, but you should still always take care to keep your plant's soil slightly damp at all times.
Mandarins are absolutely delicious, and I have countless happy childhood memories of finding one packed with my lunch when I was a boy. They're full of antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, and plenty of other good stuff. Plus, they're easy to share with friends, so it's like buying everyone a really cheap round!
How to grow them:
If you're interested in growing mandarins at home, it's not too different from the methods used to grow the lemon tree. Unlike lemons, however, mandarins are a lot harder to grow directly from the seed, so we definitely recommend buying a baby tree and then cultivating that.
Mandarin trees usually stay below 6 feet in height, which makes them ideal for indoor growing. Water them conservatively, and transfer to a larger pot if you notice your roots growing back onto themselves and/or growing out of the drainage holes. Make sure to provide plenty of warm sunlight, and pick the fruit as soon as it turns orange to get the best flavor.
TIP: Be careful when plucking mandarins. You want to ensure the little button at the top stays in place.
So, now that you have the knowledge, what are you waiting for? Get out there and get planting, and send me your harvest in the mail when it's time!
Be sure to SHARE these helpful tips with your family and friends.