Looking back at early photos of my dwarf lemon tree, I’m not sure how I let it get so bad. Part of the problem is that I am terrible at container gardening. I forget that potted plants dry out more quickly, and that their nutrients eventually run out, requiring doses of compost or a full re-pot. This is why I don’t start tomatoes, peppers, or any other seeds in pots, preferring to brave the unpredictable outdoors to my responsibility with a watering can. Is it any wonder then, that I waited until the lemon tree had lost most of its leaves before I lobbied our garden coordinator to let me plant it in the ground? I could have chosen a better spot, it’s true, but at the time I was desperate to get the lemon tree in the ground. Not only had it lost most of its leaves, but the lemons were inedible, ripening to hard pellets the size of cherries.
Now the tree was planted safely in the ground. It couldn’t dry out as easily and I even remembered to fertilize it on occasion. You’re expecting things to get better, right? WRONG! Just when the lemon tree seemed to be recovering from its shocking transplant we had a series of very cold nights that essentially froze all the new leaves. Oh the devastation. Then the tree got scale, so I took soapy water to its leaf-less branches, scrubbing off every last bug. Finally, it became apparent once I started planting other things around the lemon tree in what has become my flower and cilantro garden that the soil in that area is absolutely terrible. Seriously, it turned the leaves of my cilantro plants yellow and purple (cilantro leaves, like most plants, are supposed to be green).
Finally, my shame over the pathetic flower garden and lemon tree reached a terrible peak, and I completely reorganized it, adding paths, mulching everything to start improving the soil, planting fava beans everywhere to fix nitrogen, and adding copious amounts of natural fertilizer to the lemon tree. It’s been over a month now, and things are finally looking better, to the point where I can post some pictures without turning a shade of deepest crimson. The lemon tree has dozens of new bright green leaves (and we’ve passed our last frost date, whoopeeee) and even a tiny pink bud or two. True, it doesn’t look as good as when it first came to me in its pot with a small tomato companion, but we’re getting there.