Friday, 22 May 2015

Keith Lemon

Last year I bought a lemon tree. After starting to be more conscious of leading a healthier lifestyle I was eager to grow as much of my own fruit and vegetables as possible. Although living in an apartment, I have still been able to grow strawberries on my balcony and herbs in the kitchen. The lemon tree was a welcome addition and there was already a large yield of lemons growing and ripening when I bought it. With so many lemons growing, I was not able to consume them all so gave them away to friends and family. I aptly named my lemon tree 'Keith Lemon'.

Unfortunately, I did not research the needs of a citrus plant and the leaves started to droop and become dried over time. The fruit shrivelled up and dropped off the sad branches. I desperately tried to revive it but to no avail, Keith Lemon was dead.

When buying an established lemon tree they can cost over £20.00. Having already invested in Keith Lemon, I decided to take a cutting for my next lemon tree. You can take a cutting from any plant, it is free and really rather simple. As well as being cost effective, it also allows you to grow a plant from a variety of your choosing. You can choose the characteristics you wish your plant to have; so if you want it to produce a lot of lemons, take a cutting from a lemon tree that has a proven yield and has good health. My sister Camella shelled out £36 to purchase her lemon tree just over a week ago but it is quite large and has many buds. If you prefer instant results, you may prefer to just buy one. You can check out 'John Lemon' here.

You will need:

An established plant (to take the cutting from)
Compost specific to growing fruit and vegetables
A plant pot, preferably with drainage holes
A trowel (optional)
Garden scissors

I recycled the plant pot Keith Lemon was in. I recommend you choose a plastic plant pot to grow your cuttings in and place the pot inside an ornamental pot once you know the cutting has taken to the soil and has grown roots. It will take approximately 4 weeks before roots form and you are able to determine whether the cutting will survive. If roots have formed, leave the plant for a couple more weeks before considering repotting it. 

Use a good compost specifically for citrus plants, fruit or vegetables. The compost I used had nutrients enriched in the soil which last for 6 weeks. Fill your pot with compost using your hands, gloves or a trowel (if you don't want to ruin your nails!) Fill the pot with soil up to about three quarters. 

You may want to sift the soil to ensure you get all of the lumps out. I used a small tool to do this but you can also use your fingers.

Use a pencil (or again your finger) to create a hole in the soil in which to put your cutting into. 

It is advisable to take several cuttings as not all of them will grow roots and form into an established plant. I took a cutting from my mothers lemon tree; Keith Lemon II (Mammy did not have any name suggestions of her own so adopted mine). Mammy's lemon tree does not have many branches and is still recovering from the Winter, with only a few new buds left that will form lemons. In light of this, I only took one cutting. When taking a cutting, make sure to take it where the stem is green and has not formed a brown bark-like texture. Cut the stem between 8-10 inches. It is also important to cut the stem at an angle, so the bottom of the stem has a greater surface area in which to take in water and grow roots. With the cutting, you should ensure there are no more than three leaves. This is so the cutting can concentrate its energy on forming roots, rather than feeding leaves which will serve no purpose at this early stage. For the same reason, ensure the stem is not bearing any fruit and if so, remove them.

If you are away from home when taking a cutting, wrap your stems in a damp paper towel and pot up as soon as you are able to. Place the stem into the hole you prepared earlier and pack the soil around it. If you are positioning more than one cutting, place them apart. With the view of taking more than one cutting, I had placed mine slightly off centre inside the pot. 

Ta-da! You now have your very own lemon tree. To care for your plant and help give it the best odds of survival, place it in a warm, sunny position. Ensure you water it and keep the soil moist. If you allow the soil to dry the plant will most likely fail to produce roots and you will have to start the process over. I have my fingers firmly crossed and hope 'Keith Lemon III' does not meet the same demise as his predecessor! 

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