I have grown lemon trees in the past even in my Northwestern Climate. Of course citrus is not grown in a northern climate, they are grown in a drier, warm climate. We can grow them outdoors during our warm months, but they need to be sheltered in the cold months or grown in a green house.
I was preparing some citrus for a variety of projects about a month ago and decided to do a tutorial for growing the citrus from seed. Minimal time or supplies are needed. Citrus requires the same environmental needs and fertilizing needs of any plant, so if you can grow a zucchini, you can grow citrus, taking into account of course that neither will survive in cold weather. This is a great project to do with the kidlets and takes only a few minutes, but provides a learning moment that lasts a life-time.
What you Need:
Container (with drainage) 4-6" high, 4-6" wide
Potting Soil (a good brand that contains vermiculite, pumas, peat moss etc.)
Citrus (Tangerines, limes, lemons, grapefruit Preferably Organic so the seeds will germinate)
Fill the container with good potting soil, well dampened through. Cut the citrus in half. Remove the whole, undamaged seeds. With the end of a pencil, poke a hole into the soil about 1/2" deep. Place a seed into each hole. You want to plant all the seeds, to assure germination of at least one or two. Cover each seed with the damp soil. Set a saucer or something beneath the container to catch any water from the drainage holes. Set aside in a warm window. Check the soil every few days by poking a finger an inch or so into the soil. If the soil is still damp, there is no need to water, but you can fill the spray bottle with water if the top soil is dry.. If the soil is dry within a 1/2 inch of the top of the soil, soak the soil, either by placing the container into a pan of water or from the top of the potting soil gently to prevent dislodging the seeds. If your water is chlorinated you will need to de-chlorinate or use filtered or bottled water, or de-chlorinate the tap water (see instructions below).
In a week to 10 days you should see the seeds sprouting. You'll see little green, grass-like shoots emerge from the soil. In the above slide show, I sowed 4 seeds, all four germinated, sprouted and produced their beginning leaves and secondary leaves, within a month time.
There is nothing to do except keep the plant out of cold drafts, keep it watered and provide as much light as possible. You can pinch back the beginning leaves to encourage a stronger stem and a bushier plant if desired.
Transplant as needed:
Though you won't need to transplant for many weeks, note that you will need to provide a larger container as the plants outgrow their smaller container.
You will need to transplant to a larger container when your citrus plant reaches 6-8 inches tall and has a well developed root system. When transplanting, use good potting soil and transplant to a container that is a few inches larger than the previous container.
Feed the Plants:
The plants will benefit from a periodic feeding of a q2uality fertilizer or an organic home-made green tea, or manure tea. This only needs to be done every few months, to assure a healthy root system and thriving plants. As the plants grow they will deplete the nutrients in the soil, so you will need to have a regular routine for fertilizing. You can use a slow-release type fertilizer, that releases nutrients with each watering or a liquid such as the manure tea when watering the plant.
You may need to stake your plants to keep the stems straight and upright. As fruit develops you definitely want to stake the plants because the fruit will get heavier as it develops and may break or damage the stems if there is not enough support.
You can place the plants outdoors in warm weather, but protect from winds and scorching sun and bring in if the nights are still chilly and be prepared to bring them in during the cold weather months to a well lit area away from cold drafts.
Provide sufficient Light:
You can use grow lamps if you do not have sufficient light from a south or west facing window. Run the lights at least 8 hours each day for optimum lighting.
Top dress the soil with some fresh soil periodically, for added nutrients and to help freshen the soil the plant is growing in.
If the environment is very dry in winter from indoor heat or a wood stove, the plants will benefit from a light spray of water from the spray bottle or pebbles in the water tray to provide a little humidity.
How to De-Chlorinate Water: Run the tap water a few minutes, then fill a clean, sterilized container with water. Allow to sit 24 hours before using. The water is ready to use after 24 hours for watering house plants and for making your own health and beauty products, vinegar and other projects calling for filtered or bottled water. Even if you do not have chlorinated water, you can allow your well water to sit overnight so any sediment will settle on the bottom of the water container. Or you can continue to use bottled or filtered water.
Tip: I do nothing special to grow the citrus from seed. Some may suggest peeling the citrus seed, or soaking the seeds or not allowing the seeds to dry out before sowing, but my way is easy and successful without the need for a lot of fuss. Plant more than you expect to grow, that way you can assure that at least some will sprout. This is true of any seeds; not all will germinate, however if they do, you can always give any extras away as special gifts to the plant lovers in your life.
How to use: Citrus is valuable for use in the kitchen and for do it yourself projects. You can use the citrus peel for making seasonings, for homemade cold and flu remedies, herbal tea, for skin products, for preserving and for a coop to kitchen environmentally friendly cleaner. Never throw away your citrus peels. You can also freeze the peels and the fruit to use at a later date. Citrus juice can be frozen in ice cube trays and added to cocktails or lemon and limeade. Use the squeezed Citrus with a little salt to clean your cutting board.
Note: You may not know, that Citrus is at it's peak in the winter months. We can purchase most citrus year round, that are imported or perhaps some may be from citrus warehouses, however for our own fresh citrus they are available in late fall to late winter, with January being the largest production month. Just try buying a blood orange or Meyer Lemons in the middle of summer, they simply are not available. Another thing you may not know is that California citrus supplies the East Coast, while Florida supplies the West Coast, apparently so neither state dominates the marketplace.
Refer to the link to make your own Manure Tea:
Refer to the link to make your own Green Manure Tea:
Refer to the link to make your own Preserved Citrus:
Refer to the link to make your own Coop to Kitchen Cleaner:
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CREDENTIALS: Certified Oregon State Master Gardener since 1999. Horticulture degree 2001. Study of Herbs and Horticulture Therapy, heavy research and study of all plants and herbs. Gardening a lifetime