Category Archives: Fruit

Lemon Tree Blooms for 2012

If you’ve been following my lemon tree saga, you may be wondering how the tree is doing now.

After bringing the tree indoors around Halloween I haven’t done much with it.  It sits next to our South facing glass doors and on sunny days it can soak in whatever rays penetrate our energy-saving glass.

Around early December I noticed it was developing the tell-tale bumps that would later become blossoms.  By Christmas, dozens of tightly closed blossoms graced the lemon tree.  This week, many of them are opening up and I am thoroughly enjoying their citrus-y perfume.

Now that they are open, it’s my job to take nature’s place and pollinate the tree.  I do this with a tiny paintbrush, simply dabbing the centers of the blooms gently.   I try to do all the open blooms once and then come around and hit them again with the pollen from the other blooms hopefully being distributed.  Does this really work?

Honestly, I don’t think it did last year.  But time will tell.  And short of keeping bees in my house, this is pretty much the only way to do this.  Now I will sit back and wait to see if the tree holds onto any of these blossoms and whether or not any of them will produce an actual lemon.  Already, some have fallen off as they have in years past.

I will hold out hope for a different ending to the 2012 lemon tree story.  And if it’s not to be, then I’ll just be glad for the special scent of these January blossoms and the bit of sunshine they bring to my winter world.

Previous lemon tree entries include:

When life hands you one lemon…
Repotting the Lemon Tree
Lemon Tree Update

Lemon Tree Update

My little lemon tree has been undergoing some significant changes the last few weeks.

When I had repotted the tree in April it was looking quite abysmal.  It had lost a lot of leaves during its overwintering period in the house, and many blossoms had formed only to fall off.  I repotted it in a larger pot with new potting mix and added in this:

Dr. Earth Orgnanic Fruit Tree Fertilizer

Shortly after I repotted, my family and I became convinced we had a dead animal under our deck.  Something reeked!  Really bad!  It took me a couple of weeks to realize that the Dr. Earth Organic Fertilizer was creating the stench.  It seemed to be worse when I watered the tree.  It was unbearable.  We discussed repotting or even giving up on the tree and getting rid of it.  The smell was coming in the house and had permeated the deck wood so there was no relief even when the pot was moved.

In a last-ditch effort to keep the tree we moved it to our roof.  We have an open balcony up there that gets full sun.  We put it up there and happily ignored the tree for weeks.  Eventually the smell faded and now–in the latter half of June–I can report that I don’t smell dead animals anymore.

I went up to visit the tree a few days ago.  That little tree has set fruit and grown leaves!  It looks so much healthier.  I am amazed at the change.

New buds on the dwarf meyer lemon tree.

A lemon takes shape.

Leaves have returned to the lemon tree. I didn't notice the fly in this photo until now! This tree must also be attracting pollinators such as bees which is contributing to its health.

All that sunshine is doing it good.  And I think that it likes to be left alone.  After a winter of being misted, watered, stared at, etc, it seems to enjoy the peace and quiet of the roof and the endless summer sunshine to bask in.  And really, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

Lemon trees are at home in a tropical climate.  Wisconsin is a foreign land to a lemon tree.  The roof is hot and sunny, the summer sun is abundant, and the humidity is just what the doctor ordered.

I don’t know what I’ll do in the fall.  If the plant still smells I won’t be able to bring it in the house.  I don’t have an outdoor area for overwintering plants that would be suitable for citrus.  I guess time will tell.

For now, I’m happy the tree is doing better and even happier that it has fruit on it.  Perhaps we’ll be enjoying lemons again soon.

This is the one ripe lemon I've harvested from my lemon tree... this was back in October last year.

Repotting the Lemon Tree

My dwarf meyer lemon tree came with the instructions to repot annually.  This being the tree’s third spring with us, we are on our third pot.  The pot is big this time!  One more size up and I’ll have to hire movers to haul the thing in and out of the house for me.

I’ve reported on this lemon tree before:  When life hands you one lemon…  and suffice to say the lemon tree and I have had our ups and downs.

But I’ve been looking forward to this annual tradition of repotting.  For one, I wanted to put them lemon tree in a more attractive pot.  I found a very nice brick red pot at my favorite gardening store, Stein Gardens and Gifts.  It’s a Wisconsin chain, so you won’t find them elsewhere.  But if you do come to Wisconsin it’s worth checking out.

My lemon tree has suffered from a few issues.  For one, it sets blooms but then they all fall off and I am left with no lemons.  I’m not sure why this happens, but I’ve heard that this is a problem for many indoor lemon tree growers.  The other problem is that it sheds it leaves a few times a year.  I’m not sure it can get the energy it needs from the sun with so few leaves to soak it in. 

To address the blossom problem I’ve decided to beef up the tree’s food supply.  As I put potting mix into the new pot, I added several cups of organic fruit fertilizer.  I am hoping that this will strengthen stem development because it seems that the stems supporting the blossoms just wimp out and break.

Just so you all know, this is my non-scientific totally untested solution to this problem.  As I’ve said before I work more on a “feel” basis.  I have no idea if this will work or not.   But after months of watching blossoms fall off my plant, it seems like the right thing to do.

As for the leaves, all I can hope is that the weather around here warms up and the tree can go back outside.  I know how this tree feels–cooped up in this house all winter getting a fraction of the sunlight it needs or desires.  I understand wanting to just sadly drop your leaves and look pathetic.  And it does look pathetic.  I’ve been taking it outside when weather permits.  I’m hoping soon it can just stay out there.  Especially since this new pot is so heavy!

I used an organic fertilizer in conjunction with some “moisture plus” potting mix.

I used Dr. Earth organic fruit fertilizer.

I blended the fertilizer with some fresh potting mix to fill the new pot, leaving some room for the lemon trees root system.

When I took the tree out of its current container I noticed a lack of large roots.  There was a system of smaller roots, but as I moved the plant out of the pot many of them broke free of the tree.  I hope I did not cause too much stress to the tree.  I tried to be gentle!

Perhaps the new pot, fertilizer and potting mix will invigorate the root system.

My son waters in the lemon tree.

My new pot is a few inches wider in diameter than the old one.

This new brick red pot is certainly an upgrade!

Something that bothers me about my lemon tree is a lack of a central trunk.  Maybe this is normal?  Leave a comment if you know anything about this.

I’m hopeful that the blossoms that are on the tree now will turn into lemons, at least a few of them!  They will certainly benefit from being outside where the bees can help them along, the sun can warm them and the breeze can make them strong.  The new pot with its healthier blend of potting mix should certainly be a help as well.  And now that the tree has more room to grow, it can support more fruit. 

Im cheering these blossoms on!

Well, little lemon tree… it’s up to you now!

Looking happier already, the lemon tree is getting settled into its new home.


With any luck well have some lemons in a few months. (Here is our lemon "crop" of 2010.)

Rhubarb: Freezer to Pie Plate

Nothing could be easier than growing rhubarb.  This perennial practically grows itself.  Our house came with an established rhubarb plant and I’ve done nothing but harvest stalks from it since we moved in.  I haven’t had to do anything else!  It’s so easy.

Our rhubarb plant in early May.

This past summer, I thought it might serve us well to put some rhubarb in the freezer, just in case we get a hankering for a taste of summer in the middle of January (as tends to happen).  Marking the amount on the outside of the bag, I set the washed, chopped and bagged rhubarb into the deep freeze.  Like my other time traveling foods, the rhubarb would be opened up again in another season, at another time… when it would seem somewhat exotic and out of the ordinary.   Several months in the freezer would elevate it from commonplace to commodity.

Rhubarb in the deep freeze.

After thawing in the refrigerator, the rhubarb is now ready to be made into something special–a rhubarb pie.  A tart and tangy treat to punctuate our dull January existence.  A nice change of pace from the heavier holiday desserts we are now trying to forget (or exercise off of ourselves, whatever the case may be).

For this pie I’ve decided to kick it old school, REALLY old school, and break out Betty Crocker’s 1951 Picture Cookbook.  This book just screams pie to me.  The red and white cover, the cute illustrations of homemakers in aprons.  And from what I can gather from my extensive mid-century cookbook reading, this was a time in America when people often did sit down with each other and enjoy a slice of pie and a cup of coffee (made in the percolator of course).  I have been thinking of making the rhubarb pie recipe in this book for a while now, and the time has come.

Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook: Kitchen companion of many a 1950's housewife.

What could be easier than pie? I must go put on an apron and pearls.

Recipe for Rhubarb Pie, and several practical variations for when you want something "special".


Mmmm… hello summer.  This will be great with coffee.  Rather than a percolator, I use a Keurig.  But the sentiment will be the same.

I’m sure Betty Crocker has a fine recipe for pie dough.  But my favorite pie dough recipe comes from my Gourmet cookbook, and can be found online HERE.  It combines butter and shortening to achieve tasty and flaky results.  It never fails.

Pie dough can time travel too.  It’s handy to have a few discs of dough in the freezer for when things start coming up in the garden.  Rhubarb pie of course, but how about a savory tomato pie or a salmon and swiss chard quiche?  Empanadas, spinach tarts or any sort of fruit galette would be tasty too.  Don’t forget the classics–berry or apple pie, yum!

When is a rhubarb a rose?  Sometimes it’s the little things in life–like a slice of rhubarb pie and a cup of coffee–that remind us to slow down, savor life, smell the roses as they say.   Enjoying my rhubarb harvest in the middle of January is a sweet-smelling rose among winter’s thorns.

When life hands you one lemon…

savor it!

In spring of 2009 I purchased a Dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree from Gurney’s.  For $9.99 I could grow citrus in my own home, here in Wisconsin.  What fun!

Meyer Lemon tree during it's first summer.

The lemon tree spent that first spring and summer outside, soaking in the sun and becoming healthy and strong.  September came around (it was a very cold fall here in Wisconsin that year) and the lemon tree moved indoors to overwinter with us in the comfort of our heated home.

Lo and behold that lemon tree blossomed!  I used a paintbrush to help it pollinate, after all we don’t have any bees in our house to do that duty.  I dutifully misted the tree to simulate the humidity it would have in it’s natural (much more tropical) environment.  I fertilized the tree and generally babied the thing.

And for all my hard work and dedication?  It produced one lemon.  Well, actually two.  But I picked one while it was green* so that the lemon tree could put all its effort into that one special lemon, after all they were growing on the same tiny branch, fighting each other for nutrients and whatever else lemons need to become plump and yellow.

*(Don’t despair lemon lovers, that green lemon spent a few weeks in my refrigerator, turned a shade of green/yellow that seemed edible and was used to add brightness to piece of tilapia that desperately needed it.  It certainly did not go to waste.)

The lemon.

And so the day arrived, and that one precious fruit was plucked from the tree.  Being a special lemon, I wanted to make sure it’s lemon-ness was showcased in the evening’s meal.  My brother was here for the occasion and snapped this photo of me preparing our lemon rosemary chicken.

Slicing into the prized fruit.

The meal was delicious, as most meals showcasing lemons tend to be.

Will there be a lemon in 2011?  I’m not sure.  Here is the tree in early December, loaded with fragrant blossoms.

Lemon tree preparing to burst with blossoms, early December.

Blossom of the Dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree.


And here is the tree now, noticeably void of blossoms and tiny green baby lemons.

Lemon tree, early January.

In order to justify the $9.99 spent on this lemon tree, it needs to grow about 19 more lemons.  But then, if we are being honest with ourselves, we gardeners can forgive a multitude of monetary sins in exchange for the pleasure our plants give us.  This lemon tree, though it hasn’t beared it’s fair share of fruit (yet–I’ll keep hope alive) has provided me with its beauty and perfume and in a weird way, companionship.  I tend to that plant nearly every day, and I sort of look forward to it.

Perhaps it will repay me with more lemons one day, but if not… I’ll still love it.