Hello again, savvy savers! I hope the New Year, and end to the first week of the New Year, finds you joyful, peaceful, and teeming with resolutions in the making!
For this weeks Gardening On A Budget Post, I wanted to share what I have been up to this week, gardening-wise, and that is the care of my indoor dwarf Meyer Lemon, Mandarin, and Key Lime trees! For the first few years of my childhood, I lived on Signal Hill in Long Beach, California, and our home was surrounded by thick, flourishing citrus trees. When my Mother needed to relocate to the Jersey Shore for work, her love of citrus followed us, and since she always maintained citrus trees, and for the past few years I have done the same here is good Ole Mississippi!
Today I have a terrible secret: Previous to this past year, all of my indoor citrus trees keep dying. No matter how I carefully planted, nurtured, and tended to each beauty, they just did not seem to be flourishing as they should. Though trial, tribulation, and a lot of study this past year, I have found ways to help my plants start to flourish, and hopefully these tips may be able to help you, too!
1) Humidity: Did you know that most indoor environments have around 10 percent humidity, whereas most citrus producing tress thriving outdoors need closer to 50 percent or more humidity to thrive? So, many of you might be thinking of using a humidifier at this point, and while you can in short stints, this is not a great long-term solution, as over time humidifiers can cause mold, mildew, and paint peeling. An affordable solution? A humidity tray. Get a saucer or tray two inches in diameter larger that your citrus plant. Fill the tray with a single sheet of stones, and then fill the reservoir 3/4 full of water; refill the tray every fourth day. This method will give the trees enough natural, filtered humidity to mimic their natural outdoor elements. The Dollar Tree has an excellent variety of trays, and river rocks for that matter, which will work great for this budget-savvy project, too! Also, be sure to move trees outdoors for twelve hours stints, when weather permits, making sure to leave them in full, filtered sun, and return to the indoors two to three hours before nightfall; wheeled trays make this task easy!
2) Wind: Buildings, particularly homes newer than a decade old, tend to be airtight in nature, which can cause stagnant air. Citrus trees need air circulation, so whenever possible move plants outdoors in nice weather, and in winter when moving plants outdoors is not optional, use ceiling or tower fans, for eight hours daily to mimic ideal wind patterns in your home. Also, as Spring approaches, consider opening windows and doors for small stints of time as well, but be aware that winterizing citrus trees indoors can cause thinner leaves to form, and so to prevent sun damage to your citrus, never leave plants outdoors more than a few hours at a time starting in March of each year.
3) Moisture: I knew my trees were veering away from the primrose path when I started to notice curling, yellowed leaves. Why does this happen? Well, obviously this condition is due to a lack of watering and moisture, but moreover its because plants that get too dry, allow salts to crystallize in root structures. Salts, when soil are wet, are soluble and will not harm plants and act as a great source of plant nourishing nitrogen, but when soil dries out, salts will accumulate in the soil drying plants out. To prevent yellowing leaves, keep plants moist by watering plants every fourth day, and spraying lightly with a spray bottle every other day; make sure to not water-log plants to prevent rotting, too! A good tip for proper moisture balance, if the sides of the pot is cool to the touch, but the top is slightly dry, wait one more day, and then water as needed.
4) Fertilize: Another point to note that yellow leaves can able to be due to chlorosis, a lack of chlorophyll. Simply put, your tree is malnourished, and becomes stresses as a result. Citrus trees need a monthly dose of 18-18-18 fertilizer, and in the spring, when taken outdoors for Summer, remove two inches of soil around your citrus and replace with compost.
5) Sunshine: Spoiler alert…citrus trees require a minimum of twelve hours a day of sunlight to thrive, and the filtered light in most homes, like my own, is probably inadequate; unless you have rooms with constant, consistent sources of the perfect light trip, western, northern, and southern exposures, like a terrace or Florida room. So, be sure to leave blinds pulled up, windows opened, and allow your plant as much light expose as possible, during the day. I also hang light strips over my plants to increase light, especially during bought of drizzle, rain, or gloomy days!
So, folks those are my tips for growing citrus on a budget, indoors this winter! While this may seem like a ton of work, giving your citrus the upper hand, by way of affordable, budget strategies, and you will not only be able to immolate the perfect outdoor growing conditions, but begin to grow it needs to grow beautiful, thriving indoor citrus trees.
Just remember: When in doubt, add more sunshine, moisture, and nutrients!
Here’s to gardening on a budget,