Oranges & lemons in the Hays County garden

Have you ever thought about picking oranges from your own orange tree? Or having the fragrance of a lemon grove wafting in through your bedroom window?

Although we’re a little far north for commercial citrus, I’ve found that here in Hays County we can have lots of fun growing our own lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges from seed. The trick is to sow the seed while it is moist and fresh.

First of all take a trip to your local grocery store and buy some of your favorite fruit. Store the seeds in the fridge and be sure to keep them moist. I put seeds in a coffee cup with a damp paper towel in it, adding to it over time.

When you have enough, place them in seedling cell trays filled with peat moss and perlite or vermiculite.

Cover them lightly, and water them in with a fan sprayer, and put them in a sunny, warm location.

The first seedlings will germinate in about 20 days and will continue to do so for a month or two. When they reach a height of 4 – 5” I transplant them into 4” pots filled with a high quality potting soil such as Metro or Scott’s. 

Citrus grown from seed can take up to five years to flower … so you have to be patient!

If you want fruit faster, then buy a grafted citrus – which will  bloom in its first year. Some of the most popular ones are calamondin and meyers lemon.

Calamondin is a cross between a tangerine and a kumquat. In the Philippines they create a lemonade-like drink from these slightly sour fruits. Meyer’s lemon – large and sweet – is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.

It is best to grow your citrus in a container because our winters are a little too cold. Citrus trees become unhappy when the temperature drops below the mid-20s.

If you want to plant them in the ground, look for a protected micro-climate on the south side of your house, preferably close to a rock wall. Northern exposure is pretty rough on them.

Some gardeners protect their citrus by covering them during the coldest nights. A customer in Shady Hollow has built a two-wheel cart, and whenever the temperature drops down into the twenties and he simply rolls his orange trees into the garage for protection.

Happy gardening everyone … and Happy Father’s Day too!

If you have a question for Chris, send it via email to iathyme@yahoo.com. Or mail a postcard to It’s About Thyme, 11726 Manchaca Road, Austin, TX 78748 itsaboutthyme.com

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