In the Garden

When George Gives You Lemons


George the lemon tree


It finally happened.  George, our Meyer lemon tree, produced real, honest-to-goodness lemons!

When we last left off (nearly a year ago?!), I had done my best to pollenate George's flowers and we had three baby lemons that seemed to have stuck.  They were small and hard and green.

Slowly they began to grow.  I remember taking note of the point where they were about the size of golfballs, still green.  After that, it seemed as though they never grew any larger--until I'd cup one in my hand and realize it was beginning to fill my palm.  And then, all of a sudden, they were baseball-sized and turning yellow.


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Lessons in Gardening


2011 Garden
(This year's garden, presently.)


Last year I took my first stab at gardening.  Certain things were fairly successful—I grew a moderate amount of thyme, a few cherry tomatoes, and more basil than I knew what to do with.  The rest of the things I grew pretty much failed, some for clearer reasons than others.  Periods of neglect due to pre-wedding travel played a significant role in much of my garden’s demise, but, by the end of the season, I knew that there were other things I could have done differently along the way.


2010 successes
(Successes from 2010: abundant basil, thyme, tomatoes)


This year I’ve made a few tweaks, pulling from what seemed to be last year’s mistakes and stumbling upon a few new tips purely out of circumstance.  I’m already having more success.  Here are some of the things that I’ve learned:


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And Then There Were Three

I have some good news--and I'm hoping that my sharing it today doesn't karmically result in said news dropping straight off the tree tomorrow morning. But here it is:

We have lemons.


Baby lemons


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The 3rd Rise of George II


New buds


I haven’t been posting a whole lot about George. The truth is, there just hasn’t been much to tell. In case you’re unfamiliar, George is our Meyer lemon tree. Well, officially he’s a Meyer lemon tree. In actuality, he’s mostly just been a tree.

Last summer, I got very excited when he made his first round of flowers. Unfortunately, I learned that both excitement and flowers do not beget lemons. A few months later, he made his second round of flowers. I mostly kept quiet the second time because I wasn’t sure that anything would come of it, and I didn’t want to count my lemons before they grew. Round two did yield the first promising sign that George was growing in the right direction. Little green baby lemons, tucked down in the petals of his flowers showed me that he was at least trying. They didn’t last, though. A few days after the flower petals fell, the lemon babies dropped off too.


Baby Lemon


So why am I back to talking about George now?


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George II


Remember George?


New leaves


I introduced him a few months ago. Nothing very interesting happened with him for a while after that, save for growing a few new leaves. New leaves are nice, but they're hardly post-worthy. The past month or so, however, has been a bit of a roller coaster with our little lemon-bearer.

As the days grew warmer, I figured that George, being a citrus tree and all, would like to step outside and enjoy the sun. So I carried him onto our balcony. I can't say whether he enjoyed the sun, though, because all I ever saw was how much he hated even the slightest breeze. George was sort of a wuss, but it was partly my fault for keeping him cooped up inside.

I figured some tough love was in order.

I left him out there, figured he could get strong and deal with it. How was he ever going to hold lemons from those wimpy branches of his if he couldn't even withstand a little wind? "Deal with it George," I told him. "It's for your own good."

Sometimes I forget how exactly how much wind we can get up here and, one day, George got thrown around something fierce. I brought him back in. He looked awful. His leaves were hanging limply, curled into themselves. I apologized and hoped with all my might that, being back inside and able to rest, his tattered leaves would heal.

In the coming days, a few leaves lifted and I took this as a good sign. But then, the majority of his leaves began to turn brown and dry up and fall off. Occasionally, I'd walk by and pick off the obvious dead ones. I think Nilla caught onto this, because she began to reach up and pluck off leaves as well. Except she went for the healthy ones. Between losing nearly three quarters of his leaves to wind damage and our dog-turned-giraffe, George was beginning to look like a dead plant potted.


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How My Zucchini Grows


I mentioned that my zucchini plants have been up to a little something lately and promised I'd share. About a week ago, I woke up and looked outside to see this:



It literally happened overnight. One day I had a good-sized but innocuously green bud nestled down among the leaves and the next there was this orange-yellow blossom nudging it's way through. I was thrilled.

Then it opened up, closed back up, and fell off.

But the next day I had another!


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Green & Greener


A couple weeks ago, I was very excited to show you all how far my garden had come. Everything was planted, things were starting to come up in every container. It was beginning to look like a real garden.

And then there was that weekend. That one weekend. Fifty mile an hour winds or something crazy like that. I had one of those regrettable brain lapses where I forgot that I have a container garden and that container gardens are, by nature, mobile. I only had the realization when it was too late, of course, at which point I said something along the lines of, "I think I should bring the plants inside." Six hours earlier would've been nice.

I left them inside for the weekend and I didn't touch them. I wasn't ready to deal with what damage may have occurred and I wanted to give them time to heal. When I finally looked, I found that I had lost my Round Two cucumbers, both of my tomato plants, and all but one radish. Some of my herbs looked a little mangled, one kale plant was in disrepair, and my zucchini were a bit worse for wear, but I knew these were all things that could recover.

Fortunately I had saved one of each tomato plant indoors, just in case, and was able to move those outside. We'll see how they'll fare, but this might be a tomato-less year. I sowed brand new cucumbers--if they don't stick this time, I'll find something else to plant in its stead. So far, things are looking up. In the two weeks since, everything has been flourishing. Once again, it is starting to look like a real garden.

It's amazing to watch the progression. It's exciting but it's also an exercise in patience. Because there isn't yet any fruit, Chris especially feels like nothing's happening. Sometimes it feels like things are moving slowly for me too, and then I'll look at pictures taken just days before and realize how fast the plants are actually growing. Below I've done a little before and after. The before pictures were taken on May 7th (the day before the windstorm) and the after pictures were taken today.

The zucchini have been the rockstars. I'll show you soon what they've been up to most recently--it's very exciting. Look here though, the leaves are now as big as my hand!



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Hardening Off is Hard to Do

It's been a couple weeks since my last garden update, and I am sad to report that we've run across our first real complication. My cucumber plants, poor little babies, first ones to sprout from the soil, have taken a terminal turn for the worse.



When you start seeds indoors, with the intent of eventually moving them into the outside world, you must go through a transition period called "hardening off". Your tender little seedlings have been living in the warmth, comfort, and protection of the inside and are completely unfamiliar with things like temperature variation, weather, and wind. Wind is especially a concern if you live in a high rise on a riverfront.



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Caution: Radishes



On Friday, I transplanted my zucchini and cucumber seedlings into the the containers in which they'll spend their days this summer. They're still living inside most of the time, but those little seedlings were quickly outgrowing their peat pots, snaking roots out the bottom and sides, just begging for more room to grow. So, I figured that since I was moving them into their new homes, I might as well introduce them to their new roommates.

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