Lemon Hope

My lemon tree has had a strange winter. It’s shot up by a few feet and is about as tall as I am. And it’s lost a lot of its leaves…

Both very good reasons to give it a bigger pot.


This tree has never given me a lemon and perhaps it never will, but I love it anyway.

I planted it from a seed three years ago when I moved to Providence. In a fit of gardening I went to the grocery store and bought every food I thought I could plant. The only remnants are this tree and my prized ugly rosemary bush, grown from a sprig.

I bought a 16″ pot with a false bottom that’s supposed to be self-watering. Citrus trees need a lot of water, so I’m hoping this helps.


First I had to get the tree out of its old pot. I gently turned it on its side. Some loose soil fell out, but but almost all of it was bound up in the root ball.

Cat for scale.IMG_4254

It took some doing to get the root ball out of the pot. I banged on the sides and bottom and yanked gently on the trunk. The trunk is a good centimeter in diameter and very woody, but this was rougher than I wanted to be with it. I was about to get the shears to cut the pot away when the whole thing popped out all at once.


The roots had started to circle around the bottom – not ideal. I loosened them up a little with my fingers, so hopefully they’ll spread out in their new home.


I made a bed of a few inches of potting soil and set the tree on top of it. At some point in the winter it sprouted this new little stalk from the base of its trunk. It’s the healthiest part of the tree and my failsafe – if the main plant gets worse I’ll lop everything off and hope this little guy makes it.

There are some new leaves higher up, though, so I’m hoping for the best.


I filled the pot up too high with potting soil and worked in some kelp meal. I’ll have to research what lemon trees like to eat, but in the meantime I get the impression that you can’t go wrong with kelp.


I filled the pot even more too high with buckwheat hulls to keep the moisture in. My dad has forever put bits and bobs in his potted plants, so I do too. They’re especially helpful for holding the hulls in place and dispersing the watering can’s stream more evenly.

The bits and bobs featured here are oyster and scallop shells, a rusted railroad tie, and some rocks from Iceland.


I’ve put the tree in a dappled shade part of the driveway. I’ll move it to full sun eventually, but this is already a big change from its window inside, and I don’t want it getting scorched.

Hopefully it starts to recover those lost leaves.


Maybe someday I’ll even get a lemon.

A Mulberry Invasion

20150611_101426_HDRIn a way, I’ve been making mulberry wine for two years now. The neighbors don’t have much going on in their yard, but they have one mulberry tree with production rates any orchard owner would be proud of. And it hangs mostly over our driveway. Which means the berries ripen, fall off, and make a vinegary sludge an inch deep.

I know it’ll be a challenge, but this summer I’m hoping to improve upon this setup. Last year my friend Tommy and I got our act together enough to collect one crumble’s worth of fruit, with some heavy 20140713_174232supplementation from other berries scrounged from the community garden and the woods. We called the crumble Fruits of the Forest, and my hat still has stains.

This is a year of proactivity, however, so my plan is to collect the ripe berries daily and freeze them, hopefully accumulating enough to make mulberry wine, which I vaguely remember being drunk at a Redwall feast. If not, it’ll be Fruits of the Forest time again.

As you can see, the invasion has already begun in earnest.20150613_134109_HDR Twice now I’ve gotten out the hose and blasted them into the street, but by the next morning they’re always back in about this thickness. I don’t want to scavenge them off the ground, since they don’t handle the impact well and start to smell vinegary pretty quickly. I’ve had dreams of hanging hammocks to catch them, but with the bird traffic around here I’m afraid I’ll catch just as much poo.


I don’t have any pictures of the actual event, but here’s a lively re-enactment.

My roommate’s mother visited recently, and she was having flashbacks to shaking mulberry trees in Iran with a big sheet held out to catch the berries. I adapted this method by laying out a bunch of newspaper and whacking the tree with a broom. It was not a booming success. I took out just as many unripe berries as ripe ones, and when they hit the newspaper most of them bounced or rolled away.


In place of that technique, I’m now opting for hand-picking. I find it strangely soothing.

Since our driveway is Birdtown, USA, my initial plan was to pick the berries when they were nearly ripe, then let them sit on the counter for a day or two before freezing them. The birds and I have formed a strange truce, though. They ravage the top branches and leave the ones I can reach, so the berries I’ve been collecting are actually nice and ripe. I’ll have to look into this bond I’ve apparently formed with the natural world and use it to my advantage somehow.20150613_151913_HDR

So far I’ve collected and frozen 5 1/2 pounds of the things, and the tree is showing no signs of stopping.

Man, I hope mulberry wine is good.