How to Grow an Organic Lemon Tree

Love the idea of cooling off on hot summer days with a glass of your own home-grown, organic lemonade? The only difference between growing an organic or conventional lemon tree (Citrus limon) lies in your choice of a care regime. Organic fertilizer, mulch and pest-control keep toxic chemicals out of your soil, water and harvest. For the organic care basics, read on!


Organic Care at Planting

For a head start on organic disease control, plant your lemon tree in:

  • A weed-free site well away from grass. Both steal moisture and nutrients.
  • Full sun (eight or more hours per day). In the hottest parts of USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11, protecting your young tree with a shade cloth prevents leaf scorch.
  • Very well-drained soil. Poor drainage invites root rot disease. If necessary, plant in a 3- to 4-foot raised bed.

Plant right after your last spring frost so the tree establishes before summer heat sets in.

Organic Mulch

Maintaining a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch around your lemon tree reduces root-disturbing weeding. It also regulates soil temperature, another root benefit.

Expert gardener’s tip: Decomposing organic mulch feeds soil microorganisms. When their waste separates its particles, poorly draining soil becomes more porous.

Free or inexpensive organic mulches include:

  • Herbicide-free grass clippings or leaves
  • Wood chips
  • Compost

Organic Fertilizer

Replace one-third of the soil removed from your planting hole with compost and mix in 1 cup (250ml) of organic, 5-2-6 citrus fertilizer granules. Work this mixture into the remaining soil, refill the hole and water well.

After the tree has 8 inches of vertical growth, fertilize three times annually: in late winter before flowering, in spring after flowering and in September. Apply the fertilizer in these amounts:

  • Under 3 feet tall: 6 cups (1.3 liters)
  • Between 3 and 6 feet: 12 cups (2.6 liters)
  • Between 6 and 9 feet: 18 cups (4 liters)
  • Over 9 feet: 24 cups (5.3 liters)

Organic Pest-Control

When controlling soft-bodied, sap-sucking pests such as aphids, scale and whiteflies, organic insecticidal soap spray is your best friend.

If no pollinating insects are around, spray the entire tree to runoff. Rinse it after a few hours and repeat every three days until the insects leave.

Snail Control

To keep snails off your lemon tree leaves, wrap the trunk with a 4-inch wide strip of 5-mil copper foil available from your garden store.

Organic Pest Prevention

Keep harmful bugs off your lemon tree by releasing beneficial ones, such as ladybugs and lacewings, to prey on them. These good bugs effectively manage aphids, mealybugs , whiteflies and thrips.

Expert gardener’s tip: To make sure the good bugs find and stay near your lemon tree, plant herbs with umbrella-shaped blossoms, such yarrow and dill, close by.