How to keep a very cold lime happy

How to keep a lime happy, even in the cold.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - CONTENTS -

The Meyer lemon

is tra­di­tion­ally touted as the hardi­est and eas­i­est cit­rus va­ri­ety to grow in New Zealand’s vary­ing cli­mates, which bor­der some­where be­tween alpine and trop­i­cal, of­ten both be­fore break­fast.

Most cit­rus pre­fer no frost and warm con­di­tions with­out snow or strong winds, such as coastal gar­dens which are well shel­tered. But af­ter 20 years of spe­cial­is­ing in grow­ing hardy cit­rus trees or­gan­i­cally, I can thor­oughly rec­om­mend the Mex­i­can Lime. Mex­i­can Lime seems at least as hardy – I have seen it sit out in hail and many frosts at -6°C – so if you have a sur­viv­ing Meyer lemon, chances are a Mex­i­can lime will also suc­ceed in your cli­mate.

My small tree has sat out­side now for 10 win­ters, hardly touched by frost up against the warm side of the house, open to the heavy rains from the north west. It

WORDS BEN GAIA flow­ers and bears fruit so pro­lif­i­cally here that you can pretty much pluck a lime for your gin and tonic all year round.

The limes are green at first but if not picked they turn or­ange and look like small man­darins. This is a great con­ver­sa­tion piece, es­pe­cially if your place is too cold for man­darins.

Cit­rus re­ally don’t like frost and only very spe­cific va­ri­eties will han­dle it. I’ve found the magic se­cret for beat­ing frost is to wa­ter and feed through the cold­est part of win­ter with sea­weed-based prepa­ra­tions. The boost of trace el­e­ments and salty, sea­side en­ergy the sea­weed pro­vides are like a sec­ond skin for your cit­rus trees on frosty nights. Last win­ter, I lost only two out of 16 cit­rus va­ri­eties, left out­side in a se­ries of -6°C frosts. They were shel­tered from the south and east (our cold­est winds) in large con­tain­ers.

Frost dam­age is re­ally a lack of wa­ter avail­able to the plant cells. Through the frosti­est time of win­ter, make sure trees are fre­quently wa­tered, and fed with di­luted sea­weed prepa­ra­tions in a wa­ter­ing can. Boom!

A good fall­back pro­tec­tion is an old folded sack thrown over the top of the

bush on a mean starry win­ter night or, if you have the op­tion, site plants in a ven­ti­lated, ir­ri­gated hot­house with at least one wall that can be opened for pol­li­na­tion by bees in sum­mer.

I got my Mex­i­can Lime from Fly­ing Dragon Cit­rus Nurs­ery in Kerik­eri in the Far North. The name refers to the dwarf­ing cit­rus root­stock which is a good op­tion for grow­ing tub plants as they can be trimmed into large bon­sai-like bushes and won’t out­grow the tub.

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