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Originally published Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 6:15 AM

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Q&A: Meyer lemon trees and winter-weary lawns

Readers ask garden writer Ciscoe Morris about growing a Meyer lemon tree and improving a winter-battered lawn.


Special to The Seattle Times

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

Puget Sound Dahlia Association Tuber Sale: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday, March 28, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, March 29. Faith Lutheran Church, 8208 18th Ave. N.E., Seattle (www.pugetsounddahlias.org).

Best of the Northwest Spring Art Show: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, March 29, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 30. Ciscoe Morris speaks at 1 p.m. March 30. Hangar 30, Magnuson Park, 7400 Sand Point Way N.E., Seattle; $6 at the door, various discounts online (www.nwartalliance.com).

Great Plant Picks for Shade: 11 a.m. Sunday, March 30. Swansons Nursery, 9701 15th Ave. N.W., Seattle; free (www.swansonsnursery.com).

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In the Garden

Q: I’d like to grow a Meyer lemon tree. Is it tricky?

A: If you’ve never grown your own citrus tree, you’re missing out on incredibly fragrant flowers, delicious fruit and lustrous foliage. The Improved Meyer lemon tree produces sweet and juicy lemons because it is actually a cross between a lemon and an orange.

These little trees are easy to prune and can easily be maintained at 3 feet tall and wide. They’re hardy to only about 40 degrees, so bring them in the house during the winter. They make delightful houseplants because the winter flowers fill the house with exquisite fragrance.

When you bring your lemon indoors, locate it where it will get as bright light as possible such as a south or west window. When you buy a Meyer lemon, don’t transplant it. Rather, leave it in the nursery pot and place the nursery pot inside a more attractive container for display purposes. Citrus plants prefer to be rootbound.

Wait two to four years; then transplant only when water runs right through into the saucer. Transplant it into cactus-potting mix and choose a container only 1-inch bigger. Water only when the pot feels very light. It’s critical to allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings, especially in winter. Keep humidity high by placing your citrus on a pebble tray, and spritz often. Work organic citrus food into the soil every six weeks from March through September.

In early May, put the plant outdoors for the summer but acclimate it slowly to full-sun. Finally, search out lots of recipes for lemon bars and lemon daiquiris. With a little luck, your 3-foot by 3-foot plant will pump out almost three dozen juicy lemons per year!

Q: My lawn took a hit over the cold winter. Is there anything I can do now to make it look better?

A: If you maintain your lawn at 2 inches like I do (rather than the putting-green type) there are some important tasks you can do in March that will make a huge difference in the health, vigor and appearance of your lawn for the rest of summer.

As soon as the soil dries out a little and contains the same moisture as a squeezed sponge, rent an aerator machine. Use the machine to punch about 12 gazillion holes in your lawn. Don’t worry about raking up the plugs, because it’s practically impossible, and they’ll break down in no time anyway.

Buy grass seed that is as close as you can find to a 50-50 mix by weight of perennial rye and fine fescue and spread it over the lawn before raking it into the holes. Get as much of the seed into the holes as possible to ensure germination.

Immediately follow up with an application of organic lawn food and keep the soil surface moist at all times until the new seedlings reach mowing height, after which the grass can be slowly weaned to the normal watering schedule.

Keep in mind that aerators are big, heavy machines. You might want to hire someone from a lawn-care company to do this job for you.

Ciscoe Morris: ciscoe@ciscoe.com “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING 5.



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