Lemon trees ideally like between 50-80 degrees (f), so who in their right mind would try to grow one outdoors through winter? That’s what I thought too, but one of our neighbours is doing just that! The first winter I noticed their lemon tree it was about five feet tall, surrounded in repurposed old windows, a topper made of what, I don’t know (maybe wood?), and a warming light parked at its base. Their plant was busting out lemons in the darkest season of the year, like a Christmas tree with bright yellow ornaments! They weren’t small, weakly things either. Nope, they were large, happy lemons!
Last winter, due to my lack of plant-parenting, the baby lemon tree placed in the ground nearly froze to death. I had not built a proper “lemon house” for it in a timely fashion. By spring this year it was barely recognizable, just a little clump of dead looking twigs with thorns, and a tiny, barely green leaf. I didn’t know lemon trees grew thorns and worried it had turned into some revengeful Frankenstein plant looking for blood! Turns out they may grow thorns for a period of time to protect themselves. Understandable.
After a thoroughly sunny spring and summer, and lots of apologies and prayers from me, the baby lemon tree sprung back to life! Woohoo! The regeneration power of plants is absolutely astounding! I reassured the lemon tree that last year’s negligence would not be repeated, and immediately went to the local Rebuild Center to buy four, used windows. Unfortunately, only three of the same size were available. A small stone wall was built for the fourth side instead, using remnant bricks from a prior landscape project. This stone wall design is an attempt to apply the permaculture design of utilising stone to absorb the winter sun’s light which may further insulate the tree from cold. The stones are not perfectly fit, gaps exist between the stones and windows. Perhaps some rolled up bubble wrap wedged into the spaces will do the trick (one way to repurpose those bubble wrap mailings no one will recycle).
I’m hoping this will be successful because I don’t have enough south-facing windows to grow the tree indoors during winter, nor the desire to drag it in and out of the house each season. Mid-November temps in the pacific nw are currently around high 50 / low 35 degrees (f), but we often get a few degrees cooler due to the nearby river. I checked the outdoor thermometer at 5:15 pm and it was already 40 degrees outside. Within ten minutes of installing the thermometer inside the lemon house you can see the temp boosted to 50, even with air gaps in the house design!
With a little pre-planning, picking the ideal sunny location, gathering the parts from a recycling place (if possible), and making use of what’s on hand, it’s pretty easy to do. May this little project inspire you plant lovers who want to beat the odds and try growing lemon trees in winter. Would love to hear any other creative plant ideas you’ve come up with. Please share in the comment section below.
Clearly my dog likes the results! 💚 🐶