It’s hard to ignore the colours of citrus during winter. The long fruiting run - that commences way back at the peak of summer (with a burst of white flowers and citrus scents) - is one of the most drawn out gardening processes. In fact it is so long winded that it’s almost forgotten about…. until the bright colours burst through the winter gloom.
Anyone without a lemon tree notices this phenomena more than most. For one, you should immediately commit it to the memory map of where to find free food (however a door knock for permission is preferable). But it’s also that seasonal reminder of the joy you should be experiencing, if only you had planted that tree when you intended.
Somewhere along the way however you’ve had heartache, maybe even heartbreak, and definitely a deal of uncertainty at what you’re really looking for in a lemon tree. But now - at the peak of fruiting - we’re actually not far off the best time for planting a tree too and ensuring you don’t miss out again next season. Even those that hold memory like water, won’t have time to disassociate; lemons hold so well on the tree, there will still be a bunch of reminders dangling in front of you come spring.
So what are the lemon options? Lemons, just ain’t lemons. Let’s look at the differences in terms of their juice, skin, tree characteristics, along with the climates they grown in best.
Widely accepted as the best all-round acidic lemon to grow, Eureka also has the benefit of having no spikes on the plant. This you’ll be pleased about come harvesting time. Although it grows well in temperate parts of the country, it will need some protection from the cold while establishing, but then will be more than happy. In sub-tropical parts of the country it will fruit virtually all year round, however in cooler parts it will mostly crop in the winter time.
Fruit: large acidic juice, perfect for setting jams etc and for cooking purposes, with a thick rind and shiny yellow skin.
Tree characteristics: grows to 3-4m tall, no spikes, good for pots but best to choose a variety with dwarf root stock
With very similar fruit characteristic to the Eureka, it is more tolerant of both the cold and hot, but it is less prolific in terms of fruiting - providing a heavy winter crop rather than multiple flushes. The negative is that it will become a large, prickly tree with its many spikes protecting it from would be rouge pickers, but not the possums unfortunately (although to clarify, possum favour foliage over fruit).
Fruit: large acidic juice, also perfect for jam setting and cooking, with a thick rind and good quality skin.
Tree characteristics: grows to 3-4m tall, with plenty of spikes. Best to choose dwarf root stock when planting in pots
Thought to be a cross between a lemon and an orange, the Meyer is a more compact, bushier tree that produces smaller, sweeter tasting fruit. A good one for the lemonade stand rather than setting jams and cooking, each lemon - which turns a deep golden colour when ripe - produces plenty of juice. More suited to cooler climates than the other lemon varieties.
Fruit: mid sized fruit that has a less acidic, sweeter juice with a thin rind.
Tree characteristics: grows to 2m in height and as such is perfectly suited to growing in pots, even without dwarf root stock.
The Lemonade tree is a cross between a lemon and mandarin that has plenty of sweet tasting fruit that can be eaten fresh. A heavy winter fruiter, it can also produce a second summer flush in warmer climates. Another good one for the lemonade stand however the kids will need help harvesting the fruit as the tree tends to have a number of sharp thorns throughout.
Fruit: mid sized fruit, bright yellow in colour when ripe, with a thin rind much like the Meyer. Perfect for the lemonade stand or eating fresh like an orange.
Tree characteristics: an upright grower that is not as heavy with foliage as the other varieties, it grows to 4m tall.