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lemon tree guild - comfrey in particular

 
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Hi everyone, I'm new here so please forgive me if this question has been answered before, BUT I haven't seemed to have been able to find the answer to it -

I have just planted a young lemon tree in full sun in my front yard (which is really a front low bank).  It was in its nursery bag for too long, and seems a little yellow about the leaves, also the ants seem to love it.

I suspect it has sappy pests on it that attract the ants, and would like to put some companion plants around it.  I have heard good things about onions, rosemary, dill, and calendula.  

I also have a very small comfrey plant that I am considering planting under the lemon tree.  People seem to have success with comfrey under their fruit trees.  My question is, would it be okay under a meyer lemon tree, and how far away from the base of the tree to plant it? And any of the other companion plants for that matter?

Thanks so much for your time and advice, guys.  This is all totally new territory for me!
 
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Welcome to permies A Raaymakers! I'm afraid I need better infrastructure before tackling lemons as we don't get warm enough here, but in the last year I've added comfrey to the north side (shady side in BC, Canada where I am) and I've been amazed how happy the comfrey has been, and the fruit trees (one's an Italian Prune Plum and one's an Espaliered Nashi Pear) seem just as happy if not happier. I think the comfrey shades the ground better than the grass that was there.

I've also added some in between a pair of Hazelnut shrubs. One shrub is *very* happy, but the second one less so although that's at least partly due to the fact that the deer seem better able to get to it.

Giving us some idea of your ecosystem - soil type, rain levels, temps - might help people give other ideas!
 
A Raaymakers
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Thank you, Jay Angler!

Well, we live in the North Island of New Zealand, I believe the weather where I am is considered temperate.  We have been having cold but sunny winter days recently, although not TOO cold - its 16 degrees Celsius outside at the moment.  

The lemon tree is planted on a grassy bank with quite sandy soil.  We get a decent amount of rain here, I'd say.  (How do you measure rain levels?) I have mulch around the lemon tree.  I am considering extending its surrounding garden bed, so getting rid of the grass around it, and planting beneficial plants, and mulching down.

From what I've gleaned over the internet, comfrey seems very desirous around trees like peach, and pears, but I'm so curious about lemons - it seems hard to find its companionship status with citrus!!

 
 
Jay Angler
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I have the book, "Carrots love Tomatoes" by Louise Riotte and on pg 101, she claims that "Lime, lemon, orange and grapefruit trees grow better in the area of guava, live oak, or rubber trees, which apparently exert a protective influence."

Those seem like pretty big trees! This article - https://www.agrifarming.in/guava-production - claims there are dwarf guava, so that might have potential, although sometimes dwarf trees need far too much care, particularly regular watering. I've buried wood around trees to hold moisture in the soil to decrease the frequency of watering - sometimes we have drought from May to Oct, although recently it's been rainier and I've only had to water my two riskier trees twice during the heat of our summer, about 3 weeks apart.

You asked how you measure rain levels, but as I'm sure you can guess, it's just not that simple. We get *lots* of rain in the winter, but there's not much sun then and only some useful plants will be growing then. The more carbon you can get into your soil, the more you can get rain to deeply infiltrate your soil, the more your plants will look after themselves. Unfortunately, the best way to do that is dependent on your eco-system and the scale you're working with.  You may just have to use trial and error and take lots of notes and hopefully, keep us posted so we can learn from what worked for you!
 
A Raaymakers
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Yes, I'm really seeing that it is going to be trial and error... but everyone started somewhere! Interesting about the carbon to help get water into the soil.  We have lots of oak leaves on the ground at the moment, so will use those!
 
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Hey, you may already know about these, but I found this:  http://archive.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/environment/environmental-reporting-series/environmental-indicators/Home/Atmosphere-and-climate/annual-rain.aspx with a cool interactive map about halfway down.

It also points to https://data.mfe.govt.nz/data/category/environmental-reporting/atmosphere-climate/precipitation/ which looks like more information than you can ever need

Obviously you could be in a weird microclimate, so you might want to invest in a rain gauge, which looks like it goes from $4 for utilitarian to $20 for adorably kitschy, both of which you'd have to check and record on a regular basis.  Or there are electronic versions that should do the recording for you for $40.

I have no advice for comfrey (or lemon trees, I wish!) except that you should expect it to grow bigger than expected, and even the sterile versions will gradually advance to new places.  (Sayanora, the back row of my annual bed!  At least it looks nice, and the bees like it.  Argh.)
 
A Raaymakers
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How fascinating, I HAD NO IDEA those pages existed!!! Haha, so thank you!!! I will look into them right away.  I told you I was a newbie...
 
Jay Angler
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A Raaymakers wrote:How fascinating, I HAD NO IDEA those pages existed!!! Haha, so thank you!!! I will look into them right away.  I told you I was a newbie...

I've been around for a while but it *still* took an email to the "contact us" link to figure out where on the Environment Canada site there was a chart of average monthly precipitation. Monthly percip is way more useful than average yearly when you're planning a garden, guild or food forest. If you can't find one for your region in the links Morfydd St. Clair kindly posted, I recommend you contact the office and ask. I got a polite and prompt reply and I've now got my local link book-marked! That info coupled with what our ministry refers to as "Historical weather" can allow me to fairly quickly check approximately how much rain we've had and therefore how stressed some plants might be getting  before it's too late to give them a little assistance. I don't want to baby plants - I want them to grow deep roots and need little to no watering - but sometimes with young plants when you've only got one or two of a variety, I consider that a long-term goal that may require 3-5 years of decreasing the frequency of watering and building the soil to accomplish.
 
A Raaymakers
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thank you again for weighing in.  Much food for thought for me.  Still not much clue on the comfrey/lemon coupling though!
 
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A Raaymakers wrote:Thank you, Jay Angler!

Well, we live in the North Island of New Zealand, I believe the weather where I am is considered temperate.  We have been having cold but sunny winter days recently, although not TOO cold - its 16 degrees Celsius outside at the moment.  

The lemon tree is planted on a grassy bank with quite sandy soil.  We get a decent amount of rain here, I'd say.  (How do you measure rain levels?) I have mulch around the lemon tree.  I am considering extending its surrounding garden bed, so getting rid of the grass around it, and planting beneficial plants, and mulching down.

From what I've gleaned over the internet, comfrey seems very desirous around trees like peach, and pears, but I'm so curious about lemons - it seems hard to find its companionship status with citrus!!

 



If you want to find out more about own your climate look your town or area up on wikipedia and you will find the Koppen climate zone, as well as lots of other interesting information on temperature and rainfall.  Once you have the Koppen zone number, you can look that zone up and see even more information, and using a Koppen map, you can find climate analogues--other places in the world with your climate.  Lots of directions to go with all that, of course.  

I don't now anything much about outside lemon trees, but you can grow them inside in the Pacific NW in a very bright, winter heated sunroom or the like.
 
A Raaymakers
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Isa Delahunt that is a good resource!
 
Jay Angler
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@ A Raaymakers - it *really* seems that no one's had experience with lemon trees and comfrey. I think it would be awesome if you gave it a try and reported back. It's a shame you don't have two lemon trees and you could try one with and one without! I suspect that anything that builds soil and provides some "chop and drop" mulch for the tree will be an asset, and if the comfrey is happy, it will do that in spades. I've got comfrey that was easily 4 feet high until the wind blew it over. I need to chop it, but was waiting until there were fewer flowers so the bees will have had their fill.
 
A Raaymakers
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Yes I know... I've actually gone ahead and planted the tree, with comfrey and dill under it.  I'm aware I'll need to keep an eye on the two herbs to make sure they don't overpower the poor lemon, but I'm definitely keen to see how this goes!
 
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Comfrey is excellent around fruit trees, just keep in mind it can end up more than 2 feet high and 3 across and give your lemon tree enough space. Comfrey can overwhelm smaller plants with its big leaves. It might die back a bit in your climate - I had one just west of Sydney that was fantastic, looked scruffy in winter but stayed there, but the plants here in Eastern Victoria disappear entirely.
 
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The ants are farming scale. Watch for the scale - which look like little dots. Clean them off with rubbing alcohol and a rough rag. Then get some good worm castings to put around your lemon. For some reason it prevents scale.
It does not say what zone you are in. Lemons are hardy to 27 degrees.
I have a Meyer Lemon that is about 20 years old. It is in a huge pot. I bring it in to the greenhouse every November with a furniture dolly. The lemons ripen , then It blooms and sets fruit in the greenhouse.
If you live in a frost area, a few do not have a place to over winter the lemon, you can build a pvc pipe frame. Cover it with clear plastic and put some light bulbs in ther to turn on when it gets cold. The old kind of light bulbs that give off heat.
 
A Raaymakers
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Thank you everyone for weighing in.  I realized the ants were onto the scale leavings, so I treated the scale with diatamaceous earth which has seemed to actually clear the tree in the places I applied it!
 
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Laura Johnson wrote:The ants are farming scale. Watch for the scale - which look like little dots. Clean them off with rubbing alcohol and a rough rag. Then get some good worm castings to put around your lemon. For some reason it prevents scale.
It does not say what zone you are in. Lemons are hardy to 27 degrees.
I have a Meyer Lemon that is about 20 years old. It is in a huge pot. I bring it in to the greenhouse every November with a furniture dolly. The lemons ripen , then It blooms and sets fruit in the greenhouse.
If you live in a frost area, a few do not have a place to over winter the lemon, you can build a pvc pipe frame. Cover it with clear plastic and put some light bulbs in ther to turn on when it gets cold. The old kind of light bulbs that give off heat.


Hi Laura, I am in zone 6B, smack in the pinelands, with lots of oak and pine trees around (SHADE!). I bought a lil' Meyer lemon on Etsy, and want to repot it. What do you like to use as potting mix? How much bigger would you suggest I go with the pot size? I plan to bring the lemon tree indoors in the winter. I may have to go with artificial lights, because our home has a front and back porch, so the natural light is limited. A green house is in our future, just not this year. Currently it is enjoying the southern corner of our east-ish facing front porch.
I hope you don't mind me picking your brain about your 20 yo Meyer lemon tree. I think you may know a thing or two!
 
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