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Lemon trees in Montana or anyplace normally too cold for citrus.  RSS feed

 
Bethany Dutch
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Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
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I know Paul has talked a lot about wanting to figure out how to grow lemons in Montana. I'm about the same climate as Missoula and this is something that really interests me and I'm thinking about putting it on next year's project list. Just curious, I searched but couldn't find anything but has anyone tried or worked on this?

So far, here is what I'm thinking.

Trifoliate orange is a super cold hardy citrus that will survive up to -10 degrees. I don't know much about grafting, but I DO know that rootstock matters when it comes to trees and hardiness. So here is my theory:

My city is technically zone 6b. If I was able to graft my lemon tree onto Trifoliate orange rootstock in the spring. Come fall, I'm thinking either build a crescent shaped sun scoop out of rocks or concrete blocks painted black. Or possibly build some kind of surround from strawbales, but then there's no thermal mass. Or maybe a combination of the two. Mulch like a madwoman, of course, either way.

I'm also thinking about figuring out a way to do an easy enclosure (I want this to be easy and doable for future sake) so that I can also house some bunnies around the tree, in the theory that their body heat + sun scoop + insulation + mulch will help keep the tree warm enough, and of course the poop on the ground would be a bonus.

I'm almost thinking this is how it would look: a black block sun scoop, with strawbales on the outside of the blocks. Build it up high/big enough so that I can stick my rabbit cages inside around the tree, and possibly stick a piece of clear roofing on top. Again, I don't want complex because this would need to be both easily disassembled in the spring AND be able to "grow" with the tree.

One problem I can see with it is that you'd have to prune aggressively even if you can get it to survive because you'd need it to be fairly short so it can be protected easier. Anybody see other holes? should I give it a try next year?
 
Ken W Wilson
Posts: 470
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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I've been thinking about trying a citrus in Missouri. I believe lemon is the least cold hardy. I think I'm going to try Citrandarin. I have you see this site http://mckenzie-farms.com/photo.htm ?
 
Ken W Wilson
Posts: 470
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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If it doesn't have to be Lemon and you just want something tropical, Hardy Chicago figs might survive there.
 
Bethany Dutch
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Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
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Actually I really want mandarins, lemons and limes 😂I do plan on building an attached greenhouse to my home at some point so I may do that but for years I've been thinking there's GOT to be a way to grow citrus out here.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I would look for, or build a nice south facing brick wall, then plant the trees so you could espalier them as they grow.
By espaliering the trees, they will remain close to the thermal mass brick wall.
When winter comes all you need is some commercial, clear, green house cover and perhaps the matching frost blanket, sandwiched together (cover/blanket/cover) and covering the trees to the ground.
The materials do let light through and the combination will give you; heat sink for thermal mass, frost protection from the greenhouse cover and heat retention via the frost blanket.
If you were to use semi-dwarf trees (better longevity and still easy to pick the fruit from) then you can keep them low enough to not get over the brick wall they grow against.

If you made the wall something like four bricks thick (old world solid brick wall construction) then you would have enough heat sink thermal mass to keep the trees comfortable all winter long.

Redhawk
 
Mark Tudor
Posts: 71
Location: SoCal USA
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Cob garden wall
  - possible option for retaining winter sunlight?

Ianto mentioned that he has citrus trees planted on the south side of their cob walls, which absorb the sunlight and radiate it back, and it can be 20-30 degrees warmer next to it. I would guess that if you made a heavy masonry wall that is concave to cup the tree, and added perhaps a wooden screen to limit the wind coming from your prevailing winter wind direction, you could create a much warmer micro-climate for the plant.

I don't know if keeping rabbits next to the tree would be wise if they might chew the bark off the trunk, but a heavy mesh around the trunk would prevent that. Would they dig into the roots?

You could espalier the tree to keep the growth near the wall, to maximize the above benefits. You could get 3-4 fruit bearing branches on each side and keep them at/below 6-7' so you can reach them all without a ladder. While espalier pruning is pretty intensive, for just a couple trees that are out of their normal environment it might help. Of course sepp holzer is growing citrus at his place which is similar conditions, but I believe those more vulnerable trees are planted after there is some existing protection and they aren't pruned. I think your wall could be a surrogate shelter, and perhaps you can plant other trees nearby that can help shelter the tender trees during winter.
 
Ken W Wilson
Posts: 470
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Rabbits might give it too much nitrogen.  New growth is usually less cold hardy.
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
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Location: Wisconsin, USA Zone 4b-5a
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Some threads and things you might want to check out:
https://permies.com/t/8424/grow-citrus-trees-Brunswick-Canada
https://permies.com/t/32817/Holzer-Fruit-Tree-System

https://youtu.be/F4LPTcP_EHU
 
Bethany Dutch
Posts: 210
Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
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Thank you Thyri for posting those! I had searched last night but could not find hardly anything but I knew we had discussed this before on the forum.

ANd the rest of you - great idea on the cup shaped thick wall! I think that will be quite doable. Just need to build the wall, of course. I hadn't even thought about espaliering, but that makes a lot of sense! I had wanted to stick with dwarf varieties but the trifoliate orange is such a hardy rootstock I might try both regular dwarf and grafted onto the TFO just to see how it works. I know the TFO naturally grows really high so not sure about realistically trying to keep it small, but we will see.

As far as the rabbits go, they would be in cages so no worries about chewing bark. Since it does get quite cold here I wouldn't expect the trees to put on any new growth during the winter anyway.

However, I did think of one new challenge, and that is fruiting time. I forgot that most of the citrus fruits do their fruiting in the winter. Not sure if that would work, but I may try to see if I can find varieties that are super early or super late.
 
Cris Bessette
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Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
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Citrus in cold places is one of my hobbies.  Here is a thread I started about 4 years ago:

https://permies.com/t/20777/Cold-hardy-citrus-trees

So far the only thing I'm having luck with is trifoliate orange (growing and fruiting like crazy, jelly tastes like lemon and gin)  and Owari Satsuma mandarins. (best citrus I've ever tasted)

I have kumquat trees that come back every year, lightly protected.  They are still juvenile and grow very slow, but I think once they take off, they will do great here even unprotected.

I have one tree that I believe  is a lemon, planted in the ground inside of it's own tiny unheated greenhouse, every year it freezes to the ground
and grows to about 3 feet tall before it starts all over again.  That was just one of my seemingly unsucessful experiments with cold hardy citrus in the last 5-6 years.

Lemons are the LEAST cold hardy of all citrus, so you are pretty unlikely to get those to grow very well if at all.  My personal
solution to that is to occasionally pick unripe mandarins and use those, or use calamondins from a potted tree as substitutes for lemon.

My advice is TRY! Don't put all your eggs in one pot though, try different varieties of citrus with different types of protection, different places around your property,etc.
Let's face it, trees take years to grow, so diversifying your attempts will lead you to the best possibilities for your situation in the soonest time possible.




 
David Livingston
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Location: Anjou ,France
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There is of course this famous grapefruit tree in London
http://www.homecitrusgrowers.co.uk/citrusplaces/chelsea.html
David
 
Ken W Wilson
Posts: 470
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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I'd sure like to have seeds of the London tree. I wonder if anyone is working on the next generation?
 
Deb Rebel
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Location: Zone 6b
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I want Meyers Improved Lemons. And maybe Ponderosa. I am resigned to in-and-out trees kept pruned and somewhat even bonsai'ed to keep them about 7' tall (in 18-24" pots on casters) to have them here, at 6b plus altitude OR... build an in-ground greenhouse (walipini) and put an RMH in there for the worst nights. In which case I would probably get winter bloom and be able to grow fruit. I have thought about an earthmass arc plus being able to put a greenhouse/coldframe over it in winter and I'm  pushing it too hard for 6b growzone (at altitude too). I have a friend that kept a Meyer Lemon at 9b Mediterranean and brought it in for six weeks a year and wrapped it up at night in a protected place for about four weeks. She did get fruit. (SF bay area).

I will be pushing forward with growing PALM trees here, some trunk-less kind will make 4b with some extra care and about two trunkless and one trunked will make 6b (here) with some winter care and careful selection in planting location. I just WANT one. I know of an 8a growing a few hours south of here in a 7a zone (trunked and mature) because it is in a protected area. So, you can push your zone with being careful.

I am not sure how you could do an in-ground citrus and push it that far (Missoula plus altitude) from a roughly 10a in the ground (10a means the temps will visit 30f or below freezing for a bit, which mature citrus (lemons, oranges and limes) will tolerate for a few hours with some help) to 4a. IN ground if you can isolate the area (dig deep past the frost line and put in insulated walls) and be prepared to do a winter capping and earth insulative mass and maybe supplemental heating.

I am behind in putting in two large walipini's (in ground greenhouses dug to below frostline) that would allow me to have citrus year-round in large pots. I think that for 4a that might be the viable option...growing them in a walipini.
http://opensourceecology.org/w/images/1/1c/Walipini.pdf
 
Cris Bessette
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Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
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Deb Rebel wrote:
I will be pushing forward with growing PALM trees here, some trunk-less kind will make 4b with some extra care and about two trunkless and one trunked will make 6b (here) with some winter care and careful selection in planting location. I just WANT one. I know of an 8a growing a few hours south of here in a 7a zone (trunked and mature) because it is in a protected area. So, you can push your zone with being careful.


Needle palm (rhapidophyllum hystrix) and Sabal minor palms do great here in 7B, I also have one windmill palm (Trachycarpus Fortunei) That is over 7 feet tall now.   I've had two windmill palms die over the years when they were very small, but once they get 3 years old or so they seem to get a lot hardier.  One thing I do that seems to help is to spray the growing spear point area with copper fungicide after any hard freeze, keeps any rot from spreading and killing the spear.
 
Deb Rebel
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Cris, I will try to remember that. Yes I was looking at Windmill Palms and I'd have to find a really warm microclime spot in my yard, and wrap up and mulch for the first so many years to help it establish. And protect it from our prevailing winter winds. I am 6b with some altitude so it takes care to think of a trunked palm. And though they rate us as 6b, we are right on the edge.
 
Stacy Witscher
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Location: SF Bay Area
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Deb Rebel - It seems odd that your friend would have to bring a Meyer lemon indoor in the SF Bay Area. I've never heard of such a thing. Meyers grow amazingly here. Much better than a lot of other citrus.

In general - I was surprised to hear that oranges are more cold hardy. I'm in zone 9b and while we can grown oranges, the rinds tend to be very thick, and the oranges never taste very good.

One of the things that I love about citrus, is that the best way to keep a regular supply is just leave them on the tree. My Meyer lemons keep on the tree so well, that I have fresh lemons for at least 6 months, sometimes as much as 9 months of the year. I still have ripe lemons from last years growth, and now the new lemons are forming.
 
Deb Rebel
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I visited her in 2013, seen the tree, and the tree was several years old and yes, it did best by being brought in for that short period, and had some nights of being wrapped up at night while it was outside. I think it was the microclime. She was near Concord on the east side of the Bay.
 
Stacy Witscher
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Concord does get colder than where I am, it's further from the bay. The bay area has lots of microclimates.
 
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