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Protecting Citrus from Cold Weather

Posted by David Grau on

Originally Posted on December 07, 2013

harvested lemonsWe've just had our first blast of cold weather, making things feel a bit wintery here. We rushed to pick our ripe citrus to avoid losing the entire crop to the freezing temperatures. Picking David's mandarin crop was a quick job, and Carla's lemon tree had more than 40 pounds of fruit on it.

She used some of the lemons to start a one-gallon batch of salt preserved lemons. You can read about the process below. With a pile of lemons left in the unheated shop, Carla will be juicing many of the other lemons into ice cube trays, making candied lemon peel, and she even decided to try her hand at starting a batch of limoncello.

Protecting Citrus from Cold Weather

When the weather forecast indicates temperatures cold enough to harm citrus, a few steps should be taken to care for your trees.

covered lemon treeIrrigate: Watering the soil around the tree will help keep the tree roots hydrated and slow the rate at which freezing occurs.

Cover: Trees may be covered with frost protection blankets, allowing varying degrees of insulation. The photo shows a lemon tree covered with row cover material, and that material offers a very light degree of protection.

Lights: Incandescent lights (such as holiday lights) around the tree will put out warmth and can help prevent freeze damage.

Insulation: Dry leaves or straw can be piled on smaller trees, offering insulation from the cold.

Be sure to wait for the tree to start growing again, before cutting off wood that appears lost. Citrus will often regrow leaves on stems that appear hopeless.

Salt Preserved Lemons

Salt Preserved LemonsMaking salt preserved lemons is a very simple process. Batches, small or large, can be made in canning jars or stoneware crocks. Smaller jars make attractive gifts for holiday giving. It takes approximately three lemons for a pint jar, plus lemons for extra juice.

We recommend using organically grown lemons. Scrub the lemons well, rinse and dry. Cut off any stems and then cut as if to quarter the lemons, but do not cut all the way through. Leave about half an inch of the lemon uncut. Then spoon a tablespoon or so of sea salt into each lemon where it has been cut. Pack into sterilized jars, and top off with lemon juice. Once the jar has been sealed, the lemons will need to sit for at least twenty days before they are ready to use.

When the lemons are ready for use, take out what you need with a clean utensil and rinse the lemon in cold water to remove extra salt. The finished lemons can be put into soups and stews, whirred up in salad dressings, used in sauces for fish dishes, or in any dish where a lemony flavor is desired. Many recipes recommend using only the peel and not the pulp of the finished lemons. Lemons preserved in salt can be kept in the fridge for up to a year.

What We're Reading

Sowing Seeds in the DesertSowing Seeds in the Desert: Natural Farming, Global Restoration, and Ultimate Food Security by Masanobu Fukuoka

The final work of Mr. Fukuoka discusses the problem of desertification occurring in the world, and offers some solutions to help mitigate its spread. Part philosophy, part farming advice, Sowing Seeds in the Desert compels the reader to think about processes in which society participates, which may be harmful or helpful. Using his natural farming techniques, Fukuoka posits the rehabilitation of degraded soils can be achieved. He shares anecdotes of visits to a variety of countries, communities, and crop lands, offering insights along the way. For anyone interested in making the planet a better place, through gardening or farming, the book is a must-read.

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