Should lemon trees be pruned?
Absolutely! In fact most lemon trees benefit from regular pruning, especially in the first two years of their life. Applying controlled stress to the plant signals new growth, telling it to focus more energy on developing the remaining buds. This prepares it to produce bigger and better lemons as it ages.
Before pruning, you’ll notice a lot of volume and foliage going in different directions and after pruning, the fruits should be balanced and the leaves can receive more air and sunlight.
The tiny growths are trimmed off more often in young trees as they gradually lessen during maturity. Regular pruning of the plant keeps the size manageable for minimum effort and maximum results!
When is the best time to prune?
Depending on the climate, people prune during spring or autumn.
- Baby lemon trees aren’t encouraged to bear fruit until they're older.
- Young lemon trees are pruned as often as needed to shape their structural framework.
- For mature lemon trees, the best time to prune is after every harvest once or twice a year.
Types of lemon trees
There are different types of lemon trees found in Australia such as the Eureka and Lisbon varieties. The Meyer is a dwarf lemon tree known for its versatile and compact nature, making it popular among home gardeners and farmers alike.
Fun fact: the Meyer lemon is actually a hybrid between a lemon and a mandarin orange! Much smaller compared to its other relatives, it’s perfect for growing indoors, in your garden, or as hedges in the backyard.
The tools you’ll need
It’s always important to gear up. Have a trusty pair of pruning shears or a small hand-held saw depending on the size and age of your tree. Disinfect your tools and always use protective gloves when working.
For preventive measures, you’ll also need some organic herbicide that you can apply after the pruning job. All citrus trees are notorious for getting weevils, snails, as well as gall wasp infestations that can cause problems and ruin your crop.
How to prune a lemon tree
If you see weak branches and small growths near the base of the trunk, it’s a tell-tale sign that you need to prune ASAP.
Here’s a pro-tip for easy maintenance: whenever you see deadwood, you can remove them at any time. Just take note not to prune during summer or winter, since they could be damaged by sunburn or frost.
Step 1) Planning
Before getting started, you need to plan and prepare everything. This means taking a good look at your lemon tree for any unhealthy parts and stray branches. Gather your gardening gloves and your clean pruning shears.
Step 2) Pruning
Start by removing the deadwood from the branches of the tree. Take out any thin branches to give the bigger ones a boost! Any cuts you make should be at a 45-degree angle, making sure not to damage the main stalk. This video shows you precisely how to prune correctly and explains how cutting the wrong part of the branch could badly affect your plant.
Removing ‘suckers’, water sprouts and basal shoots are just as important! These small leafy growths come from the base near the roots, and sometimes indicate that the soil bed is too shallow. Prune them off so they don’t suck the nutrients from your lemon tree!
Step 3) Skirting
This term refers to getting rid of the bottom growth to prioritise fruiting at the top of the canopy. As wasteful as it may seem, you may have to get rid of any underdeveloped fruit if you want the top batch of buds and lemons to be healthier!
Skirting also helps prevents the leaves from touching the soil and getting contaminated by fertilisers or herbicides. Having your tree a few feet away from the ground keeps pests from climbing onto the tree and spreading diseases.
Step 4) Topping
It’s time to give your plants a little bit of a chop at the top! Don’t overdo it, though. This is more for an aesthetic concern than a practical one. Make sure that the ratio of branches matches the density of its roots, so try to give it a more rounded, symmetrical shape.
Step 5) Stopping
Never over-prune! Part of the pruning process is knowing when to stop. It’s perfectly fine to chop off one-third of the tree, but not any more than that. If you prune too much, you could overstimulate and stress the plant.
Once you’ve followed all the steps, you can appreciate the results of your hard work!
Growing lemon trees is fun and maintaining them is worth all the extra effort. Whether indoors or outdoors, they make a delightful addition to your home and garden. Just remember that regular pruning is the key to a happy tree. With these tips we’ve given you, you’re sure to get the fruitful harvest you deserve.
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