Today, Jack and I unveiled the lime trees from their rebar-and-row-cover cocoons. Unfortunately, our valiant attempts at protecting them from winter's wrath appear to be, as the kids say, an "epic fail."
The Mexican key lime (Citrus aurantifolia) was hit the worst. The branches that were green on February 16 have all turned brown, and the trunk is green when scratched only at the very bottom of the tree.
The trunk is also splitting at the base, just above the bud union (where the key lime was grafted onto sour orange rootstock). This is a bad sign that may reflect death of the cambium, the living tissue just underneath the thin bark of the lime tree.
January's blossoms froze right on the tree,
along with January's baby limes.
I don't have much hope for its return, but I'll give it until May. Until then, no pruning, no fertilizer, and very little watering, as recommended by Dr. Julian Sauls at Texas A&M, and Nick Sakovich and Ben Faber at UC-Davis.
In contrast, the Bearss lime (Citrus latifolia) is only 3/4 brown. (Can you tell where the heat lamp was pointed?)
And, it's sooo nice to know the floating row cover spared the dandelions underneath the tree from freeze damage--bonus! If the economy gets much worse, at least we'll have dandelion greens and possum stew, jes' like the Clampetts.
I have more confidence this tree will rebound, albeit smaller and less fruitful. There are many more green branches on the Bearss than the key lime. No need to scratch these for signs of life.
Here's a nice healthy branch with green leaves and blossoms. Actually, this picture makes me sad, because I can't help but think if we'd had more heat lamps under the row cover, less of the tree would have been damaged. I guess that would have been a greater fire hazard, as well.
Some say it's best to grow citrus in a pot in these parts, but honestly, the Meyer lemon doesn't look a whole lot better than the limes in the ground. This lemon was a gorgeously lush little tree when I bought it. It lost half its leaves during the hot, dry summer, and dropped the rest when I moved the tree indoors for the winter.
We'll see what it looks like once it leafs out. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
Finally, here is an agave of questionable parentage (labeled as a Whale's Tongue agave, but has offset one pup) that suffered freeze damage, as evidenced by the white spots.
Time will tell whether these spots will continue to spread, or harden off.
Well, now. After all that depressing footage, it's time for a happy daffodil. More Erlicheer blossoms open every day. They're gorgeous!
Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.