Sunday, November 27, 2011

The luckiest lime tree on Earth

Regular readers of this blog know how much I love and baby my in-ground lime trees. I know, I'm crazy, the lengths I go to! But there's nothing like a fresh homegrown organic lime for making Margaritas. Last year, despite our best efforts we lost the key lime in the February freeze. The Bearss lime survived, but suffered severe damage. Luckily, it rebounded in the spring and is even larger than it was last year, but bore no fruit this year at all. So I'm trying once again to protect this lime tree from tonight's possible freeze, in the hope she'll reward us with fresh limes this coming spring.

Yesterday, I went down to Zinger Hardware and bought a pop-up greenhouse: a Planthouse 5 from Flowerhouse. This is just like the one Ronny Bell raved about last year on his blog, The Lazy Shady Gardener. Jack helped me move a raised bed away from the left of the tree, then put together the greenhouse and helped me lift it up and over the lime tree.
Planthouse 5

Here she is: the luckiest lime tree in the world.
Bearss lime inside pop up greenhouse

The greenhouse is as easy to put up as a tent. The waterproof Gro-Tec material lets in 75% of available light. The greenhouse has front and back doors, both with screened inner panels. In the morning, I'll unzip the doors so the tree doesn't suffocate.
Zip off netting over door

There are two tiny Velcro doors for a hose or power cord.
Hose or power cord outlet

The 5' x 5' by 6.5' greenhouse is just big enough for the lime tree and a few potted plants like my aloes, a Meyer lemon and a couple of cacti. As the folks at Flowerhouse suggested, I'm using a small ceramic heater (purchased at Breed & Co.) to keep it warm inside. If this turns out to be a good long-term solution, I'll have to prune the lime tree to keep it small enough to use this greenhouse year after year.

Fingers crossed that this works better than our makeshift rebar-and-frost-cloth greenhouse from last year!

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. Hope it didn't get too cold for your lime last night. Cool little greenhouse. I grew up along the Gulf Coast with plenty of citrus available for eating, pies, etc., so I understand the attraction of growing them here. I applaud your bravery!

  2. That is an excellent solution! I don't see how it wouldn't work. It looks really good.

  3. That is crazy...but now I get what the extreme effort is all for! Margaritas with your own limes, pretty cool.

  4. Tina, it didn't get too cold, it didn't freeze at all! But it was a good test run. Now we're ready for the two or three freeze days that knock out my tender babies every year.

    Roberta, the one thing I wasn't sure about was whether the ceramic heater would cycle on and off correctly to keep the temps inside the greenhouse just right like Goldilocks: not too hot, not too cold. It took some futzing around but I got it to work. This morning the greenhouse was 10 degrees warmer than outside -- poifect.

    David, these limes are just incredible. Better than any organic grocery-store lime. Bees flock to the jasmine-scented flowers like no other. The fragrant oil comes off the peel just by brushing a fruit with a finger. Sweet, sweet limey goodness. Totally heavenly and totally unsustainable! At this point I figure each lime has cost me in water, ferts and greenhouse expenditures about $38.77. Everyone has a vice, crazy garden follies are my vice.

  5. Awesome little greenhouse! And perfect for the situation.