Australia’s number one productive backyard tree must be the lemon. In winter harvest fruit for their vitamin C to fend off a cold or enjoy them squeezed over your favourite fish and chips or an Asian stir fry meal. Choose the sweeter variety of the “Lemonade” lemon to squeeze for your favourite drink in summer.

Lemons can be grown in the ground if you have the space of around 2 to 3 metres or in a container if the soil is lacking or you don’t have the space. They can be planted at any time (but avoid extremely hot or cold conditions). To reduce transplant stress, water with Seasol when planting and apply regularly every 2 to 4 weeks for healthy growth.

Check out your local hardware or garden centre for varieties to suit your location. The most popular lemon varieties are:

  • ‘Eureka’ which mainly crops in winter with smaller spring and summer crops. They are mainly thornless with less seeds and will grow to around 4 metres high.
  • ‘Lisbon‘ is more cold tolerant, but a thornier tree that crops in winter. They have a vigorous growth habit and can reach heights of 6 to 7 metres, which makes them one of the tallest varieties. They are a full flavour, sharp tasting lemon.
  • ‘Meyer’ has a less acidic, mild taste with thinner skin that crops mainly in winter. It is one of the smaller lemon trees growing to around 2 metres, making it ideal for a large container or wine barrel.
  • ‘Lots of Lemons’ is a dwarf ‘Meyer’ lemon which suits cooler regions and is ideal for a large pot or container in a sunny spot.
  • Lemonade lemon’ is a sweeter variety that will become sweeter the longer it stays on the tree. A hardy evergreen shrub with medium sized yellow fruit and green yellow flesh with very few seeds.

Growing conditions

Aspect Lemons need a bright, sunny location with sun from the morning onwards. They can tolerate a little afternoon shade, especially in hot climates.

Soil Lemons grow in a wide range of soils but require excellent drainage. Before planting add homemade compost and organic matter and/or Seasol Super Compost. In areas with poor drainage, grow lemons in raised garden beds (raised at least 30cm) or in large containers using a premium potting mix such as Seasol Advanced Potting Mix.

Climate Although lemons are subtropical plants, they grow in all temperate climates however, in cold areas they need protection from cold winds and frosts. If you are planting in a very cold area, plant one next to a brick wall where it can enjoy the heat that radiates off it.

What to do in the garden in September
How to grow and look after lemons for tasty, juice fruit including soil, planting, and feeding

General care

Watering Adequate and regular water is critical for fruit formation and development. Lack of water can lead to loss of flowers or fruit. Deep water at least weekly especially when plants are new in growth, flowering or fruiting. Water more frequently if plants are in hot, dry or exposed conditions or if they are growing in containers.

Feeding and mulching Like other citrus, lemons are heavy feeders. Feed every season with a complete citrus food such as Seasol plus Nutrients Fruit & Citrus. Plants in containers or the garden can be liquid fed regularly every 2 to 4 weeks with PowerFeed PRO SERIES Flowers, Fruit & Citrus.

Protect the area around the base of the tree out to the edge of the canopy with a 5-7cm layer of organic mulch such as sugarcane mulch, lucerne or pea straw, which help keep the soil evenly moist and weed free.

Pruning Lemons fruit without regular pruning however it is necessary to remove dead wood and thin out fruit clusters on over laden branches to encourage larger fruit and reduce the weight of the crop. Older trees can be renovated by hard pruning in spring (avoid pruning in summer as the bare branches can be sunburnt).

Watch out The main pests that attack citrus also attack lemons. Pests include aphids on new growth, scale on leaves and stems and citrus leaf miner which causes silvery trails in new growth. Bugs including spined citrus bug attack developing fruit. These problems can be controlled with applications of EarthCare White Oil insect spray to both sides of the foliage and then repeat 14 days later if required.

Citrus Gall Wasp is an insect that is native to parts of New South Wales and Queensland. The first sign of the pest on the tree is the woody gall or lump on the branch or stem that grows due to the feeding of the Citrus Gall Larvae. There is no horticultural spray that will control gall wasp, the best form of protection is prevention, by regularly checking the tree. A few gall can be pruned off but the timing is important. Affected stems should be removed before the new adults emerge before spring, leaving small holes in the lump. Aim to prune in autumn, winter or at the latest early spring. Also check with neighbours with their trees to ensure they don’t spread from tree to tree.

Pruned stems should not be placed in the compost but left in a plastic bad in the sun for a couple of weeks. This kills the wasp larvae inside the gall. Once dead place the plastic bag in the bin not the compost, to stop the cycle continuing.