Last year, both my grandparents (the ones who raised me and are really my parents) would have turned 100. Just because they were no longer around to party was no reason not to celebrate their lives.
For Grandma’s centennial birthday in August, we decided to plant a tree to honor her. She had a green thumb and was an avid gardener. I have a black thumb and don’t have any desire to get dirt under my fingernails. But despite my complete void of gardening skills, I was determined to make this tree thrive.
We purchased a baby “cocktail tree” (which is a hybrid Meyer lemon and key lime mix). Grandma didn’t drink often, but when she did, she only needed one drink – because she made them so strong, anyone who drank them would be flat on their back after just one! So, the cocktail tree seemed appropriate.
My son Beardy McGee Jeremy was kind enough to dig the hole for me. We had to put a little temporary wire fence around it because my lawn people like to tear through the yard at Mach speed and take out anything that gets in their way. The leaves soon started to yellow, and I was sure I had killed it.
I did some research and learned that I had been over-watering it, so I cut way back and let nature take care of most of the watering needs. I read that hybrids are particularly sensitive to the cold, so I hammered some stakes in the ground to wrap two blankets around when it gets below 50° and I read I should wrap another blanket or towel around the base to keep the roots warm.
I also learned about and purchased a gadget that tells me if it needs water, if the sunlight is good, and if it needs fertilizer. What a lifesaver for black thumbs like myself!
When Granddaddy’s 100th came around in November, it was well after citrus planting season, but I had to get an orange tree to honor him since he worked as a citrus inspector, inspecting mostly oranges, after he retired from the Air Force.
I was able to locate a tiny little orange tree – the last one the store had – and despite it being so late in the year, Jeremy helped me plant it.
I read that non-hybrid citrus trees can withstand the cold over 33°, but as long as I was out there babying the cocktail tree, I decided to baby the orange tree, too.
I do realize that I need to keep the grass (and weeds) pulled from around each tree because apparently other such growth competes for the tree’s nutrients, but they were both getting so soaked with all the rain we were getting, I figured it might help for now to keep the ground from soaking up so much water.
I guess babying it has worked because even with our temperatures getting down to the low 40s for the past several weeks, both trees have grown quite a bit and are full of blossoms. The cocktail tree even has three giant lemons and/or limes (I don’t know which is which because they’re all still green), and it has a few tiny fruits that I think might die because they are hidden near the bottom of the tree and don’t get much sun there.
At any rate, if I can keep them alive at least until their collective 101st birthdays roll around, I’ll count that as a win. (And if that happens, I would like to try my hand at raising a banana tree next.) If I can get enough lemons to make lemonade, and limes for tacos, and oranges to make orange juice (or screwdrivers – but not as strong as Grandma made!), that will be a welcome bonus.
Let’s talk: Do you do any gardening? Do you have a beard? Have you ever planted a baby tree and watched it grow over the years? If so, what kind and how large did it get? What would you make with fresh citrus fruits?