Despite the relative warmth in March we had a really cold spell at the beginning of April. I’d just sanitised the greenhouse - ready for the pre-ordered tomato plants - and didn’t want to lug my lemon tree back in there. It really is a small tree now and too heavy to lift if you’ve got a dodgy knee. And it might (might) have introduced bugs that the new tomato plants couldn’t handle. But as the lemon tree is so much heavier to shift now I wouldn’t just have had a dodgy knee - I’d more than likely end up with a slipped disc - if I lifted it. Yes I do need a trolley for manoeuvring my maturing citrus monster.
I decided to chance it and leave it outside. Friends have friends who leave their lemon trees out all winter - but mine hadn’t been hardened off. I feared it wouldn’t cope.
I wrapped the once-protected tree in fleece, then bubble wrap and finally in a third layer of tarpaulin. All the fledgling lemon fruits were carefully protected too. We were expecting below freezing temperatures - cold winds rather than ice or snow - but potentially devastating for a mediterranean plant which had known such cosseting.
By 11 April the cold winds had dropped. It was our wedding anniversary and we went out to Dyrham Park for a walk. The temperatures had picked up. We lunched in one pub on the top of Lansdown and had our evening meal in another. Covid was less of a threat by then.
Next day I needed to know the truth. Had my citrus plant survived the week of chilling winds? I carefully unwrapped the first tarpaulin layer. No errant lemon fruit had dropped off in the cold, as far as I could see. I removed the bubble wrap layer. Still all looked good. And finally I took away the fleece. And what did I discover?
Not only had ten semi-ripe lemon fruits stayed in situ: the plant’s leaves were still green, with no sign of frost damage and - even better - baby flowers were just forming. The gamble had paid off. The tree simply needed watering as its compost was dry.
Phew! I hadn’t lost my citrus wonder.
I almost went into my new shed ( aka Nina’s gin palace) and poured myself a g&t with a slice from my brave, beautiful lemon tree.
But, on this occasion, I didn’t.
More next time.