2 Little Limes were Sitting in a Tree…

…G.R.O.W.I.N.G! 

Maybe anyways. An unfortunately timed heat wave here last week stressed the key lime so out of the ~15-20 flowers only two turned into limes that stayed on the tree, and it is quite possible that it’ll drop those soon as well. That’s okay though, the flowers were exciting and lovely themselves and now I know to be ready for next year.

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Lime Tree Blossoms and a Brief Update

Hello, it’s been a while. I’m still here, still making things (and selling them on Etsy here and here), still growing plants, and still learning. I’m also still sick and looking for treatments that help (so far not much luck). I do hope to start writing a bit more or at least sharing my projects sometime soon, and the format of this blog will likely change but I’m not sure how yet.

Anyways, that’s not really what this post is about. This post is about my Key Lime tree. Remember it? I started it way back in 2013 (four years ago) and shared updates about its growth on a fairly regular basis. Well, it’s time for another update: there are flowers! My key lime tree is flowering!

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I’ve been pretending to be a bee and pollenating the flowers with a paint brush and doing a bit of reading to see what I need to do to help the tree set (and keep) the fruit, so we’ll see what happens!

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Lanky Lime Tree

My lime tree has been growing like crazy this winter and is now a whopping 3 feet tall (well almost). I know that this isn’t actually tall as far as trees are concerned, but since my lime is an indoor tree, if it grows much taller it’ll be a bit too big.

Lime tree and measuring tape
A whopping 33.5″ tall.

In order to halt vertical growth, and hopefully redirect growth horizontally to form branches, I’ve decided it’s time to head my lime. This involves chopping off the top few inches, which will remove the apical meristem. The apical meristem is responsible for the upward growth and also secretes hormones that inhibit certain other types of growth (like branches) from taking place near the top of the plant. Hopefully with it gone the lime starts to branch out and become more tree-like instead of looking like a leafy stick. I have no idea if it’ll work that way, but I’ll keep you updated.

Lime tree after pruning
Post Pruning

June Garden Update

Yes, yes, I know it has been June for a while now and this update is long overdue, but I’ve been working on other things and kind of forgot. Other than the 10 minutes in the morning that I spend watering, pruning, and talking to my plants, my garden hasn’t exactly been on my mind. It’s kind of nice to have reached the point where things require only a little maintenance and brainpower.

Picture of tomatoes, carrots and lemon balm in pots on a balconyThe herbs are happy and low maintenance as usual. I did end up pulling my basil because it was almost dead, but the cuttings I took are rooting. The lemon balm is also the happiest I’ve ever seen it. The carrots are mature enough that I’m able to harvest them whenever I get a craving for crunchy; they’ll probably be gone soon. The tomato I started this winter is blooming and fruiting and seems very happy with all the rain we’ve been getting. The tomato that I started last summer is still blooming but barely producing fruit. I may pull it soon.

White soul alpine Strawberry plants on a balcony

The strawberries are big and happy. The aphids are under control for the most part (just a little dish soap and water seemed to do the trick). I’ll probably have to treat them once more this summer. I also need to replant them in larger pots as they’re getting root-bound. That hasn’t stopped them from blooming and producing their tiny white fruit though. I absolutely love the way the berries smell.

The apples are still surprisingly alive. I still don’t know what I’m going to do with them when I move at the end of the summer. The ivy that’s outside in quarantine is alive and shows no sign of spider mites, but does not seem to like the sun exposure or the heat. I’m considering moving it back inside, but I’m hesitant because I really don’t want mites on my other plants.

Key lime tree and cuttings looking out a window

As for the indoor plants, the lime tree finally got too tall to fit under the grow light so I moved it to a sunny window. It seemed to take a little time to adjust but is back to growing. I trimmed its thorns last week with nail clippers (I used rubbing alcohol to sterilize them first). They seemed to do a good job and the tree was no worse for wear. There was also the delicious smell of lime while I was doing the trimming. I can’t believe the tree will be one year old next month!

The cacti and small ivy plant are happy and growing slowly. The African violet is losing some of its lower leaves. It seems to happen gradually and one-by-one, so I’m hoping it’s just the plant getting rid of unneeded leaves instead of something more serious. It is getting rather big and seems to be healthy otherwise, but I’m keeping a close eye on it.

As for the rest of June, the plan is to keep things alive and healthy.

Yellow currant tomato flowers

May Garden Update

Indoor plants: 

The key lime tree is now about 10 inches tall and has begun to grow branches. It also developed tiny thorns, which I find adorable and will continue to do so until one stabs me. I’ve been meaning to start clipping the thorn tips with nail clippers, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Small thorns on a young key lime tree.

The African violet, grafted cactus, and Thanksgiving cactus seem to be very content with their part-shade spot in the living room. I have one little ivy plant left from the garden club plant sale this spring that I’m nursing back to health. It suffered a combination overwatering/dropped pot accident but seems to be doing much better now. It put out its first new leaves yesterday, which is a good sign.

Outdoor plants:

Well, my thyme has died. I think it wasn’t a fan of the hotter weather we’ve been getting. The lemon balm is struggling and the basil has bolted. I think the unglazed terra cotta pots they’re in dry out too fast for them to be happy.

The strawberries are doing well, but again, I’m having a problem with the pots without saucers drying out too fast. It doesn’t quite make sense because it’s so humid here. The plants are growing, blooming, and starting to set tiny strawberries though so they can’t be too unhappy.

Lemon balm, currant tomato, carrot, basil, and strawberry plants on a balcony.

My tomato plant that I started last July is still blooming, much to my surprise, as is the one I started this winter. Both seem to be doing well and I’m looking forward to having lots of little tomatoes this summer. The carrots I’ve pulled so far have been very sweet and flavorful. I should probably harvest the rest soon. I definitely plan on growing this variety (little finger) again.

Apple trees, ivy, and strawberry plants on a balcony.

Despite being in “isolation” and relatively neglected, the apple trees are still alive. I expected the spider mites and the heat to kill them, but nope. I also can’t find any signs of the mites any more. The ivy in isolation is fairing a bit worse, but it did have more extensive mite damage.

Summer Garden Plans:

The most important of these is to NOT get any more plants. It’s so tempting and difficult, but I’ll be moving back home at the end of the summer and am not planning on taking many plants with me. Most of the plants will either be dead by the end of the summer, or I’ll put in the community garden. I also have an awesome friend who will be taking the strawberry plants, but I still need to figure out what to do with the apple trees. I don’t want to kill them, but I don’t necessarily want to take them with me either.

Instead of getting more plants I’m hoping to plan out my fall garden. I will have access to a 3’ x 7’ raised bed and I have to decide what I want to grow. I also hope to read through a botany textbook. I think having a better understanding of plants will make me a better gardener. Other than that, I don’t really see much happening on the gardening front this summer, just trying to keep everything alive.

Lime Tree Lessons

Often our greatest teachers come in the most unexpected forms.

Top view of a key lime tree seedling

I have a key lime tree. If you’ve followed my blog, this is nothing new to you. I started it from seed on a whim this June. The little seedling grew well, gaining leaf after leaf, until all of a sudden it stopped growing. I tried repotting it a few times. I tried fertilizing it with different fertilizers. I tried watering it a lot. I tired barely watering it. I even tried moving it out from under the grow light to see if I could get any response. Nothing happened, no change at all. It stayed in this state, not growing yet not dying, with its four little leaves, for months.

I distinctly remember telling my mom how frustrated I was at the lime tree for not growing, that something was wrong with it, and that I should just throw it away. Then I stopped, realizing that I was in the same position as my lime tree was in, in limbo, not getting better but not dying. I felt horrible about what I had said. I realized that when I looked at the tree a part of me saw myself, which is why it bothered me so much that I couldn’t get it to grow. It was also why it was so important for me to keep trying.

Recently, a month ago, I decided to try changing the lime tree’s soil. I removed all the dirt from the pot and knocked as much off of the roots as I could and put it in a different potting mix. I didn’t expect it to make a difference, but it made a huge one. The little tree started growing at a rapid rate, nearly doubling its leaf mass in the first week. It has continued to grow at this impressive rate and shows no sign of slowing down.

Now what’s the lesson in that, other than that I’m a weirdo who identifies with plants?

Close up of Key lime tree leaves

Well, what my lime tree taught me was perseverance. I clearly didn’t give my lime tree the optimal environment for its growth, but it grew the best it could until it couldn’t anymore, then it stayed alive. While it couldn’t have been happy, the tree never gave up and died, it did the best it could with what it had. I kept trying things to make it grow, and they wouldn’t work, so I’d try something else, and it wouldn’t work, so I’d try something else. The trial and fail pattern was eerily similar to what has been going on with my health. Some times I want to stop trying, but then I remember the lime tree. Even in times when I ready to give up on the lime tree, it kept living, waiting for me to try the next thing and eventually the next thing worked. It taught me that it’s important not to give up, because sometimes things take time, and that sometimes the things you least expect can make all the difference in the world.

Since I’m the lime tree, now I just need to figure out what’s my dirt.