The Sunburn Experience: Not Just for Humans

Have you ever had a sunburn? Maybe a better question is, “Who hasn’t?”

Well, did you know that many plants get too much as well?

Sunburned Citrus: A Common Concern

On a recent visit to a client who was worried about her newly planted citrus trees.

new citrus trees planted in pots.

Sunburned Citrus

The Leaf Yellowing Dilemma on Citrus Trees

This particular client has a large courtyard with several new citrus trees in pots. Her citrus trees, planted in spring, showed yellowing as summer progressed.

sunburned citrus leaves

Now yellow leaves can indicate a number of different problems.  In this case, the diagnosis was rather simple – her citrus tree has a case of sunburn.

Common Signs of Sunburned Citrus and Other Plants

– The areas of the leaf that are yellow are in the center and NOT along the tips or edges.

– Often, the yellow areas begin to turn brown.

– Signs normally occur in the summer months.

– The sunburned leaves are usually located on the south and west-facing parts of the plant.

– This particular citrus tree is in an area that receives reflected, afternoon sun.

Citrus-tree-in-container-ASU


How to Prevent Sunburned Citrus

In this case, the solution is simple. Move the citrus tree to another part of the courtyard that receives afternoon shade is all that is needed to prevent further sunburn damage. Another choice is to put 50% shade cloth on from mid-May through September.

Citrus do best when planted at least 10 – 15 ft. away from walls. Unfortunately walls absorb the heat of the day and re-radiate it out.

Avoid planting where they get the full force of afternoon sun.

household cleaners

Household Cleaners

Do you like the idea of using household cleaners that are natural? I do. Especially after I noticed a build-up of ‘blue’ cleaning product in the small crevices of my bathroom counters.

So, I decided to focus on using natural cleaners using something straight from my garden – citrus!

Did you know that citrus (all kinds) have natural cleaning properties? It does. Citrus cleaner smells great, cleans well and I feel great using something that I grew.

Introduction to Household Cleaners

Creating your own all-natural household cleaner using leftover citrus peels and vinegar is not only environmentally friendly but also highly effective. Citrus fruits like grapefruit, lemon, and oranges possess natural disinfecting properties, making them excellent ingredients for homemade cleaners. This DIY citrus cleaner is a fantastic way to put your citrus peels to good use while avoiding the harsh chemicals found in many commercial cleaners.

household cleaners from oranges and other citrus

Harnessing the Power of Citrus

Many commercial cleaners incorporate lemon or orange for a reason – citrus fruits naturally disinfect and can help remove stains and mineral deposits. By making your own citrus cleaner, you’re taking advantage of these natural cleaning properties while reducing waste.

Crafting Your Homemade Citrus Cleaner

Gathering Ingredients and Supplies

To get started, you’ll need a few simple ingredients and supplies:

  • Citrus fruit (grapefruit, lemons, or oranges work well)
  • A large jar with a lid
  • Regular distilled vinegar
  • Strainer
  • Spray bottle

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s how to create your homemade citrus cleaner:

  1. Begin by peeling your chosen citrus fruit or simply cut off the peels.
  2. Place the citrus peels into your jar, ensuring the jar is completely filled.
  3. Add vinegar to cover all the peels.
  4. Store the container in a dark, cool place, such as your pantry or cupboard, for approximately 2 to 3 weeks.
  5. After steeping, strain the citrus peel and vinegar mixture through a strainer to remove any pulp or debris.
  6. Fill half of a spray bottle with the citrus and vinegar mixture, then top it off with water – that’s it!
Lemons

Versatile and Cost-Effective Cleaning

Your homemade citrus cleaner is now ready for use as an all-purpose cleaner on various surfaces, including floors, stovetops, appliances, and glass. It’s effective and budget-friendly. However, please avoid using it on marble or granite countertops, as the vinegar could potentially damage them.

Tip: Stock Up on Citrus Peels

If you don’t have enough citrus peels initially, consider freezing them until you accumulate a sufficient quantity to fill a jar.

*Optional: For a customized fragrance, add herbs like rosemary or mint, or incorporate essential oils to enhance the scent of your homemade citrus cleaner.

Crafting a Disinfecting Citrus Cleaner

For those seeking a quicker disinfecting solution, follow these steps:

  1. Take the peels from one citrus fruit of your choice and add them to 4 cups of water.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from heat and allow it to cool.
  3. Remove the peels.
  4. Add 6 tablespoons of distilled vinegar and 3 teaspoons of borax to the cooled citrus water.
  5. Transfer the solution to a spray bottle and use it immediately on non-porous surfaces.

Embrace DIY for a Greener Home

Crafting your homemade citrus cleaner not only creates an eco-friendly product but also reduces waste, utilizing items like citrus peels that might otherwise end up in the trash. Discover the benefits of natural cleaning with this simple and effective DIY project for your home.

So, if you have a tree filled with citrus, or even if you have to buy some at the grocery store – this cleaner is well worth it!

Shrubs Aren’t Meant To Be Cupcakes, Frisbees, or Pill Boxes

Do you have citrus trees?  If you live in zone 9 or higher, chances that you or your neighbor has a citrus tree or two growing in their backyard.

5 Surprising Ways to Use Citrus Fruit For Home and Kitchen

It may be hard for those who live in colder climates to understand, but those of us who grow citrus often have more than we can eat.  It’s not unusual to see boxes and bags filled with citrus fruit by the curb free for the taking. Sometimes excess citrus fruit is simply left on the tree or falls to the ground.

Surprising Ways to Use Citrus Fruit

While it’s true that you can only eat so much citrus in the few months it appears in your tree, did you know that there are other ways you can use citrus?

Here are 5 creative Ways to Use Citrus:

1. Citrus Natural Air Fresheners

making your natural air fresheners by using citrus fruits

Who doesn’t love the fresh scent of citrus?  Well, you can bring the scents of citrus into your home by making your natural air fresheners.

In addition to citrus, you can add other fragrant ingredients such as mint, thyme, vanilla, and even basil and peppercorns.

Click here to learn how easy it is to make your own – they make great gifts too!

2. Citrus Bouquets

making a great filler in bouquets by using citrus fruits

The leaves of citrus are dark green and glossy, and they make a great filler in bouquets.

If you have a citrus tree that produces smaller fruit such as a kumquat or lime tree, you can cut a few branches and leave the fruit on it for a colorful, natural centerpiece. The large leaves of a grapefruit or lemon tree make a beautiful garnish for a serving platter.

3. Natural Citrus Cleaner

natural cleaner for your home to Use Citrus Fruit

Did you know that the peels of citrus can be used to make an effective, natural cleaner for your home?

It doesn’t matter what type of citrus peel you use – all you need are peels, vinegar, and a large jar.

Click here to learn how to make your own.

4. Freeze Citrus Zest

orange zest to use citrus fruit

How many times have you made a recipe that needed lemon, lime, or orange zest?  Now, when citrus is in season, all I have to do is walk outdoors and pick what I need.  But what about the rest of the year or for those of you who don’t grow citrus?

It turns out the citrus zest can be frozen.  So, just before you peel or juice an orange, zest if first and put the zest in a plastic freezer bag.  

I have frozen citrus zest in my freezer, ready for me to use.  

5. Lemon Ice Cubes

frozen juice to use Citrus Fruit

Lemon and sometimes lime juice are a popular ingredient in both savory and sweet dishes.  An easy way to preserve your lemon harvest is to freeze the juice into individual ice cubes.  Once frozen, pop them out and save them in a plastic freezer bag.

When you need to use them, simply put an ice cube in a small bowl and stick in the microwave for 30 seconds on high to melt.  That’s it!  I do this for my homemade salsa.

Whether you grow your own citrus or buy it at the store – make the most of them by using one or more of these creative tips.

How about you?  Do you have any tips for using citrus fruit?  

A Breath of Fresh Air: Creating Natural Air Fresheners

Have you ever sprayed air freshener in your home? Does it ever smell like the fragrance described on the can? I must confess that I have used air-fresheners in the past, but I’ve never happy with how my house smelled afterward. To me, the fragrance is so ‘artificial,’ and I also wonder if there are some ingredients in them that maybe aren’t good to inhale.

Create Natural Air Fresheners From the Garden

Discover the Beauty of Natural Fragrances

So, I was intrigued when I heard about ‘natural’ air fresheners made from plants – many of which I have in my garden.

Imagine your home filled with the natural fragrance of citrus paired with your favorite herbs drifting throughout – no overpowering, artificial fragrance, just subtle, refreshing scents.  

How to Make Your Own Natural Air Fresheners

The combinations are endless, and the fragrance is released into the air by adding the contents and enough water to fill a small pot at least 1/2 – 3/4 full. Heat to boiling and then turn the heat down to low and allow it to simmer for a couple of hours. That’s it!

So are you as excited about creating your own ‘natural’ air fresheners as I am? 

citrus of all kinds are great in a freshener

Natural Ingredients for Your Unique Fragrance

Let’s get started with some ingredients that you can use for your unique fragrant combination(s):

Citrus Delights

All types of citrus are refreshing and can serve as the base of your air freshener.  I chose lemons, oranges and limes.  But, if you have a grapefruit tree that is overly generous with its fruit, they would work well too!

Create Natural Air Fresheners from basil

A Touch of Herbs

Now let’s grab some herbs for your natural air fresheners from the garden or the grocery store).

  1. Basil
Create Natural Air Fresheners from Thyme

2. Thyme

Create Natural Air Fresheners from mint

3. Mint

Rosemary and lavender would also work great. I also use vanilla extract and peppercorns in my mixtures.

Ingredients for air fresheners

Crafting Your Natural Air Freshener

Here are a few that I made.

Cooking (and eating) Italian food is some of my favorite – even though I have no Italian ancestry that I know of.  

I used 1 sprig of basil, 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns and a few slices of lemon – it makes my home smell fresh as I imagine an Italian kitchen would smell like.

Add these ingredients to jars and fill them with water to the top. For this project, I used Ball mason jars.

Lemon and basil scented Italian freshener

I think it looks pretty, don’t you? Of course, if you are going to use use them right away, skip the jar and add directly to a small pot. Pour more water until it reaches 3/4 full, heat to boiling, lower the heat to low and enjoy for a few hours – KEEP an eye on the water level and add more as needed – DON’T let it dry out.

Lime, thyme, and mint in a ball jar

More Natural Fragrance Combinations

Here is another combination that I like.

A few slices of lime, 4 – 5 sprigs of thyme, a sprig of mint and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

You can make one air freshener at a time, or create a few and store them in the refrigerator for a week. You can freeze them for longer until ready to use – just make sure to freeze them in a freezer-safe container such as a wide-mouth jar.

Lastly, this is my favorite combination, and only has two ingredients.

Oranges and vanilla extract

Oranges and vanilla extract.

I sliced half an orange and added 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

The fragrance reminds me of orange cream – YUM!

You can also add cinnamon sticks or a few whole cloves to this mixture for a spicier fragrance.

Oranges and vanilla extract

Exploring Natural Fragrance Variations

If you have ever stepped into a Williams & Sonoma store, they have their own natural air freshener recipe:

  • Lemon slices
  • Rosemary sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

In addition to the ingredients I’ve used, here are some others that you can experiment with to create your own unique natural air freshener.

Citrus or apple peels, almond, coconut, or peppermint extract along with herbs like ginger, nutmeg, ground cinnamon, whole cloves, bay leaves, basil, sage, lavender, oregano, and rosemary.

Create Natural Air Fresheners From the Garden

Freshen Your Home Naturally

So if you want to add a little freshness to your home, don’t waste your time spraying artificial fragrance through your home. You can create wonderful combinations of scents using items from your garden, refrigerator, and pantry.

I hope you enjoy making these natural air fresheners as much as I do!

5 Surprising Ways to Use Citrus Fruit For Home and Kitchen

Citrus Trees Dropping Tiny, Green Fruit

The Joy of Growing Citrus Trees

Do you have a citrus trees in your garden? I do.

I have two trees – a Meyer lemon and a brand new ‘Trovita’ orange tree. I use the citrus in all kinds of fun ways and the trees have become a family pleasure.

Nostalgic Citrus Memories

As a child in California, we always had citrus trees in our backyard.  I would pick lemons from my favorite tree just off the back patio. Later, we moved to a larger ranch-style home that had several citrus. I honestly never paid much attention to them, because as a teenager I had more important things to think about – like boys and how to get perfect-perm for my hair (it was the 80’s).

Embracing Citrus Trees After the Bloom

Now as an adult (with permed hair thankfully in my past), I do pay attention to my trees. Consequently, I look forward to the fragrant blossoms that cover citrus trees in mid-winter.

As the blooms fade, tiny green fruit is left behind, which are baby citrus fruit. When spring progresses, some of the small, green fruit drop to the ground. Not surprisingly, this concerns gardeners who don’t understand why.

Citrus Trees Dropping Tiny, Green Fruit

Understanding Citrus Tree Behavior

The Natural Process of Citrus Fruit Drop

Well, let me put all your worries to rest. This is a normal occurrence and not a citrus disease. Citrus trees produce more blossoms than it can grow into mature fruit. They do this in order to attract the most pollinators and after the flower petals drop, little green fruit is left behind, which ideally grow into large delicious fruit ready to harvest in winter. However, the tree cannot support that much fruit, so the tree figures out how much fruit it can grow to maturity and then drops the rest.

Managing Expectations with Young Trees

For those of you who have young citrus trees, I want to warn you that most of the little green fruit will drop. Citrus tree need a large root system and a lot of leaves to support a good amount of fruit and that only comes with age. So, if you see tiny, green citrus on the ground every spring – don’t panic. It is all part of the normal cycle of growing citrus.

Do you have a plant that DOESN’T bring you joy?

I do. There is one particular that has been bothering me for a while and I finally did something about it as I explain in the video below:

While there may be some sadness when removing a healthy plant, I confess that I didn’t feel that this time. The frustration that I feel each year with its under-performance in my garden that I was ready for it to go.

Removing a healthy plant

Removing a healthy plant

Although it doesn’t show in this photo, there was a healthy root system on this tiny orange tree.

A new tree in the same location

A new tree in the same location

I sat and watched them plant my new tree. They did a great job!

A brand new tree with great potential!

A brand new tree with great potential!

I will keep you updated as to how it does. It will be hard to wait for two years for new fruit, but it will be worth it!

What plants do you have that no longer bring you joy?

Book Review: Living With Air Plants

While most of the garden is asleep in winter, citrus trees are filled with sweet, tart fruit ready for picking.

Creative Ways To Get the Most Out of Citrus

Citrus trees are very generous in the amount of fruit that they produce. So much so, that people are often inundated with more citrus than they can eat.

Creative Ways To Get the Most Out of Citrus

This time of year, people find bags and even boxes of freshly-picked citrus left at their door by neighbors who are happy to share their bounty. 

So, whether you have boxes of citrus or have to run to the grocery store for your favorite lemons and oranges – here are some creative ways to use citrus.

1. Freezing Lemon Zest

Freezing Lemon Zest

Lemon zest adds great flavor to your favorite foods and it is easy to freeze.

Simply put the lemon zest in a plastic freezer bag and keep in the freezer for up to a year.  

2. Natural Lemon Freshener

Natural Lemon Freshener
Natural Lemon Freshener

The fresh scent of lemon is welcoming when you walk into a room.  Instead of using artificial air fresheners, you can use citrus to create natural ones.

Ingredients such as basil, lemon slices, and peppercorns OR orange slices with vanilla create wonderful fragrances.

Add the ingredients to a small pot, fill to 3/4 full with water, and heat to boiling.  Then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and enjoy the fragrance for the next couple of hours.

Click here for more information and combinations for natural air fresheners.

3. Household Citrus Cleaner

Household Citrus Cleaner

Citrus peels and vinegar combine to create a natural citrus cleaner that is suitable to use around the house.

You will need the peels from any type of citrus and white distilled vinegar.

– Fill a large jar (or container) with the citrus peels and fill the jar with vinegar.

– Store in a cool, dark place for 3 weeks.

– After 3 weeks, pour the mixture through a strainer to remove any pulp.

– Transfer the citrus/vinegar mixture to a spray bottle, filling it halfway.  Add water to fill the rest of the spray bottle.

– Your natural citrus cleaner is ready to use to wherever vinegar-based cleaners are safe to use such as countertops, walls, faucets, mirrors, and glass.  Don’t use on granite or marble as the vinegar can etch the surface.

*The peels can be frozen for use later.

4. Frozen Citrus Ice Cubes

Frozen Citrus Ice Cubes

An easy way to preserve lemons from your tree when the fruit is but a distant memory – add lemon juice to ice cube trays and freeze.

Once frozen, pop out the lemon ice cubes and place in a plastic freezer bag and store for future use.  These ice cubes are a great way to add lemon when you cook throughout the entire year.  

Creative Ways To Get the Most Out of Citrus
Creative Ways To Get the Most Out of Citrus

If you love to cook, lemon salt is a great way to add subtle lemon flavor to your favorite dishes and it’s easy to make – all you need is kosher salt and lemons.

If you love to cook, lemon salt is a great way to add subtle lemon flavor to your favorite dishes and it’s easy to make – all you need is kosher salt and lemons.

So do you think ? These are some best creative ways to use citrus?

Do you have any ways that you like to use citrus?

Meyer lemon

One of the best things about having a garden in the desert southwest is our ability to grow citrus of all kinds. Lemon trees are a popular fruit tree and I am often asked what type of lemon do I recommend. 

There are different types of lemons but the one that is my favorite isn’t a ‘true’ lemon tree at all. It’s a Meyer lemon, which is a cross between an orange tree and a lemon tree. 

Meyer lemon

The result is a fruit that tastes sweeter than your typical lemon and has lovely thin, smooth skin. Meyer lemons are suitable for use in the same ways that other lemons are, but you can use them in additional ways as well due to their sweeter nature.

I recently shared the reasons why you should plant a Meyer lemons tree in one of my latest articles for Houzz.

Have you ever grown a Meyer lemons tree?

March is the Perfect Time for Planting a Meyer Lemon Tree

Protect Citrus Trees From a Heatwave

Living in the desert southwest has its perks, I am blessed to be able to grow a variety of citrus trees in my garden and they do very well under most circumstances because I protect citrus trees during hot weather.

However, when temperatures outside of the average highs and lows occur, steps need to be taken to protect them. With this week’s record-breaking highs, my orange tree has been suffering as is evident from its sunburned leaves. So I thought, this is a great opportunity to talk about how to protect citrus trees from a heatwave.

Citrus tree covered with burlap in order to protect it from extreme heat and sun

1. Protect Citrus Trees Provide Temporary Shade 

Sunburn isn’t just a human woe; it affects citrus trees too. The west and south-facing sides of citrus trees are susceptible to sunburn during a heatwave. This shows up as yellowing or browning on the leaves on those sides of the tree. Sunburn can also occur on immature citrus fruit, so it’s important to protect them.

Burlap is a Great Shade Cover for Trees

While spraying citrus trees with sunscreen isn’t an option, adding temporary shade is, especially for citrus trees facing south and west that are particularly vulnerable. Put a large piece of burlap over the tree, focusing on those south and west-facing exposures. Burlap is lightweight and inexpensive. It allows some sun to penetrate, which is important, without overwhelming the tree. You can purchase burlap at your big box store, nursery, or Amazon (affiliate link below).

Burlapper Burlap Garden Fabric (40″ x 15′, Natural)

Shade Cloth Protects Citrus Trees  

Shade cloth is an adaptable guardian against sunburn. Whether draped over a scaffold or enlisted to shield neighboring plants, its sun-blocking power proves invaluable during heatwaves. You can easily use a bed sheet in place of burlap for temporary shade. Another option would be to place a shade tent/canopy to help block the sun’s westerly rays.

Shade cloth is very useful as a sun shield when placed on a scaffold or other support – it also works great to help protect other plants in your garden.

Protect citrus trees from a heat wave by watering regularly

2. Increase Irrigation and Water Early to Protect Citrus Trees

When temperatures soar above normal, citrus trees, like most plants, lose more water through their leaves. As a result, their regular watering schedule isn’t enough to meet their needs, so increase the frequency of watering as long as the heat wave lasts. 

The Morning Watering Advantage for Citrus

Watering isn’t just about quantity; timing matters. When you water is vital as it is difficult for plants to uptake water in the middle of the day. This is because all of their resources are dedicated to enduring the stresses of the heat and it’s hard for them to divert those to uptake water. Water in the early morning, will allow them to build up a water reserve that will help them bolster their endurance throughout the day.

Get the Desert Gardening 101 How to Guide

Want to learn basic tips for how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert landscapes?
Click the box below and get the Desert Gardening 101 GUIDE .
Imagine all that helpful information right at your fingertips!

online-class-desert-gardening-101


Restoration after the Extreme Heat and Sun

When the heatwave subsides, it’s time to bid farewell to temporary shade. Remove the temporary shade in order to protect citrus trees for cooler conditions. As temperatures stabilize, return to your usual watering schedule. By implementing these two proven techniques, you’re empowering your citrus trees to defy the scorching grip of brutal summer temperatures and minimize any negative effects.

Beyond Heatwaves: Year-Round Trunk and Bark Care to Protect Citrus Trees
 

Remember, safeguarding citrus trees transcends seasons. Ensuring your trees’ trunks and bark receive proper sun protection is a year-long responsibility. Explore this previous blog post for insights on why and how to provide this vital shield.

Hummingbird Container Garden

Hummingbird Container Garden

Part 3 of the tour of my back garden looks at my favorite flowering shrubs, a hummingbird container garden, and a peek at a part of my garden that few people get to see.

I hope that you enjoyed the tour of my garden. Admittedly, it isn’t fancy, but neither am I. It reflects much about my personality – rather carefree, not fussy, and a lover of color. My hope is that you will find some inspiration for your own outdoor space.

If you haven’t had a chance to view the other videos of my garden, here is Part 1 as well as Part 2