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

 
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.
 
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 that I use citrus.
 
1. 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
 
 
 
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
 
 
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
 
 
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.  
 
 
 
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.
 
I made lemon salt last year and it is delicious – I promise, you’ll love it. Click here to see a step-by-step tutorial.
 
Do you have any ways that you like to use citrus?

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Do you have a lemon or other type of citrus tree growing in your backyard?

Chances are, if you live in California, the Southwest or Southeastern United States, you do or your neighbor does.

While many people throughout the rest of the nation are waiting for snow to disappear, we get to enjoy the sight of colorful citrus fruit hanging from our trees, just ready to be picked and enjoyed.

During this time of year, neighbors give bags of excess fruit to neighbors or local food banks.

I have a young lemon tree, that isn’t old enough to produce fruit for me, but that hasn’t stopped me from having lemons to use.


Between my mother’s prolific lemon tree on the family farm to those from my vet (who happens to be our neighbor), I have plenty to use.

I’ve used lemons in a variety of ways from freezing the zest, the juice, making citrus cleaner, natural air fresheners and was looking for another way to use them.

I recently learned about lemon salt and how great it tastes on my favorite dishes – chicken, fish, homemade salad dressings, salsa and much more – basically anything that you want to add a hint of citrus and salt too.

Making lemon salt is very easy to do and can be done using grapefruit, limes or oranges instead.

Citrus salts make a great homemade gift and are also a great way to preserve the taste of your favorite citrus when they are no longer in season.  

Whether you grow your own lemons or buy them from the store, lemon salt is easy to make.


1. You’ll need 3 lemons and 1 cup of kosher salt.

2. Zest 3 lemons.


 3. Add together 1 cup kosher salt, the lemon zest and the juice from 1 lemon.

(Of course, you can make a lot more, like I did – I had a lot of lemons and wanted to make some as gifts.)


4. Mix together the lemon juice, salt and zest.



5. Pour the lemon salt mixture into a shallow baking dish or cookie sheet.

6. Place in a 200 degree F. oven for a half hour.  Then lightly mix it up and bake for another 20 minutes.
(If it hasn’t dried all the way, cover it with a clean dish towel and let sit overnight.)


7. Use your fingers to break up any large clumps or you can put it in your food processor and pulse it 2 – 3 times.


That’s it!  I told you it was easy.  You can use it right away or store it in a sealed jar to keep it for longer.

Lemon or salts made from other citrus fruit last a long time – at least a year if put in a sealed container.

If you love lemon pepper, you can simply add pepper to the mixture for a delicious addition to your steak!


I’ve been enjoying making flavored salts for cooking with.  Last year, I made basil and herb salts, which were delicious too!
Do you like the idea of using household cleaners that are natural?

I do.

Did you know that citrus has natural cleaning properties?

It does.

I just finished making up a batch of citrus cleaner and wrote about it in my latest Birds & Blooms blog post that you can read here…



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!


Every winter, we are the lucky recipients of a bounty of citrus from both family and neighbors.
 
 
My fruit bowls and pantry are full of blood oranges, grapefruit, and lemons.
 
Citrus generally ripens during the winter and the cold snap that we had last week had many people picking the citrus fruit from their trees so that the fruit wouldn’t be damaged by the frost.
 
The problem arises that either I have too many lemons in winter and none in the summer unless I want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on lemons.
 
So, what do you do?
 
Well, I juiced them a week ago and made “lemon ice-cubes.”
 
Then, I promptly forgot about them until I was searching in the freezer for the chicken to thaw out for dinner.
So, I took them out and put my lemon ice cubes into freezer bags.
 
 
I have three freezer bags full of lemon ice cubes, which will last me through the coming year.
 
What do I use them for?  Well, many of my favorite dinner recipes call for a tablespoon or two of lemon juice, and they are great for making ice tea.
 
You can also save the lemon zest, (just before you juice them), and freeze the zest too.
 
 
My kids love grapefruit (I don’t) and have been eating some for both breakfasts and a snack.  They have also been taking the blood oranges to school in their lunch boxes.


My friend, Becky, from Tucson, made ‘Orange Peel Vinegar’ which she uses as a cleaner with her extra oranges.
 
What do you do with an overabundance of citrus?
January is the slowest time of the year for blooms in the desert.  However, due to our year-round growing climate, there are still a lot of flowers to see…
   
 Bower Vine (Pandorea jasminoides)
My Valentine shrub (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) is in full bloom.
One of my Mexican Bird-of-Paradise trees (Caesalpinia mexicana), happily blooming away…
Radiation Lantana ‘Desert Sunset’ is still blooming underneath my Dalbergia sissoo tree. 

The tree has protected it from frost damage.

The flowers are starting to peek out of the Silvery Cassia (Senna phyllodenia).
More blooms will soon follow from this Australian native.
 
One of the Geraniums in the Children’s Flower Garden. 
In case you are getting tired of the flowers in my garden or just want to see more colorful blooms, I thought I would also show you some of the flowers currently blooming at Double S Farms.
 
Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis) is a reliable year-round bloomer.

The flowers of the ‘New Gold Mound’ Lantana lighten in the winter, but are still beautiful.
I found this single flower on the Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis)

Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)

I’m not sure if fruit counts as a bloom for GBBD, but just in case….

Kumquats reaching towards the sky.  
And lastly, a photo of a single rose from the Neglected, Overgrown, Nameless Rose just before I pruned it back.  I realize I did not take the photo on the 15th, but it would have still been there if I had not pruned the rose bush back over the weekend.  
I also wanted it to have one last opportunity to show off it’s flowers before the new flush of rose blooms come in March.
 

English Rose ‘Glamis Castle’

Thank you for joining me for January’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  Please visit May Dreams Gardens for more sites featuring Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.

In the Desert Southwest, we are fortunate to be able to grow citrus.  In early fall, your citrus tree probably looks like the one pictured, with green fruit that is getting ready to ripen in this winter.

 
It is time for the third fertilizer application to your citrus trees if you have not already done so.  Mature citrus trees require three applications of fertilizer – around Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day.
 
Citrus trees require nitrogen more than any other nutrient.  I recommend using a granular fertilizer specially formulated for citrus because, in addition to nitrogen, they also contain micronutrients, (iron, zinc, manganese), that are vital to the health of your citrus tree.  Citrus fertilizer spikes are also an option.
 
If you choose to use only organic fertilizer for your citrus, there are some natural products available, or you can use composted cow manure, working it into the top few inches of soil and watering it in afterward.
 
GENERAL GUIDELINES:
 
– Fertilizer should not be applied to newly planted trees – wait until they have been in the ground for one year.
 
– Water the soil around the tree before and after you apply fertilizer.
 
– Follow the directions on the fertilizer bag.  Be sure that you divide by three the annual amount of fertilizer needed by your tree – do not apply all at once!
 
– When in doubt, apply slightly less fertilizer then you think you need.  You don’t want to over-fertilize and end up with fertilizer burn.  Smaller trees require less fertilizer than larger trees.
 
– Apply granular fertilizer around the perimeter of the tree, extending just past the drip line.  Work into the top few inches of soil.
 
– Do not apply a foliar fertilizer when air temperatures are 85 degrees F or above because there is a danger of burning the foliage.
 
– For mature Grapefruit trees, (over six years old), apply only 1/2 the amount of fertilizer recommended on the fertilizer label because high amounts of nitrogen promote a thick rind (peel).
 
Get ready to enjoy the fruits of your labors this winter and get ready for March when we will discuss the correct way to prune and plant citrus.