Posts

Do you have a citrus tree in your garden? I do.  
 
I have two trees – a Meyer lemon and a brand new ‘Trovita’ orange tree. 
 
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 trees. 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).
 
Now as an adult (with permed hair thankfully in my past), I do pay attention to my citrus 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. However, as spring progresses, some of the small, green fruit drop to the ground. Not surprisingly, this concerns gardeners who don’t understand why.
 
Well, let me put all your worries to rest.  This is a normal occurrence. 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 drop the rest.
 
For those of you who have young citrus trees, I want to warn you that most of the little green fruit will drop. Citrus trees 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.

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?

SaveSave

I have spent the past few weeks indoors whenever possible avoiding the desert heat.  While I do venture outdoors occasionally to do consults and take a weekly tour of the garden to make sure everything is okay.

We did lose a small tree and some branches during a fierce monsoon storm over the weekend, but I was grateful for the rain and the cool temperatures that followed.

Last week, I showed you some of my favorite plant photos.  This week, I would like to share with you some of my favorite DIY blog posts, most of which you can do inside.
One of my favorite DIY projects was creating natural air-fresheners.

I don’t know about you, but I do not like the heavy, artificial smells of air-freshener sprays – not to mention the idea of chemicals floating through the air.  So, the idea of making air-fresheners using  plants definitely appealed to me.


I hope you are inspired to make you own!
Do you have a citrus in your garden? I do.  
 
Mine are quite young – I have an ‘Arizona Sweet’ orange tree and a ‘Meyer’ lemon.
 
Growing up in California, we always had citrus trees. When I was a young girl, I remember picking lemons from our large lemon tree in the backyard. We later moved to a larger ranch-style home which had several citrus trees and I honestly never paid much attention to these them, largely because I was a teenager and had much more important things to think about – like boys and how to get the perfectly-permed hair (it was the 80’s).
 
Now that I am all grown up and permed hair is thankfully in my past, I do pay attention to my citrus trees. Every winter, I look forward to the fragrant blossoms that cover citrus trees. These blossoms slowly turn into tiny citrus fruit. As spring progresses, some of these small, green fruit end up dropping to the ground, which leads to a host of questions from worried gardeners.
 
Well, I want to put all your worries to rest.  This is a normal occurrence. 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 that will be harvested 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.
 
For those of you who have young citrus trees, most of the little green fruit will drop.  Citrus trees have to have 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 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!


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 was never happy with how my house smelled afterward.  To me, the fragrances were so ‘artificial’ and I also wondered if there were some ingredients in these sprays that maybe weren’t so healthy to be inhaling.


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


Imagine if your home had the natural fragrance of citrus paired with your favorite herbs drifting throughout.  No overpowering, artificial fragrance, just subtle, refreshing scents.  

The combinations are endless and the fragrance is released into the air by adding the contents of jar 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? 


Let’s get started with some ingredients that can be used to create your own unique fragrant combination(s):



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!


Now let’s grab some herbs from the garden (or grocery store)….



Basil



Thyme

Mint


Rosemary and lavender would also work great, but I didn’t have any growing in my garden.


I also decided to use vanilla extract and peppercorns in my mixtures.


Are you ready for the fun part and make some wonderful natural fragrance combinations?


Here are a few that I made…



I love cooking (and eating) Italian food – even though I have not Italian ancestry that I know of.  So, I like this combination of 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.


I added these ingredients to jam jars and filled them with water to the top…

I think it looks pretty, don’t you?


Of course, if you will 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.


Here is another combination that I love…



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


You can make up one air freshener at a time, or make a few and store them in the refrigerator for a week or 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, like I have.


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



Oranges and vanilla extract.



I sliced half an orange and added 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  The fragrance reminds me of the orange sherbet / vanilla ice-cream that I ate when I was a child.


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


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 that I have used, here are some others that you can experiment with to create your own unique natural air freshener: citrus peels, apple peels, almond extract, peppermint extract, coconut extract, ginger, nutmeg, ground cinnamon, whole cloves, bay leaves, basil, sage, lavender, oregano and rosemary.



Have fun creating your own fragrance combinations. 


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 in your garden, refrigerator and pantry.


**For additional fragrant combinations, click here.


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



What can you do with a sprig of basil, a teaspoon of peppercorns and a lemon?

Hint: The answer doesn’t involve eating them.

I can’t wait for you to see what I do with these 3 items as well as some other interesting combinations.

I’ll post what wonderful things you can do with some simple, edible items on Monday.

**Sorry for the teaser, but it will be worth the wait  – I promise 🙂

The past couple of days have been filled with the normal things that make up my life….taking care of my family, landscape consults, blogging, etc.  But, one of the things that I love and sometimes don’t love about life are the unexpected things that sometimes cross my daily path.

First the unexpected things that I enjoy…
The beautiful flowers on this Blue Hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii), stopped me in my tracks as we were entering the house at Double S Farms.  
This Australian native is a big favorite of mine because of the large purple flowers that are produced in the spring.  To be honest, I am not sure why someone decided to give it the common name of ‘Blue Hibiscus’, because the flowers are always purple.  I am not a huge fan of common names in general – especially the ones that don’t make sense.
Blue Hibiscus does well in our desert climate and grows 4 – 6 ft. high and wide. Some gardeners report that it is hardy to 15 degrees F,  so this shrub hold up well under the frosts we experience.  Prune lightly after the first flush of flowers to help produce a second flush.  Supplemental fertilizer is not needed, but regular irrigation is.  It does not do well in an area with reflected sun, so place in a north, south or east facing exposure.
Okay, here is one last look at one of the gorgeous flowers just beginning to open….  
 
Other instances when I enjoy the unexpected is when I see a plant that does something different then the norm – grow larger, produce different colored flowers, foliage, etc.
Yesterday, I was called to a client’s home to look at his sick Magnolia tree (yes, Magnolias grow in the desert).  The prognosis on the Magnolia tree was good and the client was happy.  I offered to look at the rest of his landscape to see how things looked when we walked up to the largest lemon tree that I have ever seen…
This picture really does not accurately show how large this lemon tree was.  The fragrance coming off of the tree was amazing….the scent of the lemons along with the smell of the lemon blossoms was intoxicating.
**My clients are soon quickly convinced that I am somewhat of a crazy plant lady because I get so excited when I see something out of the ordinary.  They in turn are tickled pink by the knowledge that they have a special plant in their very own garden.
Well, the client with the lemon tree was a retired doctor who was pleased to show off his tree that was planted over 20 years ago.  He said that he had more fruit then he knew what to do with and offered to pick me some lemons and ended up picking me 2 bags full.  I was very touched because he was an older gentleman and it was not easy for him, but he insisted on picking them for me himself.
Now for the unexpected things that I do not enjoy at all….

I was on my way home from this consult when my husband called me to say that my 7 year old son may have broken his arm.  So I rushed home and took him to the doctor.  X-rays were not clear as to whether there was a break or not, so his arm was put into a black brace for a couple of weeks until they could check it again.

You know at first, how it can be kind of fun for a kid to have a cast and/or brace?  That is until they realize how restrictive it is.  I was asked, “Do I have to wear this all the time?  Even when I sleep?”  This morning, he asked me if he had to wear it when he played his video game 😉

Yesterday, I received very unwelcome AND unexpected news…
It was the beginning of a beautiful day and I was getting ready to leave to go on a landscape consultation when I got a call from my oldest daughter, who was just sobbing into the phone.
You know that dropping feeling in your stomach that you get sometimes when you know you are going to hear something awful?  Well, that is exactly what I felt as soon as I heard her voice.
Well, she had fallen down the stairs as she left her apartment and she was pretty sure that she had broken both of her feet.  Somehow, she was able to crawl back up to her apartment where she called her husband, who was at work, to come and get her.  Then she called me.

As a mother, it is so hard when your child is in pain.  I spoke to her trying to help her stay calm while her husband rushed as fast as he could to get home.  But her voice would break with cries of pain.  I woke up my husband, who works at night, and we rushed to be at her side.

Firefighters were called to carry her down the stairs of her apartment and then we met her and her husband at the hospital.  As she was checking in, the clerk asked her if she had ever been there before and my daughter said “No”.  I then stepped in to remind her that she had been there before….23 years ago when she was born.  Surprisingly, they still had her medical records from back then.

Well, it turns out that she broke her right foot AND her left ankle.  She is definitely laid up for a while and will not be able to teach (she is a high school history teacher).  Her husband is wonderful and very supportive.  I will be going to ‘babysit’ her today so that he can attend an important meeting for a little while.  So, I am gathering my magazines, DVD’s and bringing them dinner.
And so in closing, I am hopeful that the coming days bring only unexpected good things for both my family and yours 🙂

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.