We are late for our first seasonal freeze.
Even so, two freeze warnings have sent us scurrying at night to protect our sensitive citrus. The garage has held the Key Limes for close to thirty nights while our small kitchen has twice hosted our hardier citrus. Soon the run-from-the-freeze games will end and our citrus will have no choice but to take up their winter quarters on our sun porch.
All the moving of heavy plants has led me to mover’s regret; I should not have moved those lovely southern belles out of their natural hot house environment. There in Lake Jackson, my citrus could have been planted in the ground to grow tall and produce many fruit. Here, the best they can become are small unmanageable container plants.
I didn’t know citrus could grow so fast. Four years ago, they wore one gallon pots. And now that their feet have outgrown seven gallon pots, I’m trying to recall why I thought growing citrus in Oklahoma was a good idea.
The more I garden, the more I come to believe that it’s best to cultivate what naturally grows in the place one is planted. Every part of the world must offer its own beauty. Here in central Oklahoma, I grow peonies and hollyhocks and spring bulbs like Daffodils that I had no prayer of growing in South Texas. Citrus do not belong in Oklahoma.
But here I sit, mother to four citrus trees — two tender very productive Key Limes that shiver and turn blue if the thermostat drops below 48F; and two hardier citrus that have yet to earn their keep — a fruitless but very pretty Meyer Lemon and a Satsuma Orange that delivered its first ever bumper crop this season. Two oranges.
The worst of my citrus blues are the aphids; — ugly, tiny, pear-shaped insects found on the bottom of leaves — after fighting these little buggers all year, I gave up in September. But now the trees look so sad I can no longer ignore them, especially those two making eye contact in our shared kitchen quarters.
With wet soapy sponge in hand, I began first-aid on the orange tree three days ago. Leaf by leaf, the black sooty mold and sticky honey-dew is slowly disappearing. Three hours into my ministry, I have 75 percent of one tree completed; in just ten more hours , I will land on the spot marked “Routine Citrus Care.”
Today I sprayed all the clean leaves with Safer Insecticidal Spray to temporarily insulate them from further attack. Given that the soap needs to be sprayed every week, I’m planning on making my own home-made formula for the sake of convenience and cost. Then, for the rest of our unnatural shared lives together, I will give these little four-foot darlings a drenching soapy shower every week, even if they tell me they don’t really need it.
So what else is a mother of four citrus in Oklahoma to do?
I tell myself that the care of these citrus trees will be no different from the rest of everyday life. After all, the human experience is an around-and-around-we-go sort of existence; whether it’s personal care or our housekeeping or our gardening or our whatever, the work is never done until we’re done for.
There is no other way than to sing the citrus blues.
Unless. The answer is still lurking under that black sooty mold. Even now the wheels in my head are turning a different way. Perhaps I could give my cleaned up trees away — even shedding one would yield a 25 percent time savings (to me.) And after all, who needs two Key Lime trees?
Wouldn’t a cleaned up but very fertile Key Lime tree make some lucky someone a mighty fine Christmas gift?