What's the best solution to avoiding rising prices of any produce? Grow it yourself. Fortunately, the Houston area and climate is perfect for growing citrus, especially limes. Unfortunately, if you plant a lime tree now it won't produce fruit until next year. But, just in case another lime crisis happens (or it continues), here's how you can plant a lime tree at home.
We spoke with Tyler Horne, market manager of the Saturday Eastside Street & Wednesday City Hall Urban Harvest farmers markets, about growing limes in Houston. He says it is super easy to grow citrus in our area because the lime trees are well adapted to our gumbo soil. Horne explains that the rootstock of lime trees will grasp onto this type of soil easily.
When shopping for a lime tree, make sure it came from Texas, and not from another state, otherwise your tree won't produce as much fruit. Urban Harvest has a fruit tree sale in January and subsequent sales in March and April. Horne recommends Houstonians visit Buchanan's Native Plants on 11th Street and Heights, as well as the Wabash Antiques and Feed Store on Washington. Each has an excellent selection of citrus.
To plant your tree, find an area where it will receive at least half a day of sun. Lime trees don't need a lot of sun, but you want to make sure they are in an area that will be exposed to light during the day.
"Basically dig a hole about the same size as the pot you bought the tree in, and stick it in the ground and put some mulch over it," Horne explains. "We really recommend mulch this time of year because it helps with water retention. Particularly with a new tree, you've got to establish its roots by keeping it well watered, not overly watered. But, a couple times a week will be good."
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In fact, because drought conditions continue in the Houston watering plants is more important than ever. We have not received as much rain as we normally do during this time of year, and as Horne says, "you can't just rely on Mother Nature to water your tree," especially since May is a little late in the planting season for citrus.
"It's almost getting too hot to plant a lime tree; it's not the end of the world. We really recommend people to plant their citrus by mid-April, because then otherwise it gets too hot to plant," Horne says. "You can still do it; you just have to be more careful with it."
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Taking care of a lime tree is a lot easier than you would think, though. Just water it a couple of days throughout the week -- more if it doesn't rain. You don't have to prune the tree and you shouldn't fertilize it at the beginning of spring. Urban Harvest explains in an article about caring for citrus trees, that you may fertilize once in the summer and the following spring, but it's not a necessity.
If you don't have space outside to plant a lime tree, you can grow it in a pot. The trees won't produce as much fruit as they would in the ground, but you'll still get a lot of limes. Horne says he has a Meyer lemon tree in a pot and he predicts it will produce roughly 40 or 50 lemons.
Buchanan's Native Plants have Mexican Thornless Limes, or key limes, which are small, citrus fruits that you can easily grow in Houston, as well as Kaffir Limes, which are excellent for Thai dishes. Wabash Feed & Garden Store carries key limes and Kaffir limes; Wabash sometimes has Persian limes, which are a cross between a key lime and a lemon, as well as Palestine limes, which are sweet and yellow.
If you want hands-on practice with building your own fruit and vegetable garden, sign up for a class hosted by Urban Harvest on Saturday, May 31. Daniel Millikin, co-owner of Edible Earth Resources, will teach you how to construct your own garden to plant and harvest fruits and vegetables.