I’m just back from a wonderful gardening holiday in the south of France, one of the highlights of which was a Lemon Festival in Menton, just next to the Italian border. It’s a delightful setting – steep terraces of lemon and olive groves tumble down towards the turquoise sea, and the streets of the town are lined with orange trees and palms. In winter, it’s the warmest place in the whole of France, and pretty much the only area in the country where the climate is suitable for growing citrus outdoors.
Let them breathe. All citrus plants like to be outdoors over the summer, so take them out of the greenhouse or porch and put them on the patio between June and September.
- Give them the right soil. You can buy special citrus compost; failing that mix 50-50 soil-based potting compost such as John Innes No. 3 with ericaceous compost. They dislike limy soil and waterlogging, so make sure your mix is free-draining and never stand them in saucers of water for more than a few minutes.
- Be generous – give them a special citrus feed throughout the growing season and you’ll be rewarded with copious fruits and lots of pretty, scented flowers.
- Bring them inside over the winter and reduce watering. Put them in the brightest, coolest indoor spot you can. An unheated spare room is ideal.
- Watch out for critters – and mealybugs can both make a nuisance of themselves. Inspect your plants regularly and try and nip problems in the bud early – it’s much easier that way.
Follow these 5 steps and you’ll be rewarded with tasty fruit and perfumed flowers for years to come. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make some Limoncello with the fruit I smuggled back in my suitcase!