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The Belles of St Clemence

I’ve never really seen citrus fruits as a UK crop as I have always associated them with hot places such as Italy and Israel. A scene with rows upon rows of citrus fruits sucking in the sun doesn’t bring to mind any part of the UK as background.

However, I have noticed that quite a few people seem to have dwarf varieties of oranges, lemons, limes and even grapefruits that provide a small amount of fruit for consumption although many seem to be simply for decor. I’m not very fashionable so my plants are purely for a practical use such as consumption, preferably more, so I’ve not really looked at them.

Today I was offered a small orange that someone had grown in their patio. It was a Satsuma or Clementine and it tasted nice. So I started looking at what you need to do to grow your own citrus fruits and what I discovered was that citrus fruits are simple to grow and can even be grown outside.

So I thought why not have a go at growing some myself as part of my master plan for next year. The only problem is that trees take a little while before they grow a decent crop. Although I have seen trees with a small amount of fruit within a couple of years.

I found out that the easiest way to grow citrus fruit trees is to simply take the seeds from your favourite fruits and bring them on. A recommended method is to take a jar and fill it three quarters of the way up with compost. Put three seeds in each jar on the surface of the compost and push them very slightly into the compost, but do not bury them. Water the seeds very lightly, do not saturate the compost, and then cover the top of the jar with cling film. Put in a warm and well lit spot and monitor until the seeds have germinated. When they are getting too big for the jar relocate them to a pot each and ensure that they are kept in a warm light place.

Of course if you have the funds you can buy a grown specimen or a dwarf variety of whatever your citrus choice is. This means it will likely provide a crop on the first year and it has the added benefit with the dwarf variety that the tree will never grow too big to be lifted and moved to protect it from frost. Remember that seeds from dwarf varieties will not grow as dwarfs. The normal variety is grafted onto a small root stock so the seed is just a normal seed and will grow true.

Citrus fruit trees will grow in the UK fine and provide a good crop for consumption if treated right. They should be kept in containers though for convenience as they need to be moved around to survive and flourish. Inside in the warm for winter and not subject to frosts and approaching summer can be kept in a sunny place, a patio, greenhouse or even outside when it is sunny. They should be kept watered but never wet.

A crop of citrus fruit after an event will provide you with a supply of vitamins, some ingredients and flavouring for your food and some treats for the kids. It wasn’t that long ago mandarins and Clementine’s were rare and given as Christmas gifts in your stockings. After an event they will be again.

2 comments to The Belles of St Clemence

  • Skvez

    “Can be grown in the UK” and “need to be protected from frost” appear to be mutually exclusive comments to me.
    From a variety point of view oranges would be nice but from a vitamin and mineral point of view if we have apples we don’t *need* oranges. Apple trees are more robust in the UK climate.

  • Skean Dhude

    Many crops considered suitable for the UK have the warning ‘protect from frost’ I don’t see these being that much different but different enough to make them a valuable commodity. They will grow but few will have them. A good barter item and don’t forget back in the 1700s people took limes with them to avoid scurvy.

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