Saturday, February 2, 2008

So far, success

I planted these seedlings in the late fall of 2006, anticipating they would die, like everything else I've ever tried to grow from seed. Lucky for me, at just over one year, they're doing fairly well.
When I started them, I really didn't know anything about growing a citrus tree, and truthfully, I haven't learned much.
Here's a rundown of how their lives started, and how they got to where they are now:
I had bought a couple of the Honey Tangerines in late fall, and upon eating them, realized they were seedier than their regular Mandarin/Tangerine counterparts. They were also quite juicy and very sweet. On a whim, I put some in a glass with water, and a few others directly into some soil.
The ones in the waterglass just got thrown out, but I kept watering the ones in the soil, just to see.
I'd put 3-4 seeds in each little pot, with very little faith. In what didn't feel like a very long time I actually got a few sprouts, and even multiples in some pots! I kept them on the windowsill for a while, but we live in Winnipeg, and our apartment windows don't provide much protection from the cold. So I moved them a bit further into the apartment and put them under a compact fluorescent light. I gave one of the little seedlings to my father-in-law for his birthday, at the beginning of December, as he has a nice collection of bonsais, and I thought this might make a nice addition. The remaining seedlings were kept fairly well watered, and under good light, until the windowsill became a favorable location again.
From late fall to late spring, I'd say they grew about 4 inches, with shiny and tough feeling leaves. Also, the first few leaves were very fragrant, if you rubbed them between your fingers, they smelled alot like Fruit Loops.
The summer of 2007 was very hot, and sunny, for the most part, so my little ones got a good dose of what, I'm sure, compared to their 'natural' environment. They really shot up for a while, but once they reached the 7-8 inch mark, growth really slowed and some leaves on the lower portion of the stem died off. I think I had a bug or two nibbling on them at one point, as one of the leaves that was young that summer still has a little seam eaten out of it.
Over the summer, these plants got overwatered, parched and probably sunburnt to boot.
But they survived into the fall again, and now, the beginning of February 2008, they're all around 10-12 inches tall, with leaves up to one inch in diameter, and even 2 inches in length.

I transplanted them a couple of weeks ago, fearing they might die. The root system was very dense, and stayed very low in the pot, and the soil looked a bit nutrient deficient. Upon adding some pebbles in the bottoms, as well as some fresh soil down there, I plopped them back in, and made a nice little mound on top, covering up some of the stem, as they looked too long from the soil level to where the leaves started.
I watered them pretty well, and put them back on their shelf with their one compact fluorescent bulb, and one iridescent bulb (for a bit of added warmth).
I've begun to strictly water from the bottom now, as the top mounds are so nice, and when I was watering from the top, it eroded the soil away and had exposed some roots.
Amazingly, in the last week, the biggest one has developed around 5 new, big leaves, and the side growth on the other two appears to be benefiting this new change too.
I rotate them a few times a month, and am getting in the habit of watering them before they tell me they're thirsty.

The reason I've started writing about them is because when I started, there weren't any good resources I could quickly find online, so hopefully, someone interested gets to read this, and maybe offers a few pointers.
I looked at a few of the diseases that may more commonly affect this type of fruit tree, and I think they're disease free, though there are some leaves with damage. I've stopped cutting off the 'yucky' ones, which seems to have made a big difference in the plants' overall health too.

I'm not going to transplant them into anything bigger yet, maybe next year, for now, I'm hoping they'll fill out a little, though I am considering maybe some wider pots.