CLowe1622
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Ants and Brown Blobs on Lemon Tree

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So I bought a lemon tree a few years ago, and have it in a container for now.

It has recently been invaded by tiny black ants and some brown blobs which I don't know how to get rid of.

It's producing small fruits each year, but not growing at the rate I'd hoped.

Can anyone help me identify these creatures, tell me how to get rid of them, and possibly throw in some pruning advice if needed?

I'm located in the NW Georgia, USA.

Thank you so so much!!
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applestar
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Re: Lemon Tree Help

The brown blobs are scale insects -- you have a pretty serious infestation. The ants tend these sucking pests like they do with aphids because the scale insects produce sweet "honeydew". I believe they keep them in their nests over the winter and bring them out to pasture on your plants.

First step is to eradicate the ants. Use a bait rather than trying to kill the workers. They will take the bait back to the colony and feed to their babies and the queen -- buh-bye queen :twisted: If there is a serious invasion, by all means spray and wipe up some of them -- don't bother buying poisons... I feel much safer using sudsy water made with hand soap or dish washing liquid and they will die just as quickly. I also make bait with laundry borax sprinkled in yogurt cups and ice cream tubs when empty. But if you have small pets or young children that might get into them, then you should use more secure containers since borax is a bio-cumulative toxin. (I'm currently using borax poured into a squeeze bottle heinz relish leftover from last year's party -- anything sweet, a little vinegary, a little greasy will attract ants).

For the scale insects, start by using cotton swab dipped in a cup of warm water mixed with a tablespoon of of rubbing alcohol, a drop or two of soap, and a drop or two of oil. I use Dr. bronner's liquid soap and canola oil. Soak the brown bumps, then after about 5 minute, swipe with the cotton swab and they should come right off. Pay special attention to leaf nodes where new buds will form and grow -- there will be nearly invisible tiny babies -- just soak those areas with the solution which will suffocate them and dry them up. But get rid of the big brown ones first -- I call them "motherships" -- they are adults that bear dozens of young every few days.
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applestar
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Re: Lemon Tree Help

Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

imafan26
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Re: Lemon Tree Help

What apple said about controlling the scale is spot on. If the weather is nice outside then it is probably time to repot that tree. It really needs more light. Your lemon looks more like a lime. Citrus require high light, if you keep it indoors it needs a lot of light, so if it is warm enough train it back to go outside and keep it there as long as the temperature does not freeze.

Citrus like an acidic soil that is well drained and needs to be fed regularly with citrus food, or miracle grow for acid loving plants. Citrus requires micros. I use vigoro citrus food from Home Depot. It's NPK is 6-4-6. I have switched to fertilizers with numbers as low as I can get it, because I found I don't need high numbers to get good results. Vigoro does have slow release nitrogen so it can last a while. Citrus and most trees are fertilized based on the diameter of the trunk. I also give my citrus osmocote or nutricote slow release fertilizer once or twice a year if I remember to do it. The package will tell you how often to fertilize, but I fertilize my trees when they start to show new leaf growth (for me that is now), when the plants flower, when the fruit start to set and nutricote in the fall. My trees are in large 16-20 inch pots and since I don't like to repot, I plant in cinder. It means that I do have to water every day or every other day and cinder has no nutrients, but I don't have to repot. Some of my trees are almost 20 years old in the pot.

Potted citrus will naturally dwarf, even if they are not dwarf rootstock. I do have to move the pots or tip them to make sure they are not going into the ground. Dwarf trees will not produce as much fruit as a full grown 30ft tree, but then I don't have the space for a tree that size.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

CLowe1622
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Re: Lemon Tree Help

Thank you so much Applestar! I knew they were some sort of pod, but have no idea how they got there :?
Where do they come from? Am I not doing something to keep them at bay, or is that common for lemon tress?
I'm going to soak them off right now!

Thank you too, imafan26! It does look like it produces tiny limes - do they turn yellow when the tree matures?
When I bought the tree (3 years or so ago) from Home Depot, it came with citrus food tablets to use during the growing season. It has grown a good bit since I bought it, but I've only repotted it once. Since I live in Northwest Georgia, I keep it indoors in the winter - in as much light as possible, and outside in the summer and fall. I still have it in a pot since I wasn't sure if it would survive all year outside. Can you even grow lemon trees in Georgia? Should I keep it outside all the time as long as it's not freezing temps? We just had a snow about 2 weeks ago and will probably have another in February. This week it has been in the low 40's to high 60's...You never can tell around here...

What about pruning? I have searched how and when, but I'm still not clear on what to cut, when, and where...
Obviously I'm not up to speed on lemon trees...I really appreciate the replies :)

imafan26
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Re: Lemon Tree Help

Citrus trees are not really frost hardy but most of mine stay outside all year and it can get into the high 40's here. I think that the Meyer lemon is the most cold tolerant but most citrus are o.k. in the 40-50 degree F. range.

Citrus trees resent pruning so I only prune to keep it from getting taller. I cut off any watersprouts and do very little trimming off the sides. Citrus should have a tight canopy. I open the top of mine to let light and air in and that keeps the aphids and sooty mold at bay. I put out ant bait a couple of times year, anytime I see ants on the tree, especially when there is new growth. If the tree does not get enough water or light, the tree drops leaves.

Your tree is in flower now so it should be fed. Make sure you water thoroughly and through the pot to flush out salts. Since the tree is inside, it will dry out slower and if you have a peat based mix it may dry out slower.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

CLowe1622
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Re: Lemon Tree Help

It usually drops it's leaves in the winter around here, especially if I have it outside with the wind. I'm going to Home Depot today and get some more fertilizer for it. I hesitate to prune anything too, but it's not really a 'tree shape' at this point and I was a little worried it might get weird if I didn't prune it. But for now, I'll feed it and repot it over the next couple of months and see what happens.
I'll post what comes about this summer and probably have more questions!
Thank you - Thank you! :-() :-() :-() :-() :-()

imafan26
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Re: Lemon Tree Help

Citrus trees do not tolerate hard pruning. After it leafs out you can select which branches you want to cut off. As a rule never cut more than 1/3 off any tree.

People here tend to let the citrus trees go until they get too tall for anything but the birds to pick or the neighbor starts complaining about the overhanging branches. When people cut off half their canopy, they end up with a tree that stops producing until the canopy grows back.

You can prune your tree to shape it but you need to prune it at the right time. Some people recommend waiting until the June drop. I don't do that, since I prefer to cut the branches while they are still small enough to prune with pruners or loppers. I prune a little every year to maintain the height so I prune after the tree has flushed to thin out the branches and make sure none are growing in the wrong direction.

If you want to cut back the branches wait until just before the flush and you can cut back the tips to an outward facing node. Remember that most citrus flowers on young branches so you don't want to cut your potential fruit off so don't take off too much.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

CLowe1622
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Re: Lemon Tree Help

So I've gotten rid of the scales, and I have fertilized. The weather here goes from 30s to 60s within a week, so I'm going to leave it inside for now. I went to buy a large planter, and was told to consider only going up one pot size. Is it really going to make a difference if I put it in a large container now? I'd like to put it in a 24 inch, but is that something I'm going to have to do gradually...?

imafan26
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Re: Lemon Tree Help

It is better to pot up slowly. You want enough room in the pot for one to two years growth. If you pot up to a really large pot, you have to be careful about watering since you don't want it to stay wet for too long or the media will sour, especially if it is peat or compost based. I jump from 3 gallon pots to 18 gallons but as I said, my citrus is outdoors and in cinder and that makes a difference.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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