Getting more citrus into your life and garden

SWEET: Lemons rank among the most useful fruit trees. Picture: Shutterstock
SWEET: Lemons rank among the most useful fruit trees. Picture: Shutterstock

A lemon tree was once a staple in most Australian gardens, with such a versatile and delicious fruit, it is no wonder.

These days citrus are usually grafted plants, and "flying dragon" is the preferred rootstock for home gardeners due to its dwarfing characteristics which make it perfect for pots and smaller gardens.

Lemons rank among the most useful fruit trees in any garden and can even be grown in containers on balconies.

Eureka is an ideal variety for coastal gardens, so too are Meyer and Lisbon lemons.

The lemonade tree is a great one for kids as the fruit is sweet and juicy unlike some other lemon varieties.

The Tahitian lime is an excellent choice for frost-free areas, and for something a little more unusual, try the Australian finger lime. Its flesh looks a little like fish eggs, which is why it is often called "lime caviar" and makes an excellent garnish for oysters.

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The fruit has a pinkish flesh but there are varieties of finger lime that can have white, yellow, purplish, or green fruit sacs. Finger lime fruit sacs are separate which gives them that caviar appearance, unlike traditional limes where the fruits are segmented.

If oranges are more to your liking navel or valencia are both readily available. Valencia is a late orange with few if any seeds, ideal for juicing.

Blood oranges have also become popular for juicing and worth seeking out. Saville is another orange variety that is perfect for making marmalades.

Mandarins are ideal for children's lunchboxes and the easy-peel emperor variety is sure to be a hit. Imperial and honey murcott mandarins are also worthy of a spot in the garden.

Grapefruit are also worth growing, especially the red fleshed varieties as they are sweet and delicious.

Other citrus worth considering includes cumquats, calamondins, pomelo, Buddha's hand, kaffir lime, tangelos and the Japanese yuzu, which may be hard to find but tastes like a cross between a lemon, mandarin and grapefruit, catching the interest of chefs.

If you only have room for one fruit in the garden, then make it a citrus or a multi-grafted citrus where two or more varieties of citrus are grafted onto the one tree.

Marketed as fruit salad plants or spritzers, they are ideal where space is at a premium.

  • John Gabriele is a horticulture teacher with a love for green spaces.
This story Think your yard is too small for a fruit tree? Think again first appeared on The Canberra Times.