We love lemons and believe every garden should have a lemon tree. Lemon trees are quite hardy and established trees can tolerate drought conditions remarkably well. The cuticle layer that makes the leaves so shiny is what helps to conserve water.

We have inherited a lemon tree on our new garden plot that has not been watered in over 6 months, during a very hot summer drought: and it is still blossoming and baring fruit!

We have had to prune it; removing dead branches and suckers as well as wayward branches that would hamper good air flow and sunlight penetration.

Now we want to feed the soil around the base of the lemon tree and plant companions that will keep the soil fertile, attract pollinators and beneficial predator bugs and look beautiful.

Here are some tips for choosing companion plants for a lemon tree guild –

Nitrogen Fixers

Choosing companion plants that feed the soil will reduce the amount of fertilizer needed to sustain the trees.

Lemon trees are heavy nitrogen feeders so we have decided to choose companions that enrich the surrounding soil with plenty of nitrogen.

The legume family of plants are wonderful nitrogen fixers – the process of converting atmospheric nitrogen into the soil compounds that plants can use.

Nitrogen fixing plants have root nodules which contain the symbiotic  Rhizobium nitrogen fixing bacteria, which can take nitrogen from the air and convert it to a form usable by plants. This nitrogen fixing process in the root nodules helps the plant to grow, and when the plants drop their leaves, or when the roots die back (because the foliage is pruned), usable nitrogen is returned to the soil. Nitrogen fixing annual plants can also be grown as green manures, then cut down as soon as they begin to flower so they release all their nitrogen into the soil. If they are not cut down, the nitrogen goes into their beans, peas, etc.

– Deep Green Permaculture

Bacterial nodules from a healthy Rhizobia colony on some Fava Bean roots ~ image from Dude Grows

Here are some nitrogen fixing companions to consider:

Clover
Alfalfa
Peas
Beans
Lupines
Peanuts
Rooibos

Dynamic Accumulators

Dynamic accumulators are plants that have tap-roots which drill down into the deeper levels of the soil and ‘mine’ certain nutrients, which they accumulate within themselves. When these plants die down, the accumulated nutrients are release to the surface of the soil where they then become available to other plants.

– Deep Green Permaculture

Lemon trees do not have a very deep root system so it is wise not to plant dynamic accumulators too close to the base so as not to interfere with the roots of the tree.

Here are a few suggestions for dynamic accumulator plants (that will also attract pollinators) suitable for lemon trees:

Comfrey
Borage
Dandelions
Lemon balm
Yarrow

TIP: Comfrey has nitrogen rich leaves, and can be used as a compost activator (as can yarrow). Comfrey leaves can be composted or fermented to produce a nutrient rich natural fertilizer.

What’s The Deal With Dynamic Accumulators?

Attracting Pollinators

While lemon blossoms attract pollinators, flowering plants increase the odds of pollinators finding your trees. Lemon balm and mints attract insect pollinators, but need to be diligently controlled, as members of the mint family can take over a space if left to their own devices. Thyme is a good choice for a low-growing companion plant, while dill provides some height.

Growing Home ~ Cosmos is a beautiful flower that attracts pollinators

Here is a list of companions to attract pollinators:

Lemon Balm
Mints
Thyme
Dill
Bulbinella
Marigold & Calendula
Cosmos

 

Attracting Beneficial Predators

Provide the right companion plants to attract and house predatory insects, and they will come.

Yarrow & Dill attract ladybugs who eat aphids.

Lemon Balm, Parsley & Tansy attract caterpillar parasites and varieties of parasitic wasps

Deter Pests & Control Disease

Growing Home ~ Nasturtiums attract and trap aphids

Marigolds repel insects with their strong above ground fragrance while releasing a repellent targeting pests below the ground.

Nasturtium flowers attract and trap aphids

Borage deters caterpillars varieties while also attracting pollinators

 

 

 

 

 

Till Next Time,

Happy Companion Planting!

Shireen & Kathy

Sources:

Deep Green Permaculture

Homestead & Gardens

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7 Tips for Pruning a Lemon Tree

 

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