Shawnee News-Star Sunday Nov 26 2017 Becky Emerson Carlberg The time had come.   The two lemon trees were still outdoors in the middle of November, well past our official frost/ freeze date of about November 5th.   One below-freezing morning happened early October 28th when the temperature dropped to 29 degrees.   The trees had been snuggled [...]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday Nov 26 2017

Lemons

Becky Emerson Carlberg

The time had come.   The two lemon trees were still outdoors in the middle of November, well past our official frost/ freeze date of about November 5th.   One below-freezing morning happened early October 28th when the temperature dropped to 29 degrees.   The trees had been snuggled up to larger trees and the impromptu grove weathered the chill down quite nicely.

David Payne, OKC Channel 9 head meteorologist and severe storm buff who thrives on tornadic activity, mentioned last week we are currently in a La Nina weather pattern.   Sections of the Pacific Ocean have been cooler than average the past several months, indicating another La Nina is in progress.   The other part of the El Nina Southern Oscillation cycle has cropped up nearly 20 times since first recorded in 1904.   The last La Nina raised its head in 2010-2012.   Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas experienced severe drought and mild temperatures, but Canada had exceptional snowfalls.   Not fair.   The past 20 years the hybrid La Ninas have produced displaced rainfalls and droughts.   What will this winter bring?

The fact that we have not yet experienced one week of very chilly weather as we approach December is a tad unnerving.   On the other hand, many of our days have been pleasant, similar to those rare days in early autumn or spring. Last winter was mild, except for that one night where temperatures plummeted to zero degrees and wiped out several hardy plants.   With this in mind, I knew the citrus trees would soon need warmth and cover.   The purpose of the greenhouse, installed last year, was to serve as the winter home for the tropical citrus trees.   The trees spent last winter in the greenhouse and did well. This fall both trees began an all-out effort to send branches 10 feet into the air and long laterals out in every direction. The stepladder was erected by the trees and the branches trimmed until both had smaller canopies. Two weeks later, they were back to the same size as before.   I let slip a few pruning episodes and the trees gained the upper hand.   Great.   Now the greenhouse was full of smaller plants and the trees happily stood outside.   Their coup d'état had been successful. Without a severe butchering, neither one could fit through the front door into the greenhouse.

What to do, try to move them into the house?   The house front door was wider, but still it would be a terrible squeeze and we who were attempting to move the trees would probably suffer numerous lacerations.   Not only had the lemons grown long branches, but had redoubled their energy to add additional thick, sturdy green thorns.   They had thought of everything.

The magical web in the clouds sent down pictures of cheaper, more temporary plastic greenhouses.   Some served as cold frames, but others were more substantial and had been designed to accommodate small heaters to nurse plants through winter.   What met my eyes on the fourth page of traipsing through greenhouse ads was the pop-up greenhouse manufactured by FlowerHouse.   The dimensions of 8 ft high x 9 ft wide x 9 ft deep would just enclose those two renegade trees after the longest branches were pruned.   Clear PVC construction for max light, sets up in seconds, no tools required and fully screened doors sold me.   This was my answer to the tree problem.

Man-Eating Greenhouse

The box arrived days later.   It had been a rough trip from the storehouse.   Everything needed was contained in a circular carrying case.   The complete greenhouse kit also included the internal metal tube frame sections, ground stakes, a shade cover for those excessively sunny hot days, and tie-downs. After the few minutes of assembly (stated on the box), the two doorways with separate screens (with vent openings) would be unzipped and the trees gently put inside.   Simple.

My mate volunteered to pop out the greenhouse.   The winds were over 40 mph.   The greenhouse unfolded into thick sheets of green and clear plastic that tried to turn into a glider before being anchored down on the concrete with heavy pots and one metal bathtub.   The greenhouse could only pop up if the interior framework was assembled within. Collecting the metal rods, into the plastic collapsible tent went my husband.   The wind picked up the plastic and wrapped it around him like a mummy.   I saw him fight his way out, the look of frustration crossing his face.   Go take a little walk he told me.   He had this under control.   I hung around and watched him as he stood inside his PVC shelter connecting the metal pipes to support the sides and doorways.   When a strong gust of wind triggered the implosion and sections of greenhouse collapsed on top of him, I decided to start walking; turning once to make sure he was okay.   There was movement within the plastic.

Three hours later the greenhouse was up (how many seconds?).   Another trip to the hardware store for 2'x6'x8' boards and eight 50 pound sacks of sand anchored down the exterior plastic curtain and the greenhouse was secure, maybe.   The trees fought us as we moved them inside.   Both of us were dripping blood and looked as if we had become tangled up in barbed wire.   The mini citrus grove had already blown down twice in the wind and I thought they'd be happy to be inside their plastic bubble.  Surrender was not in their vocabulary.

The lemon trees are now ensconced within their pop-up greenhouse.   An oil-filled radiator heater will hopefully keep them toasty warm when needed.   Not one lemon fruit was sacrificed, and there were 10 heavy lemons on one of the trees.

Ready for winter.   I think.

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