30 June 2007

My lemon (or lime!) tree's been attacked by scale insects!

When I worked in an Agricultual College in Périgueux I'd sometimes stop off to get bread on the way home. One day, walking towards the bakers, I noticed a pile of really sad looking plants in cardboard cartons, sitting outside a shop. Most of them had lost the will to live, and some had lost their names but they cost only a few euros, so I bought half a dozen, hoping to be able to revive at least one or two.

That was a few years ago and since then I've had a tremendous amount of pleasure from the four plants that survived. Two passion flowers and two lemon or lime trees. (The ones I chose had lost their labels.) When the weather's good, I put them outside on the terrace and they overwinter inside the house next to the French windows. I brought them out a few weeks ago, looking a bit straggly - but with new flowers and some tiny fruit. I had to cut one of them right down despite the tempting flowers and fruit because it was just too floppy but I couldn't resist leaving the other to let its fruit develop - even though I had to prop it up with a stick.

To be honest, I hardly ever have any problems with pests or diseases in my plants. So it came as a bit of a shock when I looked at the plant I'd propped up to check the fruit and noticed that it looked really tired with strange bumps, an awful lot of very busy ants on the leaves and suspicious looking spiders' webs hanging between the leaves and the branches.

I had a look in my books, then on the internet (fascinating stuff) and discovered that I had an attack of Scale Insects

So I used one of my favourite tools, my fingernails, to scrape them off gently one by one. The bloomin' things were everywhere even on the stem and I don't really understand where they came from, but I imagine the plant was a bit frail after being inside for so long and it got hit in a moment of weakness.

It's interesting that the other citrus plant which I pruned really hard is full of new healthy leaves and they're completely untouched by the scale insects.

So far, I've cleaned up about a dozen leaves and amazingly, the plant has perked up and as I really want to see how the fruit develops, so I'm going to continue cleaning it by hand.

I'm really looking forward to seeing this fruit when it matures and finding out whether it's a lemon or a lime tree.

It will be nice too to know that I can successfully grow on these plants for the winter when there's not much fresh fruit around instead of having to buy imported citrus fruit.

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