A single Ponderosa lemon can make two or three pies

March 6, 2019

A West Texas cowboy dressed in full straw cowboy hat and western gear gets picked up to star in what would become a No. 1 hit TV show, “Bonanza.” He was Dan Blocker, who weighed 14 pounds at birth, and went on to become a huge but kind man. The TV ranch was The Ponderosa, meaning strong, named after the Ponderosa Pine.

But big and strong is also the trademark of a giant lemon found in 1887, as a chance seedling sprouted in a nursery in Hagerstown, Md.

Like Dan Blocker, the fruits are enormous, often five pounds each. A single Ponderosa lemon can make two or three pies. Though not a true lemon, Ponderosa lemon has the full lemon flavor and super fragrant citrus blossoms that will scent a patio, balcony or a room.

The enormous fruits stay fresh on the tree and edible for months after they've ripened. Best of all, Ponderosa lemon trees will have flowers and ripe fruit at the same time, for a dazzling display.

Plant your Ponderosa lemon tree in a pot that is one size larger than the pot it comes in.

Use a potting soil mix of equal parts compost, peat moss, perlite and sterile potting soil. The soil should have a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Leave the top of the soil about an inch below the top of the pot and the soil surface to make watering easier.

Water Ponderosa lemon just enough to wet the soil. In hot weather you may have to water every day or even twice a day during drought. Never let the soil get soggy or waterlogged.

For added humidity place the tree on a shallow tray with pebbles and just enough water to cover them. Set the potted Ponderosa lemon tree on the tray, and as the water evaporates it will send moisture up to the tree.

Let the top inch of soil dry out when the tree is not actively growing, during the fall and winter months. As a tropical plant your Ponderosa lemon tree loves heat, so choose a warm draft-free spot in bright sunlight to encourage blooming and fruits. You can lightly mist the leaves with water to increase the humidity.

Ponderosa lemons are self-pollinated, so you will get fruit even with just a single tree. Use a small artist paint brush to dust the pollen from one flower to another.

Feed your tree with a citrus liquid fertilizer twice each month during the growing season. Prune your tree in early spring before spring buds open.

Bring your Ponderosa lemon tree indoors in September for the winter before temperatures drop. You can move your tree back outdoors after all danger of frost is passed.

Let the Ponderosa lemon tree get used to the outdoors over several weeks by putting it in an area protected from wind and hot direct sunlight during the day, and moving it back indoors each night. Gradually let the tree get more sunlight each day until it has hardened off.

As for Dan Blocker's onstage and offstage kindness? He followed the quote of Stephen Grellet: "We shall pass this way on Earth but once; if there is any kindness we can show, or good act we can do, let us do it now, for we will never pass this way again."

What better kindness than to share a “gentle giant” Ponderosa lemon pie.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.