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How Southerners Can Prevent Kidney Stones with Lemons and Limes

Map of where the highest occurance of kidney strones are in the southern U.S.

Ron Skaria, MD

The South is also known affectionately as the ‘kidney stone belt’. The map of incidence of kidney stones in the United States shows a stark increase south of the Mason-Dixon line. This is thought to be because of hotter weather and specifically increased sweet tea consumption. However, before you turn to some Bourbon for solace, we will let you know how our favorite fruits, lemons and limes, can help decrease this painful condition.

Kidney stones are caused by stone formation between calcium and oxalate.  Other types of stones including uric acid, struvite and calcium phosphate stones, however, these type of stones are less common. We encourage everyone to should to consult your physician with regards to acute kidney stones and chronic management. In this blog, we will discuss common strategies to inexpensively and effectively reduce the incidence and morbidity from the painful condition of kidney stones, or nephrolithiasis or urolithiasis.

Kidney stones often cause flank (back and side pain), radiating into the groin that is colicky in nature, occurring in waves for an hour then improving.  The pain moves as the kidney stone moves down the urinary tract. Kidney stones may cause blood in the urine and may require surgery or emergency management if there is severe pain, dehydration, lack of urine (anuria) or if the size is large enough that a urologist is needed for a surgical intervention to break or remove the stone.

Kidney stones are caused by the precipitation of calcium and oxalate.  The kidney stone belts in the South is thought to be caused by high consumption of sweet tea which contains a lot of calcium oxalate.  Also, with the Genesis, or the precipitation of stones, is exacerbated by high urine concentration.  This means that if you are dehydrated you have a higher chance of forming kidney stones.

Even though calcium in the urine increases her likelihood of kidney stones, paradoxically calcium in the diet this not, in fact, it decreases your incidence of kidney stones.  This is because if there is sufficient dietary calcium and there is a decreased need for the kidney to resorb calcium for the bodies metabolic needs and thus less likelihood of forming a kidney stone.

Salt is also a precipitators kidney stones, as the kidneys will use the same channels to reabsorb sodium with calcium.  Other factors which will increase the risk of kidney stones are increased protein consumption, excessive vitamin C consumption, and increased fructose and sucrose consumption.

Citric acid prevents the formation of large kidney stones by coating smaller kidney stones and preventing them from becoming larger more problematic stones.  In fact, this is reflective that physicians can prescribe potassium citrate or calcium citrate supplements to help decrease the incidence of stone formation.

If you prefer natural and tastier ways to get citric acid, lemons and limes have been found to have the highest concentration of citric acid foods.  In fact, 4 ounces of lemon or lime juice will give you the equivalent citric acid content as supplements.  Sipping on a lemonade or limeade made is definitely a delicious way to help increase your fluid intake and citric acid content!

Always take care of yourself by seeking prompt medical attention from a physician or emergency department (rather than a citrus blog!) Although we can’t give you official medical advice, US Citrus can definitely supply you with a box of lemon and lime fruit and lemon and lime trees to grow your own citrus trees and have your own supply of citrus!

 

References: 

1. Penniston, K., PhD. (n.d.). Citric Acid and Kidney Stones. UW Hosptial Metabolic Stone Clinic. doi:8/13/2018

2. Lemonade Helps Kidney Stones Daniel DeNoon -https://www.webmd.com/kidney-stones/news/20060524/lemonade-helps-kidney-stones#2

Eight Steps to Growing Kumquats in Containers

How to Grow Kumquats in 8 Steps

The kumquat holds great sentimental value, especially in Asian communities, symbolizing good luck.

Find out how you can grow your own kumquat trees in containers or pots by following the 8 steps below.

Kumquat Fruit

Features of the Kumquat:

  • Kumquats are small acidic fruits that are commonly consumed whole (rind and all) when ripe producing a sour then sweet flavor on the palate. 
  • This orange-like citrus fruit is perfect for marmalades, preserves and as dried fruits.
  • The light-orange flesh contains a few seeds and also provides a nice sweet, acidic taste to complement the even sweeter peel.
  • The distinguishing characteristic in kumquats is that the rind is sweet regardless of how the inside tastes.

Kumquat Tree

Features of the Kumquat tree:

  • The kumquat tree is typically small to medium-sized and, over time, becomes densely loaded with fruit.
  • This variety is very cold hardy, flowering in summer and maturing in late winter.
  • A powerful citrus fragrance around mid-summer.
  • The most cold-hardy citrus variety with the most bountiful fruit harvest.

Where Will Kumquats Grow?

With proper citrus care, a kumquat tree will produce decades of delicious fruit. However, the growing regions in the United States where citrus can be planted into the ground are limited to areas in California, Arizona, South Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

If you do not live in those regions, we do not recommend planting kumquats in the ground. However, we consider this a good thing, because it's going to make your Kumquat growing a lot easier.

Growing Kumquat Outside of Growing Zones

So how do you grow Kumquat outside of these growing zones? You do so by planting your citrus tree in a container. You can use a plastic barrel, a wooden planter, a nice decorative pot, or really any sort of container that has adequate holes on the bottom for drainage.

Another option, which we enjoy, are fabric smart pots which do not have holes, however, the entire container is made of a fabric mesh which allows proper drainage and aeration of the soil.

The Planting Process for Growing Kumquat Trees in Pots

The actual planting process of our trees in pots is very straightforward, with standardized use of potting soil and watering and fertilizing schedules.

You can keep any citrus tree pruned back, but the Kumquat is naturally a smaller dwarf type variety which gets to be about 4 to 6 feet, While still producing an abundant harvest.

Step 1: Container for Kumquat Trees

The keys to an appropriate container are having sufficient drainage through the material either being some sort of mesh cloth (SmartPots) or having a few holes on the bottom of your planter.

Secondly, the size of the pot should be at least 5 gallons, with our favorite size recommendation being 15 gallons. We find that anything above 25 gallons is quite difficult to physically move by only one person.

Step 2: Soil for Kumquat Trees

Choosing soil for your Kumquat trees is simple. You can use any sort of potting soil. We do not recommend gardening soil or topsoil to use for container gardening. This is advantageous because even if you lived in a citrus growing region, you would have to take into consideration the type of soil.

For example, US Citrus is based in the Rio Grande Valley, and we have a wonderful sandy loam type soil which drains very well. Other types of soil such as different types of clay soils especially with limestone mixed in will have a very difficult time draining and this will adversely affect the root health of your tree.

With a standard potting soil for your container gardening, you do not need to worry about any of these factors. You also don't have to worry about the pH balance of the soil. We have just removed a large part of the headache of growing kumquats by having all customers grow their plants in containers and using any standard potting soil which is available at your local nursery garden center supply store.

Step 3: Watering for Kumquat Trees

Watering is crucial, typically when Kumquats are planted into the ground there is a worry of proper drainage and overwatering your tree. Kumquat trees planted in the ground prefer to have their roots a bit on the dry side. We have found that if there is proper drainage in container gardening it is difficult to overwater Kumquat trees.

See our watering schedule for our citrus trees based on their size and the outside conditions.

The best way to figure out how much water your kumquat tree needs is to actually look at the tree. If the leaves are wilted and dry, your tree needs more water. After watering, the tree’s leaves should perk up.

Overwatering Your Potted Kumquat Tree

Overwatering is a possibility and we find that this especially happens when the trees are indoor and there's a garden saucer used underneath the pot. When there's a garden saucer there is impeded drainage, which is helpful while you're on vacation and cannot water your tree for a week, or when you have your trees indoors to prevent water seeping onto the floors and causing damage.

However, if trees are over-watered, the plant leaves will wilt and may turn a bit yellow and look sad. Watering more will only adversely affect the plant since the conditions that resulted in the plant being sad and yellow had not been remedied.

Giving your tree a break by taking it outside if possible or letting the soil drain without a garden saucer in the bathtub for a day is a good solution. Afterward, you can adjust your watering schedule appropriately. Our watering schedule also has a section for indoor planting.

Step 4: Fertilizer for Kumquat Trees

Your Kumquat tree will need both macro and micronutrients, just like a human. The macronutrients that all plants need are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. You have likely seen fertilizers and soil which state three numbers together, this is the N – P – K system which shows the concentration and relative amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium respectively.

These machinations are very important for the color of the leaves, development of the root system, proper flowering, fruiting, and taste of the fruit respectively and appropriate photosynthesis and growth of the trunk of the tree in general. See our blog article on nutrition for more information.

Micronutrients are also very important - think of these as vitamins for humans. They are needed much in smaller quantities and plants can have characteristic symptoms if they have a micronutrient deficiency. We will detail out micronutrients and symptoms of deficiencies in later articles.

However, our promise to you is that we make this simple. Between regular potting soil and the fertilizer we recommend, you will have all the macronutrients and micronutrients that your tree needs and a simple fertilizing schedule for easy and effective fertilizing when you get your tree and for every February, May, and August. See our fertilizer schedule below for amounts that we recommend.

Fertilizer Schedule

Ounces to use every Feb, May, and Aug

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3+

 

 

 

Miracle-Gro for Citrus, Avocado and Mango (13-7-13)

5

7

9

 Espoma Citrus (5-2-6)

10

14

18

Step 5: Sunlight for Kumquat Trees 

Sunlight is crucial to Kumquat trees, especially Because they are tropical plants. In most areas of the United States, you want to maximize sunlight with full sun exposure. If you are planting indoors, make sure that it has full sun next to the window, but we would also recommend having a grow light.

Kumquats do best when it has at least six hours of sunlight a day. If the temperature is consistently above 90° especially for younger trees, there may be some wilting of the leaves. This wilting will reverse however and at this point, it would be advantageous to keep your tree by elementary and partial shade. 

Step 6: Winter Protection for Kumquat Trees

We recommend that under freezing temperatures, you move your kumquat tree into a warmer area such as a garage or indoors for the entire winter. At this point, you can utilize grow lights for continued growth.

There is nothing more frustrating than losing years of work and future decades of fruit than losing your citrus tree to a freak cold-snap which occurred while you were vacationing out of town! Citrus, in general, can die with exposure to temperatures in the teens for even up to 12 hours. However, Kumquats are the most cold-hardy of all citrus trees and are more tolerant to cold temperatures. Nevertheless, it is recommended to take care of them by bringing them indoors in the event of freezing temperatures.

Step 7: Where Do I Buy My Kumquat Tree?

First of all, if you live in the states of California, Arizona, Louisiana, or Florida, you will need to purchase your kumquat tree locally as they cannot be imported into your state because of USDA regulations.

Otherwise, go to uscitrus.com and buy your tree today!

Step 8: Harvesting your Kumquats

This is a heavy cropping tree, with year-round harvesting, focused more in the summer months.

Eight Steps to Growing Australian Finger Limes in Containers

How to Grow Australian Finger Limes in 8 Steps

Known as 'citrus caviar', this lime variety is coveted by culinary masters. The Australian finger lime is the most challenging citrus variety to grow and the fruit can fetch prices of over $100/lb!

Australian Finger Lime Fruit

Features of the Australian finger lime:

  • Colorful, with small pulp and caviar-like vesicles.
  • May extract the pulp by squeezing one end of the fruit after the other end is cut off.
  • Lime often used as a colorful garnish for fine cuisine, cocktails, salads or seafood.
  • A firm fruit that's 3-8 cm in length.
  • Thin-skinned, with shorter shelf life than other citrus varieties (~3 weeks).
  • Easily sunburned.
  • Harvesting while wet will rupture the fruit vesicles and cause bruising.

Australian Finger Lime Tree 

Features of the Australian finger lime tree:

  • Native to Australia.
  • 'Brush' like lime tree that's very thorny.
  • Slower-growing than other citrus varieties.

Where Will Australian Finger Lime Grow? 

With proper care, Australian Finger Limes will produce decades of delicious fruit. However, the growing regions in the United States where citrus can be planted into the ground are limited to areas in California, Arizona, South Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

If you do not live in those regions, we do not recommend planting your Australian finger lime in the ground. However, we consider this a good thing, because it's going to make your citrus growing a lot easier.

Growing Australian Finger Lime Outside of Growing Zones

So how do you grow Australian finger lime outside of these growing zones? You do so by planting your tree in a container. You can use a plastic barrel, a wooden planter, a nice decorative pot, or really any sort of container that has adequate holes on the bottom for drainage.

Another option, which we enjoy, are fabric smart pots. While they do not have holes, the entire container is made of a fabric mesh which allows proper drainage and aeration of the soil.

The Planting Process for Growing Australian Finger Lime Trees in Pots

The actual planting process of growing Australian finger lime trees in pots is very straightforward, with standardized use of potting soil and watering and fertilizing schedules.

You can keep any citrus tree pruned back, but the Australian Finger Lime is naturally a smaller dwarf type variety which gets to be about 4 to 6 feet, while still producing an abundant harvest.

Step 1: Container for Australian Finger Lime trees

The keys to an appropriate container are having sufficient drainage through the material either being some sort of mesh cloth or have a few holes on the bottom of your planter.

Secondly, the size of the pot should be at least 1-gallon, with our favorite size recommend being 5 gallons. We find that anything above 25 gallons is quite difficult to physically move by only one person.

Step 2: Soil for Australian Finger Lime trees

Choosing soil for your Australian Finger Lime trees is simple. You can use any sort of potting mix. We do not recommend gardening soil or topsoil to use for container gardening. This is advantageous because even if you lived in a citrus growing region, you would have to take into consideration the type of soil.

With a standard potting soil for your container gardening, you do not need to worry about any of these factors. You also don't have to worry about the pH balance of the soil. We have just removed a large part of the headache of growing Australian finger limes by having all customers grow them in containers and using any standard potting soil which is available at your local nursery garden center supply store.

Step 3: Watering for Australian Finger Lime trees

Watering is crucial, typically when Australian finger limes are planted into the ground there is a worry of proper drainage and overwatering your tree. Australian Finger Lime trees planted in the ground prefer to have their roots a bit on the dry side. We have found that if there is proper drainage in container gardening it is difficult to overwater citrus trees.

AFL trees are VERY tricky to grow, and they are quite sensitive to underwatering!

See our watering schedule for our citrus trees based on their size and the outside conditions.

The best way to figure out how much water your citrus tree needs is to actually look at the tree. If the leaves are wilted and dry, your tree needs more water. After watering, the tree’s leaves should perk up.

Overwatering Your Potted Citrus Tree

Overwatering is a possibility and we find that this especially happens when the trees are indoor and there's a garden saucer used underneath the pot. When there's a garden saucer there is impeded drainage, which is helpful while you're on vacation and cannot water your tree for a week, or when you have your trees indoors to prevent water seeping onto the floors and causing damage.

However, if trees are over-watered, the plant leaves will wilt and may turn a bit yellow and look sad. Watering more will only adversely affect the plant as the condition that led to the plant being yellow and sad had not been reversed.

Giving your tree a break by taking it outside if possible or letting the soil drain without a garden saucer in the bathtub for a day is a good solution. Afterward, you can adjust your watering schedule appropriately. Our watering schedule also has a section for indoor planting.

Step 4: Fertilizer for Australian Finger Lime trees

Your Australian Finger Lime tree will need both macro and micronutrients, just like a human. The macronutrients that all plants need are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. You have likely seen fertilizers and soil which state three numbers together, this is the N – P – K system which shows the concentration and relative amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium respectively.

These machinations are very important for the color of the leaves, development of the root system, proper flowering, fruiting, and taste of the fruit respectively and appropriate photosynthesis and growth of the trunk of the tree in general. See our blog article on nutrition for more information.

Micronutrients are also very important - think of these as vitamins for humans. They are needed much in smaller quantities and plants can have characteristic symptoms if they have a micronutrient deficiency. We will detail out micronutrients and symptoms of deficiencies in later articles.

However, our promise to you is that we make this simple. Between regular potting soil and the fertilizer we recommend, you will have all the macronutrients and micronutrients that your tree needs and a simple fertilizing schedule for easy and effective fertilizing when you get your tree and for every February, May, and August. See our fertilizer schedule below for amounts that we recommend.

Fertilizer Schedule

Ounces to use every Feb, May, and Aug

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3+

 

 

 

Nelson Plant Food - Citrus

5

7

9

Step 5: Sunlight for Australian Finger Lime trees 

Sunlight is crucial to Australian finger lime trees, especially because it is a tropical plant. In most areas of the United States, you want to maximize sunlight with full sun exposure. If you are planting indoors, make sure that it has full sun next to the window, but we would also recommend having a grow light.

Citrus does best when it has six hours of sunlight a day. If the temperature is consistently above 90° especially for younger trees, there may be some wilting of the leaves. This wilting will reverse however and at this point, it would be advantageous to keep your tree by elementary and partial shade. 

Step 6: Winter Protection for Australian Finger Lime  trees

We recommend that under freezing temperatures, you move your Australian Finger Lime tree into a warmer area such as a garage or indoors for the entire winter. At this point, you can utilize grow lights for continued growth.

AFL trees are VERY sensitive to cold!

There is nothing more frustrating than losing years of work and future decades of fruit than losing your citrus tree to a freak cold-snap which occurred while you were vacationing out of town! Citrus can die with exposure to temperatures in the teens for even up to 12 hours. 

Important Considerations for Australian Finger Lime Trees

It is one of the most challenging and slowest growing citrus varieties there are! Even with micro-budding, this tree will take years to produce fruit!

Step 7: Where Do I Buy My Australian Finger Lime Tree?

First of all, if you live in the states of California, Arizona, Louisiana, or Florida, you will need to purchase your Australian Finger Lime tree locally as they cannot be imported into your state because of USDA regulations.

You can get your AFL tree here.

Step 8: Harvesting your Australian Finger Limes

It takes a long time to get good Australian Finger Limes. Once they are ready, they should be firm to touch and full, and when you tug at the fruit it should come away from the branch quite easily. Then you cut the pod and squeeze the magical little vesicles out and enjoy! 

 

 

How to Not Kill Your Lemon, Lime or Orange Tree in Containers

How to Not Kill Your Lemon, Lime, or Orange Tree

In this blog post, we will go over some common fatal mistakes made when planting and caring for citrus trees.

Upon Citrus Tree Delivery:

When you receive your citrus tree, we have taken care to moisten the soil and we also have a gel system on top of the root ball to continuously feed the roots moisture and keep the roots at an even temperature.  During hot months, we may add cooling packets to the box, and in the freezing mild seasons, we may have warming packs.

It is important to remove the tree from the package as soon as possible, and water the root system with 4-8 ounces of water, leaving the roots in the plastic tube.  Keeping it indoors away from any extreme weather is crucial.  The tree will not survive if it is subjected to over 24 hours of freezing temperatures even with warming packets, and vice versa with extreme heat.

Planting

Our micro-budded trees are uniquely packaged, and the planting methods are also specific to our trees.  We highly recommend that you watch our video tutorials when you purchase the trees and prior to planting.  A video on how to grow citrus trees in containers is the absolute best way to see and understand the specific technique.

Planting Tips:

  1. Use fresh potting soil, (not gardening soil) and fill to the brim of your container (do not pack soil).
  2. Use a container with holes in the bottom for proper drainage (or it should be a mesh type material which will allow for water to seep through).  Please do not use a cheap plastic cup as a container, make a good investment for your tree.
  3. Only plant a single tree in any container.
  4. Use the tube to push a hole into the center of the soil.
  5. Gently take out the tree from the tube and use your fingers to spread open the roots, but do not strip all the soil from the roots.
  6. Plant the tree into the hole created and gave a gentle push at the end then push the soil around it.

Watering

By far the most common error is under watering the plants.  If your tree is outdoors and in a container with proper drainage and it is starting to wilt, we would recommend more water.

There is a lot of information generally spread that overwatering is bad for citrus trees, and this is true.  However, this is not as applicable when the trees are grown in a container and it has proper drainage.  You do not want over water the soil and allow the roots to rot, especially in cold weather or if the tree is indoors and you are using a garden saucer.

During the first month after planting you should water at the base of the trunk so that you completely wet the roots daily for at least one month, then follow our care guide instructions.

Heat

If you are keeping your tree in an area with extreme heat, especially in the back of a car or a garage where the temperature may go above 120°, be very careful as your tree may die in less than a day.

Ice packs or ice cubes directly on the soil will be helpful in these situations.  Also, make sure to aggressively water the tree during these times to prevent tree death.

At temperatures above 90°, it is nice to give your tree a bit of partial shade, although they will do well even in 100° plus weather with direct sunlight as long as you are watering sufficiently.

Cold Exposure

Your tree will die with exposure to temperatures in the 20s in less than 24 hours.  Keep in mind to add in factors such as wind chill when protecting plants.  During the wintertime, the trees should be brought in a garage or indoors, and do not neglect proper watering during these times.

Indoor Growing/Garage

Nearly all growers of citrus in the United States, except for those in the warmest climates, will have to bring their trees indoors or in a garage during winter.  It would be very helpful, to prevent excessive shock, to provide a grow light for 12 hours a day during the winter months, this will allow your tree to continue to thrive and grow.  A window with light exposure is not sufficient for citrus growth if there is not a lot of heat! Make sure to use a garden saucer with water and stones to increase the local humidity around the tree, as in the wintertime, heaters will blow very dry air.