Garden Detective

Garden Detective: What caused this weird lemon?

I have sent a photo of one of the lemons from my lemon tree. As you can see, it is rather deformed. There have been several lemons from our tree that are deformed. We have also had deformed tomatoes, carrots, etc., in the garden. Should we be worried about what is in our soil? This property was established in 1925 in an old walnut orchard. We have not used any fertilizer, or anything else for that matter, on the tree because it produces abundantly every year. Should we be concerned?

– Kathy Richardson-Dodds, Elk Grove

Based upon the appearance of the lemon in the photograph you provided, it may have citrus bud mite, according to UC master gardener Carol Hunter. Bud mites feeding in buds during the fall and winter cause this damage to the spring bloom and the resulting fruit. This condition is described as fruit with a fingerlike growth.

The bud mite is usually a pest only on coastal lemons, but they may venture inland. The UC IPM website,, has good pictures of the mite. Control of the mite is possible with application of petroleum oil sprays during May to June or September to November.

For the home gardener, dormant treatments of horticultural oil (sometimes called narrow range oil) are ideal. Repeat applications may be necessary. Apply only during late evening, night or early morning, when bees are not active.

Last spring, not a single cherry formed on my 8-year-old Stella cherry tree. It bloomed beautifully and I saw bees pollinating it. Then, we had a very strong gusty wind. The dried-up flowers all fell off with their stems attached. My son lives 2 miles from me and his cherry tree was the same way. Did this happen to all cherry trees in our area or just on the Stella variety, which is a later variety?

– Jean Sadler, Elk Grove

Based upon your observations, it is most likely that weather was a contributing factor to the lack of cherry production, said UC master gardener Carol Hunter. Strong winds can sever young tender growth.

Most fruit trees need a substantial amount of cold winter weather to end dormancy. Warm weather during winter months provides for a mild spring growth and delayed, irregular or reduced fruit set. Sometimes fruit appears to set but drops in April.

The tree should be examined closely for any signs of damage to the trunk or branches as well as pests such as soil nematodes, root rot, bacterial canker or insects. If the tree appears to be in good health and the weather is cooperative during pollination, the tree should be productive.

One UC publication may be of help: Environmental Horticultural Note No. 68, “Why Fruit Trees Fail to Bear.” For a free copy, send a self-addressed, stamped business-sized envelope to: EHN No. 68, Cooperative Extension, 4145 Branch Center Road, Sacramento, CA 95827.