What do you do with that many lemons? We made jar after jar of marmalade, froze tons of lemon juice (still have some), gave away grocery sacks of lemons, lemonade, lemon pie, and on and on. That many lemons is a lot of work because you can't just eat them!
We haven't had that many lemons again thanks to the hard freezes we've had the past few years, but the experience got me thinking. Could I graft something else onto the lemon tree, something the kids and I could eat without preparation? Could I change it into a different kind of tree altogether? I later learned that this was called top-working, and not only was it possible, it was a common way for growers to change whole groves of fruit trees to new varieties without harming the root systems.
So this year I finally built up the courage, and decided to top-work that lemon tree into a multiple-variety mandarin tree. I chose mandarins because I wanted to grow something that would produce fruit almost every year, even if there was a bad freeze, and mandarins are some of the most cold hardy citrus you can grow. After much deliberation, I contacted the Texas A&M Citrus Center in Weslaco, Texas, and ordered Kinnow, Pixie, and Fairchild mandarin budwood. I also ordered Page, but they didn't have any mature budwood. A fellow fruit grower gave me some Dobashi Beni Satsuma budwood from his tree, so I still had four varieties to work with.
I chopped the tree back to the main trunks, and used Joe Real's citrus bark graft method to join the budwood scions to the stocks. It was much easier than I thought it would be. The bark of Meyer lemon slipped very easily, and I was very very careful to sanitize my knife before each cut. It took a little over an hour to do two to three grafts of each variety, but I was being very deliberate and cautious. In a few weeks I should know if my grafts were successful or not. If the grafts failed, there is still time to place another budwood order and try again, or just let the lemon tree take over again until next year.
Special thanks to Dr. Wife for taking the close up shots with her macro lens!