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hoping someone can help me with my poor suffering Meyer lemon!

last month

Hi there! I’m desperately hoping someone can help me with my poor suffering Meyer lemon!

I’ve had this young tree for about 15 months, and periodically it sprouts a batch of brown spots out of nowhere. They all show up at once, a bunch of leaves are murdered and then the tree seems fine for a few more months. This has happened three or four times; it seems to appear a few weeks after each bloom and I thought maybe fertilizer could be a culprit but I’ve only fertilized 3 times and not always in sync with the bloom.

I’m in Zone 10a, in Oakland, California. It’s a Mediterranean climate, rarely above 80 degrees and the coldest nights barely dip below 40. There are thriving mature Meyers all over my neighborhood.

My tree is on a southwest facing balcony, and gets plenty of sun and a regular breeze.

We’re under another balcony which provides rain shelter but means the tree is also not exposed to a ton of rainwater.

We have soft water here in Oakland but about six months ago I switched to distilled water in an attempt to correct this problem. I’ve also tried copper fungicide (weekly for a couple of months per the advice of the website where I bought the tree) but that seems to have had no effect.

I water when the moisture meter is below 4 and give it at least a gallon of water, until water drains out the bottom but I fear I should actually be giving this plant many gallons and flushing the soil more at each watering.

I potted this in citrus/cactus soil and I drilled extra drain holes but I also think maybe the soil is staying too wet at the bottom (even though the top is bone dry.)

The first time this happened I thought maybe it was sun scald but it’s just not very hot out; the spots appeared this time after a long stretch of temps in the 60s, maybe a day or two in the 70s.

I THINK maybe this is salt damage, due to soil not draining enough/residual fertilizer/old tap water deposits. Do you think I am right about this?

My plan is to take out the tree, gently replace the soil, flush the roots and trim any rotten roots if I see them, and return it to this pot. I’m thinking of using a mix of vermiculite, organic cactus mix soil, and worm castings, then to continue fertilizing with worm castings instead of commercial fertilizer. Is this a good idea or could I be missing something? ‘

I’ve attached an image of the tree blooming about six weeks ago, and browning now (that probably started about a week ago). And I’ve attached some close-up images of the leaves. (I have a few leaf-miner marks but that seemed to be minimal, just a handful of leaves.)

I would be grateful for anyone’s advice on how to stop this browning from hurting my beloved tree! Thank you so much!!!

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