Nothing on earth smells as good as the first whiff of a new season mango! And the pleasure is even greater when the fruit is from your own garden. Sandra Ross shares her growing hints for this tropical favourite.
Mangoes grow on large evergreen trees that make handsome shade trees. They are fast-growing, especially in a hot climate, and in Queensland you will see old mature trees 40m tall! Typical height though is 3-7m, and you can prune your tree so you can more easily harvest the fruit.
Mangoes are self-fertile, so a single tree will produce fruit without cross-pollination. The flowers are profuse, growing in panicles. The fruits grow at the end of a long, stringlike stem (the former panicle), with sometimes two or more fruits to a stem. Fruit ranges in size from 250 – 750g.
Fruit tree expert, Dr Louis Glowinski says “mangoes produce most reliably in areas with a dry winter, dry spring, rainfall during summer and then a dry spell as the fruit matures … the dry winter spell initiates the flowering, while the dry conditions in spring promote pollination and reduce fungal disease.”
Photo - Shi Yali/Shutterstock.com
Mangoes need maximum sunshine to fruit well. The best growing temperature for mango is 24 – 27 degrees centigrade. Low temperature at flowering time will reduce fruit set. If you live outside the tropics or sub tropics you will need to maximise heat by planting your tree where it can ‘feel’ the heat from a north-facing brick wall. This micro-climate will aid flower and fruit set. Avoid frosty areas and be prepared to install a drip irrigation system to keep your tree watered. While young trees need protection from frosts, established trees can tolerate short light frosts.
Mangoes will grow in almost any well-drained soil whether sandy, loam or clay, with a pH between 5.5 and 7.5. Avoid heavy, wet soils. They have an extensive root system so like deep soil.
Choose a climate-appropriate, named variety for best results. If you plant a seed from a fruit you have eaten, do not expect any fruit for many years, and even then fruit will be poor quality, stringy and tainted with turpentine flavours.
Prepare the soil for a mango well before planting, which is best done in autumn. Dig a deep and wide planting hole. Young trees are susceptible to sunburn and damage from frost so it’s a good idea to build a small shelter while they establish.
Feed mangoes as you would feed citrus, but do not fertilise after midsummer. Organic fertilisers are best, as the trees are subject to fertiliser burn. Young trees are particularly sensitive to over-fertilising, but respond well to seaweed and fish emulsion. Sandy soils require more fertiliser than loam or clay.
Withhold water for the three months prior to flowering, to encourage flowers, then water evenly until fruit ripens.
Young mango trees should be pruned to maximise branching. When trees reach bearing age, prune them each year after the harvest to maintain size, thin out the canopy and remove dead wood.
Pests and Disease
The most serious disease of mango is the fungus anthracnose. It starts as circular, sunken brown to black spots that are quite small. Young leaves are particularly susceptible to infection and it is worse in wet conditions. You can spray with Mancozeb or use a copper spray during flowering then monthly until harvest.
Fruit flies are a troublesome pest of mango. Use eco naturalure for good protection (follow the directions carefully). The bait contains an organic insecticide called spinosad, which is toxic to fruit fly, but safe to mammals and other animals with a low toxicity to beneficial insects.
Varieties for NSW:
Florigon: has good quality fruit with yellow skin and soft sweet flesh. Sets well in subtropics and has moderate resistant to anthracnose.
Bowen: the most common variety grown, due to its good quality fruit. Won’t set fruit in colder climates.
R2E2: one of the largest varieties. Fruit is sweet with high flesh to seed ratio and just a little fibre. This variety is susceptible to fungus infection, so persistent use of copper spray is necessary. Consistent cropper over a range of climates. Vigorous growth habit. Midseason crop.
Urwin: dwarf-growing to 2m. Not widely available yet, contact Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery
Tips and tricks
The most common complaint we hear about mangoes is that they don’t set fruit. Greg Daley from Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery says, “Mango fruit set depends on several factors. Temperatures below 10 deg when flowering (October) in the spring will reduce fruit set. Also wet weather during flowering can result in anthracnose infection which will cause fruit not to set.” His advice for those living in non-tropical areas is to remove the first flower set. This will result in a second flowering one month later, when the temperature is higher. A one-hour water dribble at the roots every other day until the flowers really set (about 2 weeks) greatly increases the yield.
Where to buy
Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery (02) 66321441