Meet Mark Engall, citrus grower, and third-generation owner of one of Sydney's great nurseries.
As we know, the nursery and garden industry has some great family stories. Here’s another one with a lemon twist.
Mark Engall. Photo - Robin Powell
Your grandfather started Engall’s Nursery in Carlingford in 1946. Things were a bit different in the nursery industry then!
For one thing, the trees were grown either in the ground or else in kerosene or jam tins. It’s incredible to think, but men could spend the whole
day taking tops off tins to turn them into pots!
Yet some things remain the same: grafting is still grafting.
That’s true and all of our trees are still grafted. That’s an important distinction to make now that some garden centres are selling citrus plants
grown from cuttings. These plants are cheaper than grafted plants, but not as resilient to problems.
Humble beginnings. Photo - Engall's Nursery
Ready for market. Photo - Robin Powell
Choosing grafted citrus is especially important if you are after dwarf trees isn’t it?
Yes. Most of our range of citrus is now available grafted onto flying dragon rootstock, which keeps it about 2m when it is grown in the ground.
The reign of the container is another change since your grandfather’s day.
With smaller spaces for gardens, more people are looking to grow citrus in pots. They do really well. There’s no need to repot them if you start with a
big container and use a quality potting mix. Just remember that they are relying on you for all their nutrient and water needs, and that might mean
watering them twice a day when we get 40 degree days in the summer.
All the colours of the rainbow. Photo - Luisa Brimble
What’s the number one thing you’d like people to know about growing citrus?
It’s all about soil preparation! You can’t just dig a hole in the lawn the same size as the pot, plonk the tree in and expect it to thrive. Instead, think
about spending as much on the soil as you do on the plant. Dig a wide hole, turn the soil and add lots of organic matter so that it’s nice and loose
and open. If you have the tree growing well you don’t have to worry about much else.
What do you have to worry about?
Well, as a citrus grower, my big worry is the citrus disease HLB. It has decimated the industry in Florida, is in all citrus-growing regions of Asia
except Japan and is also in Brazil. There is no treatment. We don’t have it in Australia yet, but with people buying plants online and all over the
place from unregistered nurseries we think it’s not so much if as when. But I am still hoping that there will be a business to pass on to my daughters.