Do you like mangoes? Of course, you do. Who doesn’t?
Eating a perfectly ripe mango is like listening to a symphony orchestra on a balmy summer evening. Each bite delights and dazzles the tongue with a sweetness that dissolves into a flurry of unexpected notes and flavors.
The tree that produces that incomparable fruit is large and domed-shaped. In both orchards and home gardens, it should be pruned to manage its size.
In the home garden, the tree is best kept at less than five meters in height. Pruning means it will often develop a rounded crown.
The canopy is dense with lush, long, downward-pointing foliage. New leaves start bright pink then age to red before turning a deep, tropical green color.
The leaves produce a distinct mango aroma when crushed. Dwarf varieties are suitable for both gardens and large pots.
The tree grows year-round in frost-free tropical, sub-tropical, and warm temperate climates. The roots of the mango tree run deep and its network of surface roots spread wide.
Unlike the roots of other trees, however, the roots of the mango tree are not destructive. This means you can plant the tree beside the pathways of buildings. Just bear in mind that it can become a very large tree.
Growing Mango from Seed
You can grow a mango tree quite easily from seed. One of our OBN writers actually started a tree by accident, throwing the seed into a discarded coffee pot filled with dirt. He eventually replanted the sapling, which is now a beautiful 20-year-old tree.
That said, the seed must come from a fully ripened fruit and it must be planted while fresh. Use a tall, deep pot or bag to allow for adequate root development.
Clean the seed to remove excess flesh. The entire seed can be planted whole. But to hasten germination, carefully open the stone – this is the shell surrounding the kernel – and remove the kernel without damaging it.
Position the kernel in quality potting mix. Three-quarters of it should be buried into the mix with the top end protruding. The top contains the folded first leaves and the shoot. These should be obvious.
Keep the pot somewhere warm. Germination should take place in under three weeks. Plant your tree where there is good air circulation and avoid wetting the foliage.
Remember, too, that an excessive application of nitrogen fertilizer makes your tree weak and sappy. This, in turn, will make all its leaves and fruit susceptible to bugs and diseases.
The mango has a central tap-root. Be sure not to damage this during planting. The easiest way to prevent damage is to avoid excessive disturbance of the root ball at planting time.
Dig a planting hole at least twice as wide as the pot or bag, and around 20 centimeters deeper, too.
Blend through some well-composted manure or suitable planting compost and add a controlled-release fertilizer.
Young trees will likely require staking for at least the first six months. Use at least two stakes, and keep the sapling well-watered.
Caring for Your Tree
Water your tree regularly, several times a week in dry weather. But do not let the tree sit in soggy soil. Overwatering can kill it, especially in heavy soil. The mango tree, like many tropical fruit trees, thrives in periods of alternating wet and dry.
Prune the central shoot to encourage lateral branching as the young tree develops. You should try to have three to five lateral or scaffold branches developing.
Mangoes are easily damaged by wind. For this reason, it is best that you remove any broken branches promptly. Tidy the damaged area to a neat cut.
As the tree bears fruit on the current season’s growth, you can improve flowering and fruiting by lightly pruning in autumn through to early summer.
Mango trees often attract fruit flies. This is why you should cover each fruit with a fruit fly bag after they form.
They are also susceptible to Anthracnose – a fungal disease that causes black spots on leaves and fruit.
Prune away affected parts, bag them, and put them in the garbage bin. This will help prevent the spread of the fungal spores.
Some growers also complain of trees that do not bear fruit. Why this should be case for some depends on several factors.
“Temperatures below 10 degrees when flowering in the spring will reduce fruit set,” Greg Daley from Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery tells Better Homes. “Also, wet weather during flowering can result in anthracnose infection which will cause fruit not to set.”
Bear in mind that a mango tree can live for over 300 years and still keep fruiting. So, consider your planting site carefully.
Old trees can produce 1,500 fruits each season. Some growers have even reported harvesting as many as 6,000 fruits from a single tree in one season.
Feature Photo: Øyvind Holmstad