Yes, you can grow a mango in Melbourne...

28 May, 2015

Melbourne is a pretty forgiving climate for a gardener who loves growing food. Our mild temperate/sub-tropical climate is pretty flexible, especially when you exploit the potential offered by microclimates available in most yards.

But the truly tropical fruits seem too hard. Banana's and mangoes spring easily to mind, and yet it is a pretty well established fact that banana's can be grown here. Yes they take a lot longer to fruit (2 years as opposed to 6 months up north) and they need protecting from frosts if you live in an area of Melbs that gets them. But it can be done.

Why then does it seem such a step to grow a mango? Given the choice between eating a banana and a mango I'll always go for the mango. I love them, but hate the idea of them being trucked thousands of kilometers just for my eating pleasure.

The solution: grow my own.

So began the research. Books offered me little help. But by then I had a pretty healthy scepticism of what gardening books say and what is possible. Of course no commercial mango grower would set up shop this far south, but that didn't mean with careful planning that I could grow a tree. Google searches yielded little info on Melbourne grown mangoes, so I figured I would be the guinea pig. What did I have to lose?

In 2011 I bought a Florigon mango from Daley's Fruit Trees. I like Daley's; they have good descriptions of the plants and a good range of varieties (no kickback for me, I have just found them to be reliable and have bought quite a few plants from them). I chose the Florigon as it was a dwarfing variety (only 5m tall, as opposed to the 30m standard mangoes) and was supposedly able to tolerate a cooler climate.

So far it has been the case. I have mine planted in a protected area next to the house on the heater side, so it would get the benefit of waste heat.


This is the tree back in early 2014, when I had planted zucchini and pumpkins in this bed. As you can see it is to the left of the banana (a dwarf Lady Finger) which, as an aside, is now as tall as the house.

Comparitively the mango has grown very slowly. As I am very aware of the need to keep this plant small (aiming for 2-3m max) given the proximity to the house this is a bonus. I am not too worried as in 4 years of growth it has grown to about 1.5m tall.

The plant gets good morning sun in winter and summer, with good summer sun from morning to early afternoon.


It seems to like its spot, growing lush green foliage each year. It has occasionally had leaves get a bit of frost damage develop some black spots, but mostly is looking pretty good.

I would have liked to plant it where it would get more sun, but this also would have meant a more exposed position with greater potential for frost damage. I erred on the side of caution.

After 2 years in the ground it flowered for the first time.

Mango in flower

That year and the following year it flowered and set fruit, but it dropped early.

Tiny, tiny mangoes

But this summer it set fruit and one remained.

First ever mango!!!

I have been watching this since the fruit set in December. It has stayed persistently green and I was getting to the point of thinking I would have to forgo the ripe mango dreams and instead enjoy a green mango Thai style salad.

Why are you still green? Ripen, dammit!

But a couple of weeks ago it started to turn yellow. And today it looked entirely yellow and I couldn't hold off any longer.



Yes, my friends. That is a mango. Grown in Melbourne.

And now, the gratuitous eating shots:

Look at that! Perfectly ripe.

My favourite breakfast: mango and yoghurt.

Nom. Nom. Nom.

24 comments:

  1. Oh I bet you savoured every single bite! Well done. The mango I planted looked as close to dead as you can get so I pulled t up, put it in the greenhouse in a pot and its go new shots coming off the trunk. Might be best to replace though I think. If it comes good then I'd have 2 :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, indeed I did!
      Isn't it amazing when dead looking plants recover. It never hurts to have two mango trees. :)

      Delete
  2. I am the same. I don't listen to "you can't grow that there..." I just try to grow it. I have macadamia seedlings up and growing despite people saying you can't grow them here in Tassie. I know of a lady just over the rive from our property that has macadamia nuts and that sells them so obviously we can grow them here. I also have all sorts of other exotic species that I have grown from seed. I think you have to give things the old college try to be honest. Global warming means that our previously temperate conditions are now heating up and what didn't grow 50 years ago, might be entirely possible now. Love your blog by the way. I have been following for a while now as Bev (foodnstuff) put me onto you but I couldn't ever comment before but I have now found a way to comment. Hopefully I don't go into your spam box ;). I also read Jo's "All the Blue Day" and see that you follow her as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed! Plants want to grow, and I think we can underestimate their adaptability (within certain boundaries of course). So true. I have Mark Diacomo's book about his farm (A Year at Otter Farm) and it talks about how sometimes its a good year for some trees and not a great year for others depending on the conditions, but he grows such a range of plants that no matter the weather something will like it. I think that's a great philosophy to have for a food garden.
      Cheers! I love Jo - such a humourous writer and I always learn something from her.

      Delete
  3. I try things that aren't normal here too. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don't. With my figs they did give me figs, but the work to get them was too much for me for the few figs I got. But then a fig isn't a mango.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ever the eternal garden optimist! But that is the trade off, isn't it. Is the work involved worth the potential pay off. True, sometimes it isn't worth it.

      Delete
  4. Good for you! It looks amazing!
    I live in Toowoomba and was excited recently to have our first bunch of bananas appear after an 18 mth wait - the growth almost stops over winter though so it will be a long while before we harvest them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers Kirsty! Yay banana's! I hope they ripen for you soon.
      My banana is just over a year old, so I'm hoping this summer it will flower. Fingers crossed!

      Delete
  5. Good for you! It looks amazing!
    I live in Toowoomba and was excited recently to have our first bunch of bananas appear after an 18 mth wait - the growth almost stops over winter though so it will be a long while before we harvest them.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good for you! It looks amazing!
    I live in Toowoomba and was excited recently to have our first bunch of bananas appear after an 18 mth wait - the growth almost stops over winter though so it will be a long while before we harvest them.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Congratulations, well done.
    Excellent post to get the whole story from start to happy ending.
    Your tree looks so healthy too.
    I have a mango here in Sydney I grew from seed.
    I did get a few fruit early on, but then not for a while.
    But this year I started mulching and fertilising it properly for a change,
    and it is looking so much healthier.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers! Wow, grown from seed. How big is it? I hope you get a harvest this year.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, its only about 3 metres, and I planted it way back in 2005 !
      I think one of the main problems was I had a pre existing native Christmas bush next to it, and couldn't bring myself to chop it until a few months ago.
      Sometimes you just have to be ruthless if you want a decent harvest !
      Anyway the shade and root competition are gone, replaced with lots of sun, mulch, fertiliser and fruit hopefully.

      Delete
    3. Interesting. Thanks for the info.
      Yes, ruthlessness is sometimes required in the garden. :)

      Delete
  8. Well done Bek, I'm truly envious. Back then, I didn't realise that we can grow Mango in Melbourne. Just found out late last year that we can (ring a bell...yes we can!) so I planted my own this March and doing well so far. I planted half meter away from my northern wall of the house, on mound, cover with heavy pea straw mulch and cover in plastic at nite time when it's cool nite.
    Anyway, I need some advise from you:
    What type of fertiliser you use, how often and how much
    How often do you water it? apparently from book I read, mango doesn't like to be wet/watered few months before flowering.
    How about during flowering?
    Picture no 3 from top showing you have/had issue with anthracnose/black spot. How do you control it?
    Last but not least, picture no 3 is also showing multiple branches coming out from the main trunk. Did you prune at that point? How tall before you prune it?
    Anything else I need to know?
    Thanks for your advise

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice work.
      For fertiliser I top dress with compost every year in winter. That's it.
      I water after fruit set while fruit is growing but otherwise it gets whatever rain there is.
      The black spots on the old leaves are frost damage not black spot.
      I cut the tree in the fist year back to about 0.75m from the ground to encourage it to branch out at that point. I want to keep much tree small so felt that would work best for the space I had. As far as I know you can let th m grow naturally and you still get a well branched tree.
      Good luck.

      Delete
  9. Hie how is the mango going? I have an 2 year old Kensington pride seedling i purchased online and is growing in a pot at the moment (enough to accommodate its rootball for some years). Im hoping for fruit in the next 1-1.5 years hopefully. Has it improved its yield from when it started flowering?
    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ta, it's doing pretty well. It had a year off after the one mango it grew but it looks to be about to flower again so I'm hopeful for more fruit this season. Time will tell.
      From what I hear from northerners it looks like they just grow very slowly here, so I'm not expecting massive crops any time soon, but maybe the odd fruit now and then.

      Delete
  10. Hi bek my name is john. My wife and I have been trying to grow subtropical fruit trees in Melbourne western suburbs for the last 3 years or so. Reading your forum bring a new determination and prospects in growing a mango trees in Melbourne ..so well done bek.
    We too have 2 Kensington mango tree which we planted nearly 2 years ago.
    One of the tree had just started to flower, we are so excited just to see this. We are also trying to grow a dwarf lychee tree which is in its 3rd year but not yet flowered. We also have the tall and dwarf banana tree in their second year. Indian guava which is flowering now.
    Is your mango tree flowering at the moment bek??
    Do you grow any other subtropical fruit trees.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi John. I have a lychee too, and a dwarf banana which are really the only subtropicals. The lychee is about 5 years old and is in a pot. Its never flowered. Yet. The banana has cropped once, but took about 18 months from planting to fruit. The secondary plants are coming up to about flowering size now so hopefully more fruit coming. I tried a black sapote once but it died from frost.
      Fingers crossed the flowers turn to fruit for you!

      Delete
  11. Hi Bek,
    Love Mango and am thinking of putting one in Melbourne (point Cook) I have 7 banana
    Trees including one that is fruiting. I would love to get a mango happening. We live close to the bay so don't get a lot of frost.
    What part of town are you in?
    How much water do they need?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Yelrom. I'm near Sunshine, so get a bit more frost than you guys closer to the bay would, but not that much. They like a fair bit of water, but that said I don't water much after it was established (first year or so) and it has survived and flowered off rain water since. But I've only got one mango off it.

      Delete
    2. Thanks Bek. I have got my Mango coming up from seed at the moment it is 20 cm high, I think I will keep it inside in a pot for this year and perhaps plant it October or November for the warm weather.

      Thanks for The advice.

      Delete
  12. Hi, love to hear someone is successfully growing mango trees in Melbourne. I'd like to ask how the tree is doing now and how many mangoes you get per year. I'm gonna try to grow mango trees in my yard and I haven't decided whether I should go for 2 trees or only 1. Mango is my favorite and can't get enough of it!!

    ReplyDelete