As some visitors may know, Adam grew up in the tropical warmth of Kununurra surrounded by banana and mango plantations.
Mangos are not generally a fruit one associates with the temperate zones of Australia and certainly not the cool climate of Bridgetown. However, soon after arriving on the farm we decided to experiment with various mango trees, to see if they would grow and thrive on the farm. We planted a number of traditional tropical mango trees, namely Kensington Pride and Comman varieties but we also included a few cooler climate breeds such as Keo Savoy and R2E2.
For those wondering – R2E2 stands for Row 2, Experiment 2 – not the most imaginative of names but then again, it is catchy and is easily remembered as it is similar to the adorable droid R2D2 from Star Wars fame.
In many parts of the world (including Australia), people often attempt to grow plants and trees which are not suited to the climate and soil of their area. It is generally because they have a yearning to grow something different, something they desire or merely for the challenge of trying. The success rate is always dependent on the effort placed into the exercise … understanding the plants specific needs, planning and preparation go a long way towards success whereas, no understanding or little preparation often ends in failure.
To grow warm climate plants and trees in temperate climates you need to protect them from damaging winds, frost and sometimes provide them with a heat source during the cool winter months. One age old solutions used around the world, is to grow these plants and trees in a glass house. I am often reminded of the Orangery at Versailles where huge trees are planted in large pots and every year prior to winter setting in, they are moved indoors from the cold to a vast stone and glass building to sit out winter and the snow. Obviously, this isn’t a solution for the average home gardener but a variation of the technique can be applied to small plants and shrubs – plant your warm loving plants in pots and when winter comes, move them to a protected area away from the damaging elements.
For large growing trees such as a mango the better solution is to plant them in a sunny but sheltered spot near a building wall. If chosen correctly, the building will provide reasonable shelter from damaging winds, rain and frost and the wall mass will radiate heat during winter to keep the tree happy. On the farm we needed to find another solution as the number of trees was too many for positioning against a building.
Our solution for the problem, was to firstly plant the trees away from the prevailing winter winds and frost and to build each individual tree a small cage covered in mesh and clear film, thus creating a mini glass house for them.
Although it is still early days in our experiment and we are sure as the trees grow larger it will be more difficult to cover them the way we are at present, we are hoping that the mature trees will be able to cope on their own. If not we will have to invent some variation on the cage … I think a variation on the Japanese method of wrapping trees for winter might be a solution to protect the younger branches and lots and lots of straw on the ground to protect the trees surface root system.
As a gardener you always need to think outside the box … if there is a will there is always a way.