Growing Tropical and Sub-Tropical Fruit in Melbourne reported by Dennis Ting
In the Garden Centre we sometimes get in some of the more tropical and exotic fruiting plants like mangoes, custard apples, tropical guavas, avocadoes and coffee.
Many customers ask me if it is possible to grow these in suburban Melbourne and have any chance of getting fruit.
I have had feedback that ‘yes’ it is possible but the results will be variable and more care is needed than growing standard fruits like pip fruit, stone fruit or citrus.
As I have an interest in the rarer fruit myself I had the pleasure of visiting Mark in Mount Waverley who has a garden filled with exotic fruit trees and to investigate his methods and compare them to mine.
I think the first observation was that he made full use of the micro climates available in his garden by placing trees in the sheltered spots and ensuring tender plants were not exposed to the hot summer sun as for instance he grouped his avocados together in a corridor.
Mark also made use of fences and walls especially those facing north to espalier the Reed avocado and Pitaya vine. He created artificial shade by stretching shade cloth across the court yard for tender plants like the coffee.
Another method was to use pots filled with a good potting mix starting with 300 mm pots and moving up to 500 mm pots then to 100 litre and 200 litre woven bags for plants not to be planted out and a major advantage is it allows the plants to develop a root ball and provides good drainage / adequate watering all year.
This is similar to my method as it allows these tropical plants to acclimatise over some years and develop a strong root system.
Also in times of inclement weather like excessive cold or heat the pots can be moved to more sheltered locations or more easily protected than if outside in the ground.
I noticed that for plants like avocados and mangoes to be planted in the ground he now planted on a raised mound and mulched heavily to avoid problems of root rot in his heavy clay soils and this seemed to be successful.
One method Mark was experimenting with was to increase the range of varieties he was growing so as an example he was obtaining other varieties of mango (Palmer & Nam Doc Mai) to try apart from the Bowen (Kensington) as there were some that were more cold tolerant and he was trying the Lamb-Hass (A) avocado to improve pollination in addition to the Bacon (B), Wurtz (A) and Reed (A) ones he had.
I was most impressed that Mark was producing his own coffee and we roasted some in a pop corn maker, ground them using a mortar and pestle and then did a Greek style pour over and I had to say it was a great cup of coffee to finish off my visit!!