Mandarins are highly productive small evergreen trees and growing your own will reward you with sweetness and flavour that easily beats anything you might buy from a shop. Mandarins are ‘easy’ fruit, peel comes away and segments can be divided without shedding loads of juice and making hands sticky. Perfect for picnics and lunchboxes, mandarins are also used in fruit salads, preserves pudding and juices. The flowers are heavily fragrant. In the right location and with the right preparation they can be grown in all parts of the country – either as a small tree planted in the garden or a container grown specimen. Mandarins are highly productive small evergreen trees and shrubs. They are frost-sensitive and need warm winter temperatures if they are to be planted in the ground. To get round this in cooler areas they can easily be grown in containers and protected during winter. Mandarins are rich in vitamin C. Plants are self fertile – meaning they can be pollinated without the need for another plant.
Companions Dill, yarrow, thyme, marigold, borage, cosmos, calendula.
Quantity 1 or more plants per household.
Satsuma one of the best tasting varieties. Fruit are very juicy, almost seedless and easy to peel. Harvest from early to mid winter. Pick about a week after fruit have fully coloured for best flavour.
Burgess Scarlet produces medium sized, juicy fruits in early spring and summer. Main crops are every two years. Forms a smalll tree – to about chest height. Grows well in a container.
Kara produces juicy, thin-skinned fruit in spring and summer. Forms a fairly upright, bushy tree.
Clementine produces small, rounded fruit that are absolutely bursting with flavour. Trees look decorative when full of ripening fruit. Main crops are every two years with harvest from mid to late winter. A more cold tolerant variety that holds ripe fruit well for several weeks. Great in containers.
Kawano a good variety for growing in the ground. Forms an upright tree with a spreading canopy of glossy leaves. Fruit are round and flattened, like mini pumpkins. Heavy cropper between May and June.
Thorny this variety does have some thorns but it produces one of the best tasting mandarins of all. The medium-sized fruit are very sweet, juicy and easy to peel, they ripen in late winter.
Tangelo a cross between a grapefruit and a mandarin, the Tangelo grows into a medium sized, highly productive tree. Tangelos look like small, bright orange grapefruits and have the characteristic tang of these larger citrus fruits.
Plant container grown plants from autumn to spring.
Plant mandarins in full sun with room to grow. They will tolerate some partial afternoon shade. Protect them from strong winds. Trees planted in lawns or grassy orchards will grow better if grass is removed from a circle around their stem – take a stride away from the stem and make this the radius of your circle, remove grass and add a finger-deep layer of mulch.
Mandarins grow very well in containers such as half barrels. This is a good way of growing them in a small garden and a row of them in pots can look decorative. Planting mandarins in containers means you can put them in your sunniest spot – say on a deck or terrace. In colder areas pots can be moved to a protected location in winter or they can be insulated with frost cloth.
Mandarins grow well on fertile soils with good drainage. If your soil is very sandy or slightly sticky and you want to improve it, you can add well-rotted compost at the time of planting and continue to mulch with rich compost as your plants get established. You can always grow mandarins in a raised bed filled with sterilized topsoil and well-rotted organic compost if you have a really sticky clay soil.
Plant mandarin trees at least two strides apart. Soak plants in water before planting them.
Prepare the planting area. Soil should be weed-free and well dug through to at least a full spade’s depth. Add well-rotted compost if necessary and mix with surrounding garden soil. Carefully remove mandarin plant from container by turning upside down and holding the plant across the base of its stem with a spread hand. Tap the bottom of the container until the plant and its root ball come loose. Handle plants by the root ball to prevent damage to stems and shallow roots. Place mandarin plant in a hole that is just larger than the container it came in. Back fill around root ball making sure there are no air pockets. Water well and mulch with a finger-thick layer of compost, shredded bark or untreated sawdust.
If planting in a container ensure it is large enough. Half barrels or large terracotta pots look good with mandarins and they are the right size too. Use a rich, fertile compost with a layer of drainage material – scoria or broken pot fragments – at the bottom. Add slow release granules or sheep pellets before planting. When mandarins are grown in containers it pays to put them where you’ll easily monitor them to ensure soil is moist – particularly in dry weather.
Keep plants weed free and maintain constant moisture levels – this is especially important as fruit swell and start to ripen.
Watering: Container grown plants need lots of water as fruit set and ripen. In warm weather they need watering daily if fruit are to ripen to their best flavour.
Feed: To give plants a boost, feed them with a sprinkling of blood and bone meal around outer edge of foliage in spring. Ensure you keep a nutrient rich layer of mulch around the base or your trees at all times – this should give the shallow roots the nutrients as well as protection that they need.
Container grown plants may need more regular feeding with a constant layer of mulch maintained at all times and a sprinkling of blood and bone meal every spring and autumn.
Flowering: Flowers are pollinated by bees and other insects.
Mandarins can usually be harvested between early spring and late summer depending on varieties grown. Fruit are ripe when they turn fully orange with a glossy sheen to them. Fruit do not last when ripe, the skin separating from the segments inside and juice content dwindling. Best if you use secateurs to snip fruit with a short length of stem. If you pull them by hand the stalk can pull out of the skin – causing fruit not to last well. Fallen mandarins are likely to be bruised and they’ll not last long so use them straightaway.
Storage: Once picked, mandarins should last a week or so at room temperature. Chilling them in the fridge keeps them viable for longer.
Not much pruning required:
Young trees are pruned to create a suitable, open shape. This should be carried out in late winter and before mid spring,
Cut out any suckers from the base of plants.
Remove stems to improve shape and open up center of bushy plants.
Remove dead, diseased and spindly stems.
Aphids and scale insects can be a problem on tender growing tips. These sap sucking insects deposit a sticky sugar solution on leaves and this often causes spore of a sooty black fungus to coat leaves. Use Neem oil spray in spring to control an early outbreak.
Lemon tree borer can be a problem – ensure all pruning is carried out by early spring.