Mandarin Varieties to Choose From
The most commonly grown mandarin varieties are satsuma, clementine, and temple. Satsuma mandarins are one of the earliest ripening, easy to peel, and very seedless. Clementine mandarins are also very easy to peel and seedless but slightly sweeter than satsumas. Temple mandarins are considered one of the highest quality mandarins, with a rich orange color and tangy-sweet flavor, though the fruit can be more difficult to peel.
Some of the most popular mandarin hybrids include the Murcott and tango. Murcotts are a cross between a temple and tangor mandarin, producing very juicy and flavorful fruit that is also easy to peel. Tango mandarins are a hybrid of temple, tangor, and orb mandarins. The fruit has a deep orange color and a nice balance of acidity and sweetness, though the rind can be slightly tough to peel.
New mandarin varieties are constantly being developed to improve fruit quality, disease resistance, and adaptation to different climates. Choosing a mandarin variety suitable for your local growing conditions will provide the best results. In warmer climates, satsumas, clementines and murcotts tend to perform well, while in cooler areas temple, tango and gold nugget mandarins may be better options. With so many varieties to choose from, mandarin lovers can find a type to suit their specific tastes and needs.
Selecting the Right Location
Choosing an appropriate location is one of the most important factors for successful mandarin growing. Mandarins require full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours per day, so select a spot in your garden that is not shaded by buildings or trees. An area with shelter from strong winds is also beneficial, as it will help protect the tree from damage and allow for better pest and disease control.
Well-drained soil with a slightly acidic pH between 6 and 7 is ideal for mandarins. Heavy clay soils should be avoided, as they do not drain well and can lead to root rot. If your soil is not naturally well-drained, you can improve it by mixing in compost or other organic matter before planting. You should also ensure the soil is deep enough, at minimum 2 to 3 feet, to accommodate the mandarin’s root system.
Space mandarin trees 15 to 25 feet apart depending on the variety. Dwarf mandarin trees can be planted slightly closer together, around 10 to 15 feet apart. The spacing between trees is important to provide adequate air circulation, sunlight exposure, and access for harvesting and maintenance.
Mandarins can tolerate moderate salt exposure, however growth may be stunted and the fruit quality reduced. Areas exposed to high levels of salt or chemicals are not suitable for mandarin cultivation. Mandarins can be successfully grown in coastal areas provided they are planted in a sheltered location and the soil is well drained to avoid salt buildup.
To summarize, the ideal location for mandarin trees should provide:
• Full sun – At least 6 to 8 hours of direct light per day
•Shelter from strong winds
•Well-drained, slightly acidic soil – pH 6 to 7
•Deep soil – At least 2 to 3 feet for the root system
•Proper spacing between trees – 15 to 25 feet apart depending on variety
•Limited salt exposure – Avoid highly saline areas when possible
With the right location selected, your mandarin tree will have the opportunity to thrive! Be sure to properly prepare the planting site, provide consistent irrigation, and consider the requirements for your specific mandarin variety.
Preparing the Soil for Mandarin
Properly preparing the soil before planting a mandarin tree is essential for its health and productivity. Mandarins require well-drained, fertile soil with a slightly acidic pH between 6 and 7. If your soil does not meet these requirements, amendments and supplements may be needed.
To improve drainage in heavy clay soils, incorporate 3 to 4 inches of compost or other organic matter into the top 12 inches of soil before planting. Coarse materials such as perlite or vermiculite can also be added. For sandy soils, the addition of organic matter will help improve water and nutrient retention. The ideal soil for mandarins is a loam with roughly equal parts sand, silt, and clay.
If a soil test indicates the pH is too low or too high, lime or sulfur can be added to raise or lower the level respectively. As a general rule, 5 lbs. of lime per 100 square feet will raise the pH one point, while 1 lb. of sulfur will lower it one point. The pH should be retested 6 months after amending to ensure it remains in the proper range before planting a mandarin tree.
Mandarins require fertile soil to produce healthy foliage and abundant fruit. Before planting, incorporate 3 to 6 inches of compost or 2 to 3 lbs. of a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, per 100 square feet. Fertilizer and compost provide necessary nutrients like nitrogen for vegetative growth, phosphorus for root development, and potassium for fruit production and quality.
An adequate supply of micronutrients, especially iron, manganese, and zinc, is also important for citrus. These minor elements are commonly deficient in many soils and can negatively impact mandarin growth if lacking. You can supplement micronutrients by applying a product specifically for citrus, or a general foliar spray containing a range of minor elements.
In summary, preparing the soil for mandarins involves:
•Improving drainage in heavy soils by incorporating compost and other organic matter
•Adjusting the pH to between 6 and 7 using lime or sulfur if needed
•Enriching the soil with compost or balanced fertilizer to provide necessary nutrients
•Supplementing micronutrients, especially iron, manganese and zinc
•Re-testing the soil 6 months after amending to check pH and nutrient levels
With the proper soil conditions established, your mandarin tree will be set up for success. Be sure to select a well-adapted mandarin variety for your climate, choose an ideal planting site, and provide consistent irrigation and care. Healthy soil leads to healthy, productive trees and delicious homegrown mandarins!
Planting and Watering Mandarins
Once you have selected a suitable mandarin variety and prepared the planting site, it is time to plant your tree. Mandarins should be spaced 15 to 25 feet apart, depending on the variety, to provide adequate air circulation and sunlight exposure. Dig a hole that is at least 2 to 3 times the width and slightly shallower than the root ball.
Place the tree in the hole and check that it is situated upright at the proper depth. The top of the root ball should be level with the surrounding soil. Fill in around the root ball with the soil removed from planting, lightly tamping it down as you go to remove air pockets. Build a raised ring of soil around the edge of the hole to help contain water.
Newly planted mandarin trees will need consistent irrigation, especially for the first 2 to 3 years while becoming established. Water the soil thoroughly until the top 12 inches become saturated after planting, and continue to keep the soil consistently damp but not soggy. As a general rule, mandarin trees will need 1 to 2 inches of water per week. The raised ring of soil around the tree will help contain water in the root zone.
Reduce watering in fall and winter after the tree has gone dormant but do not allow the soil to completely dry out. Mandarins can suffer damage if the roots remain saturated during dormancy. To determine if your tree needs water, check the top few inches of soil using a soil tester or by touch; if it feels dry, it is likely time to irrigate.
In summary, planting and watering mandarin trees properly involves:
•Spacing trees 15 to 25 feet apart depending on variety
•Digging a hole 2 to 3 times the width and slightly shallower than the root ball
•Placing the tree in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil
•Filling in around the root ball, tamping down soil as you go to remove air pockets
•Building a raised ring of soil around the edge of the hole to help contain irrigation
•Watering thoroughly after planting and keeping soil consistently damp for first few years
•Reducing irrigation in fall and winter but not allowing soil to completely dry out
•Checking top few inches of soil regularly with a tester or by hand to determine water needs
With diligent care and proper planting technique, your mandarin tree should become well established and thrive. Be on the lookout for common pests and diseases, fertilize and prune as needed, and before you know it you’ll be enjoying homegrown mandarins!
Fertilizing and Pruning Mandarins
Fertilizer provides nutrients necessary for mandarin growth and fruit production. Mandarin trees should be fertilized 3 times per year: once after fruit set, once in mid-summer, and once in early autumn before the rainy season. Use a balanced citrus fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.
For young mandarin trees, apply 1/4 to 1/2 pound of fertilizer per tree. Increase the amount by 1/4 pound each year until the maximum recommended rate is reached. As a general rule, mature mandarin trees require 1 to 2 pounds of fertilizer, depending on tree size. Broadcast the fertilizer evenly under the canopy, keeping it at least 2 feet away from the trunk.
Pruning mandarins helps open up the canopy to improve air circulation and sunlight exposure, limits tree height for easier harvesting, and reduces the risk of limb breakage from excessively heavy fruit loads. Pruning should be done after the harvest and before new growth starts in spring.
To prune a mandarin tree, first remove any dead or damaged branches. Then selectively thin out overlapping or crossing branches towards the center and top of the canopy. Do not remove more than 25% of the canopy at a time, to avoid stunting tree growth. Pruning cuts should be made just outside the branch collar at an angle, without leaving any stubs.
Pruning mandarin trees when young will help develop a strong scaffold structure. Remove low-hanging branches that interfere with mowing or foot traffic, keeping in mind the desired mature height of your specific mandarin variety. Also, pinch back new shoots by 2/3 their length for the first few years after planting to encourage bushy growth.
Proper mulching around the base of mandarin trees will help retain moisture in the soil, reduce weeds, and prevent damage from lawn mowers or weed eaters. Apply 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch such as compost or pine straw, keeping it a few inches away from the trunk. Replenish the mulch as needed to maintain an effective depth.
In summary, mandarin tree care involves:
•Fertilizing 3 times per year – After fruit set, mid-summer, and early autumn
•Using a balanced citrus fertilizer with equal NPK, and increasing amount as tree matures
•Broadcasting fertilizer evenly under canopy, keeping away from trunk
•Pruning annually after harvest and before new growth to open canopy, limit height, improve structure
•Removing up to 25% of branches at a time, cutting just outside branch collars
•Pinching back new shoots for first few years and removing low-hanging branches
•Mulching around base of tree to retain moisture, reduce weeds, and prevent damage
With consistent fertilizing, pruning, and mulching, your mandarin tree will be healthy and productive. Be on the lookout for pest or disease issues, and address them promptly to avoid damage to your crop. Enjoy watching your homegrown mandarins develop!
Controlling Pests and Diseases
Mandarin trees can be affected by several common pests and diseases. Monitoring trees regularly and addressing issues early can help avoid damage to your crop. Some of the most common pests of mandarins include:
• Aphids – Suck sap from leaves and tender shoots. Remove by hand or spray with insecticidal soap.
• Scales – Sap-sucking insects that attach to leaves and twigs. Scrape off or apply horticultural oil.
• Mites – Minute pests that feed on leaves, causing stippling and bronzing. Treat with predatory mites or miticide like sulfur.
Bacterial and fungal diseases may also pose issues:
• Citrus Scab – Bacterial disease causing warty, corky lesions on fruit and leaves. Apply copper spray, especially when conditions are wet.
• Greasy Spot – Fungal disease resulting in distinctive greasy black lesions on fruit and leaves. Remove affected debris and apply copper spray.
• Root Rot – Fungal disease that attacks feeder roots, caused by saturation or poor drainage. Improve soil conditions and allow soil to dry before watering.
The most effective way to control pests and diseases in mandarin groves is through an integrated pest management (IPM) program. IPM utilizes various methods for monitoring and managing pest populations while minimizing risks to the environment. Methods may include:
•Regular orchard monitoring to detect issues early before populations build up
•Selecting disease-resistant varieties when possible
•Improving cultural practices like pruning for better air circulation and pesticide coverage
•Using biological controls such as predatory mites to suppress mite pests
•Applying pesticides such as horticultural oil, sulfur or copper only when needed based on action thresholds
•Rotating between pesticide classes to avoid resistance
•Releasing beneficial insects like lacewings that prey on aphids and other pests
In home mandarin groves, monitoring trees regularly for common pests and diseases is key. Handpick larger insects like aphids and scales, improve sanitation by removing fallen debris under trees, and apply insecticidal soaps or light horticultural oils when pest populations threaten to damage fruit or foliage. Only apply synthetic pesticides when necessary, carefully following the instructions.
By implementing IPM strategies, both commercial and home mandarin growers can effectively control pests and diseases while producing high quality, unblemished fruit. With the right variety selected for your area and consistent tree care, mandarins can thrive despite the occasional pest or disease challenge. Staying vigilant and addressing issues early is critical to success.
Harvesting and Storing Mandarins
After months of dedicated care and patience, you are finally ready to harvest your mandarin crop! Mandarins are ready to pick once they have turned fully orange in color and feel slightly soft when gently squeezed. The best way to tell if mandarins are ripe is to pick one and taste it – the fruit should be bursting with sweet citrus flavor when ready.
To harvest mandarins, clip or gently twist each fruit from the branch by hand. Do not pull the fruit off, as this can damage the branch and reduce next year’s crop. Use pruning shears to cut mandarins that do not easily twist off. Take care not to damage the branch collar or fruit stem left behind.
Mandarins do not continue ripening significantly after picking, so only harvest what you plan to eat within a week or two. For larger harvests, pick mandarins in stages as they become ripe to avoid having too many mature at once. Handle mandarins gently to avoid bruising the delicate fruit.
Freshly picked mandarins can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 week. For longer term storage up to 1 month, place mandarins in the refrigerator. The ideal storage temperature is around 45 to 50 F. Higher temperatures will speed ripening and spoilage, while lower temperatures may cause chill damage.
Before storing mandarins, sort out any damaged or overripe fruit. Gently wipe mandarins to remove dirt or debris, then place them in a single layer in a shallow container or mesh bag. Cover the container to help retain moisture, leaving some small holes or openings for air flow.
Check mandarins regularly while in storage and remove any that are spoiled. Ripe mandarins will continue to soften over time, even when refrigerated, so use as soon as possible for best quality. Juicy varieties like satsumas and clementines do not last as long in storage compared to varieties with firmer flesh.
Some tips for storing mandarins:
• Only harvest mandarins as they ripen to avoid oversupply and spoilage. Pick in stages for larger harvests.
• Gently handle and avoid bruising mandarins after harvesting.
• Sort and remove any damaged or overripe fruit before storing.
• Wash mandarins and allow to air dry before refrigerating. Do not submerge in water.
• Place mandarins in a single layer in a shallow, perforated container. Do not stack on top of each other.
• Cover container to retain moisture but do not seal completely airtight. Provide some ventilation.
• Refrigerate mandarins as soon as possible at around 45 to 50 F.
• Check mandarins regularly and remove any spoiled fruit while in storage.
• Use mandarins within 1 to 4 weeks for best quality and flavor, depending on variety. Enjoy!
With the proper harvesting and storage techniques, you can enjoy homegrown mandarins for weeks after picking. Relish in the sweet reward of your diligent efforts and start planning for the next growing season!