There are more than 500 avocado varieties. Some can be grown in warm winter temperate regions; others can be grown only in semi-tropical and tropical regions. Avocados have a nutlike flavor and flesh that is buttery in its consistency. Avocados are eaten raw in salads, dips, and sandwiches. They are richer in fat than any other fruit except the olive—20 to 30 percent fat—93 percent unsaturated. Here is your complete guide to growing avocado trees.
Best Climate and Site for Growing Avocados
– Avocados can be grown indoors in colder regions but they rarely fruit when grown indoors. Plant avocados in full sun.
– Grow avocados in humus-rich, well-drained soil. Wet soil can lead to root rot. Avocados prefer a pH between 5.5 and 7.0.
– Avoid planting avocados in low spots where cold air and frost can settle.
– Plant container-grown avocados any time during the growing season. Plant after the last frost in spring and avoid planting in hot, dry weather.
– Prepare a planting site in full sun that is sheltered from a prevailing breeze or wind.
– Work well-rotted compost or manure into the soil. Dig a hole half again as deep and twice as wide as the tree’s roots. Add a cupful of all-purpose fertilizer to the bottom of the hole.
– Put a tree stake in place before planting. Drive the stake into the ground to the side of the hole to at least 2 feet deep.
– Plant the base of the trunk slightly higher out of the ground than it was in the nursery pot. Spread the roots out in all directions.
– Re-fill the hole with half native soil and half aged compost or commercial organic planting mix; firm in the soil so that there are no air pockets among the roots. Water in the soil and create a modest soil basin around the trunk to hold water at watering time. Secure the tree to the stake with tree ties.
– After planting, water the tree thoroughly and fertilize with a high-phosphorus liquid starter fertilizer. Keep the soil evenly moist during the first year.
Avocado Care, Nutrients, and Water
– Keep the soil evenly moist year-round; do not let avocado roots dry out.
– Mature trees may require supplemental nitrogen, but young trees do not need extra nitrogen.
– Mulch with aged compost or aged manure in spring. Mulch out to the dripline to conserve soil moisture and suppress weeds. Renew the mulch midsummer.
– Yellowing leaves may indicate a nutrient deficiency; have the soil tested and add amendments as needed.
– Trees in sandy, limestone will need a foliar spray of copper, zinc, and manganese for the first five years. Trees grown in alkaline soil need a yearly application of iron chelates.
– Avocados grow 20 to 60 feet tall and 25 to 35 feet wide. Space plants 25 to 35 feet apart.
– Avocados are self-fruitful; you can plant just one tree; however, cross-pollination will improve fruit production.
– Avocados have flowers categorized as either Type A flowers or Type B flowers depending on the time of day that the flowers open and when the pollen is released. Type A flowers open in the morning; Type B flowers open in the afternoon.
– If you plant two avocados, be sure the flowers of the two open at the same time. Plant two Type A or two Type B together or interplant more than one Type A and more than one Type B to ensure cross-pollination.
– Flowers open when the temperature is above 70°F (21°C) day and night. The fruit set will be poor when temperatures are below 60°F (16°C).
– A single avocado tree will produce 200 to 300 fruits each year at the age of 5 to 7 years.
– Avocados bloom in late winter to early spring; flowers and fruits can be damaged by frost and the yield may suffer.
Harvest and Storing Avocados
– Avocados are ready to pick when their color change is complete. The color of dark purple or near black colored varieties will deepen when ripe. The brightness of the skin of green varieties will begin to dull and change to a yellowish tint when ripe. Fruit can be stored on the tree until it starts to fall off.
– To test for ripeness, pick one fruit with a short stem attached then set it on the counter for a few days; if the stem does not shrivel or turn dark, the fruit is mature, and it is safe to pick the others.
– Avocados do not soften until they are picked; they usually soften off the tree in three to eight days. Fruit will soften at room temperatures; refrigeration will slow ripening.
– Clip or cut the fruit off a branch with a piece of stem attached; do not pull the fruit off; you could tear or break the branch. Use a pruner or shear to harvest fruit; a long pole pruner may be needed to harvest fruit high up. Wear gloves to avoid scratching the fruit.
– Avocados will keep for several weeks when stored where the temperature is just above 42°F (5.6°C).
– To freeze avocado, puree the fruit, add lemon or lime juice, pack in freezer containers and free ze.
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