Last Updated on January 18, 2023 by Grow with Bovees
The avocado (Persea americana) — please, never call them avocado pears! — is outstanding for its nutritional value, being rich in protein and minerals and having an extremely high oil content (the oil content is surpassed only by that of the olive).
The ripe avocado fruits vary in shape from large round to long pear-shaped and in color from light green to dark green, reddish-brown and almost black.
When ripe the flesh is creamy yellow to creamy green and has the consistency of butter. The handsome evergreen trees vary in shape and size as much as the fruits.
Climate Conditions For Growing Avocado Trees
Although farmers growing commercial avocados are told that the avocado is one of the most exacting fruits as far as climate is concerned, requiring a nearly frost-free climate with a high moisture content, it is surprising that they are found growing successfully in home gardens with a moderate climate under far from ideal conditions.
The ideal is an average temperature of approximately 14 °C with very little fluctuation between day and night temperature during the flowering period, plus a high moisture content.
Extremes of temperature and low humidity can cause fruit to drop.
Soil Requirements and pH For Avocado Trees
The ideal soil for avocado trees is a deep, very well drained red loam or clay loam. The emphasis being on ‘very well drained’ as in poorly drained soil, a fungus-like organism, Phytophthora cinnamomi causes the root ball to rot.
The soil pH for avocado should be between 5,5 and 6,5, and ideally contain some rich humus, which can be added to the planting hole by combining some well matured compost.
The trees will not thrive on brackish soils.
Spacing And Tree Size
As mentioned above, avocado trees vary in size and shape but usually grow into quite large trees. Therefore, ample space must be allowed for their development. When you are purchasing an avocado sapling, inquire from the supplier what the growth habit of the tree is.
As avocados are attractive evergreens with beautiful green leaves, they can be planted as specimen trees in the garden.
Prepare large square holes as outlined here. Do this preparation at least a month before the trees are to be planted in order to let the soil settle well.
Planting Avocado Trees
Avocados are normally sold in containers, and it is important that the soil in the container should be thoroughly moistened before the tree is transplanted. To plant, open up a planting hole just a little larger than the container and a fraction shallower in the prepared site.
Remove the plastic sleeve very carefully so as not to disturb the root ball and lower the plant into the hole. Fill in the gap round the plant with top soil and firm in well so that the ball of earth round the plant and the surrounding soil are in close contact.
By the time the tree has been firmed in it should be at the same depth it was growing in the container. Finally, make a shallow basin round the tree and water thoroughly. Young trees are sensitive to sun burn and some kind of shelter from harsh direct sunlight must be provided for them.
The easiest for the home gardener would be to make one of hessian or landscape fabric, and gradually remove this as the tree grows to a few feet tall and becomes established.
You can also grow avocado fruit trees indoors. Check out our indoor fruit tree growing guide here.
Watering — in summer rainfall areas the trees must be watered every three weeks where the soil is light and every four weeks if growing avocados in heavy clay soil during the winter months, i.e. November, December, January and February or even March if there is little rain. In other areas, the same watering program can be followed during dry months.
Keeping the trees well mulched with a good layer of mulch plays an important part in successful culture, and it is advisable to keep them well mulched throughout the year. A good coarse mulch will help to protect the shallow root system from drying out, while promoting healthy root growth.
During the first growing season, give each tree 30g of limestone ammonium nitrate (LAN) every two months, taking care not to put the fertilizer against the trunk of the tree and to water in well after application.
After that apply 0.45 kg of 2:3:2 fertilizer for every year of the tree’s age until the tree is 10 years old, from then on apply 3:1:5. No tree should get more than 7 kg of fertilizer per year.
Apply the fertilizer in three portions: 1) in December, 2) at the end of June and 3) in October, and with this application, give the tree 60 g of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts).
The pollination of avocados is rather complicated but as most varieties of avocados grown in home gardens bear good crops of fresh avocados, there is little to worry about and it is not necessary to plant more than one tree.
If any other type of avocado tree are present in the area, cross – pollination can readily occur.
Popular Varieties Of Avocado Cultivars
If possible buy trees which are grafted on a root stock which is free from the soil and water-borne fungus disease Phytophthora cinnamomi and which is also resistant to avocado leaf blotch virus.
1. Edranol Avocado (Guatemalan) ripens February – July or April – December depending on location.
2. Fuerte Avocado (Guatemalan X Mexican) ripens October – June depending on location.
3. Hass Avocado (Guatemalan) ripens from September – November.
4. Itzamna Avocado (Guatemalan) ripens from March – May.
5. Nabal Avocado (Guatemalan) ripens from June – October.
6. Ryan Avocado (Guatemalan X Mexican) ripens from May – June.
7. Monroe Avocado ripens in April – June.
One of the most popular cultivars, grows into a large tree with a very spreading habit of growth. The pear shaped fruit has a dark, rather rough skin which is fairly thin. The creamy green flesh is of good texture and the flavor is excellent. It ripens earlier in warmer areas than in cooler or coastal areas.
Has a slightly smaller fruit with green skin which sometimes turns russet colored. The flavor of the fruit is excellent and of high quality. The tree grows vigorously and bears well. It has a more upright habit of growth than Fuerte making it better suited for the smaller garden.
Another favorite with fruit slightly smaller than the other two cultivars mentioned above. It has a rough skin which turns almost black when ripe. The creamy flesh has an excellent flavor and the fruits keep well. The tree starts bearing early and produces large crops when mature. It, too, has a spreading habit of growth.
There is many a baby avocado tree in gardens often raised from an avocado pit started in a glass of water placed in a sunny spot. The fruit is often of good quality and most of the trees bear avocado fruits, well but occasionally one will only produce a good crop every other year.
A homegrown avocado seedling will take anywhere between five and eight years to reach the fruiting stage, depending on the variety.
Harvesting Your Avocado Garden
The ripening times given above are only a rough guide and can, and do vary in different parts of the world. It is difficult to tell exactly when to pick avocados as the fruit remains hard while still on the tree.
The best way to tell whether the fruit is ready to pick is to pick a few well-developed fruits and store them at room temperature until they yield slightly to pressure.
If the fruits ripen within 8 to 10 days without any sign of shrivelling then the rest of the well-developed green fruit should be ready for picking.
Fruits picked later in the season have a higher oil content for it increases the longer the fruit remains on the tree.
Some of the hard skinned cultivars do not yield easily to gentle pressure even when ripe but the skin changes color, especially those with brownish-red and almost black skins.
Cut the fruit from the tree with a pair of secateurs and handle carefully to avoid bruising the delicate avocado flesh.
Pruning Avocado Trees
Avocado trees generally do not need any pruning. If there are broken branches, then cut these away.
Very few pests appear to attack avocados with the root rot mentioned earlier being the main problem. So long as you keep everything clean while cutting, and don’t over water, then planting avocado trees should not give you too many problems.
Root rot caused by the fungus growth Phylophlhora cinnamomi can be avoided by planting the trees in really well draining soil and by buying them from a reliable nursery.
Growing Avocados In Containers
Once you have sprouted the avocado pit, plant it into a pot of 10 – 12 inch (30.48 cm) diameter or more. The pot depth should be more than double the depth of the root ball, and have at least one drainage hole.
Make sure to use free draining potting soil and to add some humus rich compost if available.
As with outdoor plants, make sure to keep the roots moist, but not soaked as this will cause rotting of the root system.
Make sure it is in a warm spot sheltered from wind. Avocados love sun, so be sure to choose a spot where direct sunlight is available for a good part of the day.