Do you enjoy eating avocados? Some people cannot get enough of these creamy, high-fat fruits. The consumption of avocados has tripled in the last 20 years.
If you are lucky enough to live in the warm climate, preferably somewhere between Zone 9b and 11, you may be able to grow your very own avocado tree.
If you follow the following steps and do your best to support your avocado tree, you could produce as many as 300 avocados every year once your tree establishes itself.
We know what you’re thinking. Holy guacamole, that’s a lot of avocados! It should not be hard to find neighbors and friends who are willing to take some of those excess fruits off your hands. Some people even make money off of their avocados by marketing them to local grocery stores or selling them at roadside stands.
What is an Avocado
Avocados are pear-shaped pit fruits that grow on trees. They are native to the western hemisphere. Their distinct alligator skin-like shell and buttery greenish-yellow flesh set them apart from most other fruits. Today, they are one of the most popular vegetables in the world.
People use them to make everything from spicy guacamole to gourmet toast. Since avocados contain high levels of unsaturated fats and lots of nutrients, they are also heralded as health foods.
What are the Different Varieties Available?
You’re ready to start growing avocados! What kind will you choose?
If you’re a fan of avocados, you’re already familiar with the Hass variety. These small, bumpy, dark-green fruits are probably one of the first items you see when you enter the produce section of your grocery store. They account for 80% of the avocados produced in the United States.
Hass avocados were developed in California in 1926. Every Hass avocado tree is derived from a single mother tree. How’s that for a plant legacy?
People revere the rich nutty flavor and buttery of this particular avocado variety.
Pinkerton avocados have a slightly elongated pear shape. They are not as dark as Hass avocados. They are also quite a bit larger than their Californian cousins. However, the flesh is similarly buttery and nutty. Unlike Hass avocados, Pinkertons only ripen after they are harvested. As such, it is easier to stagger your harvests of this delicious tree fruit.
Zutano avocados are one of the more cold-tolerant varieties. They can survive in temperatures as low as 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Mature Zutano trees produce large, buttery fruits. Mature trees may be anywhere from 25 to 35 feet in height.
Reed avocados have distinctly round and bulbous shapes. In fact, they are often referred to as cannonballs. Since the skins are very thick, you can easily slice a Reed avocado in half, remove the seed, and scoop the soft flesh out with a utensil. These massive avocados were patented in the late 1940s in California.
When is the Best Time to Plant?
It’s best to plant avocados when the weather is warm and moderately humid. Harsh temperatures will damage newly cultivated plants. If your garden is susceptible to frost, wait until early spring to break ground.
If winters are warm all the way through, plant in autumn. Plant early in the morning to avoid exposing your plants to excess heat and sunlight.
Where Can You Plant?
You can plant avocado trees in traditional yards or fields. Below, you’ll find the conditions that are best for growing avocado trees.
Avocados grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 and 10. In colder climates, they are sometimes grown indoors. However, potted avocado plants rarely produce fruit.
Most trees thrive in places with high humidity and year-round warmth. While there are a few moderately cold-tolerant varieties, most avocado species prefer temperatures well above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the United States, avocados are typically grown in Florida, California, and Hawaii. Yet, the vast majority of commercially sold avocados are imported from Mexico.
Avocados thrive in humus-rich, nutrient-rich, well-draining soil. Always have your soil tested before planting avocado trees. You will want to incorporate any necessary amendments and fertilizers months before planting. If you incorporate fertilizer at the time of planting, you will likely burn your plants.
The pH of your soil should be between 6 and 6.5. If your soil is alkaline, add some lime or sulfur. After that, retest the soil to ensure it has the proper acidity.
Ideally, your soil is also loose and well-aerated. If that’s not the case, incorporate sand, loam, organic compost, or other drainage-improving materials.
Avocado trees fare best in full sunlight. However, greenhouse-grown seedlings must be hardened off before they are exposed to direct sunlight.
It is important to shade young plants until they are established. You may use shade covers to protect the foliage from harsh summer sunlight. Many growers also paint the stems of their avocado trees white to protect them from sunburn.
Trees stems should be painted until they are about 2 or 3 years in age. After that, their large canopies should protect the stems from sunburn.
Drainage is critical to the growth of avocado trees. Plant your avocado tree on top of a large mound to encourage healthy drainage. The main root systems are very shallow.
Drip irrigation systems and traditional sprinklers are both good sources of automatic irrigation. According to the experts, mature trees need 20 gallons of water per day during the peak points of the growing season.
Always check the moisture level of your soil before watering. Soil should be allowed to dry between watering. Conserve water by applying a thick layer of woody mulch to the base of your avocado trees.
How to Plant Avocado in the Garden
Planting from Seed
Many people wonder if they can salvage avocado seeds from store-bought fruits. These over-sized orbs are perfectly suitable for planting. However, they are not very likely to yield fruit.
If you’d like to plant your avocado seed, separate it from the rest of the fruit. Wash it to remove any remaining flesh. Then suspend it in a glass of water using three toothpicks. Insert the toothpicks into the flesh of the seed.
Make sure that the bottom half of the seed is submerged in the water. Place the cup on a sunny window sill or, if the weather allows it, an outdoor patio.
After several weeks, you should begin to see growth. The seed will develop stringy white roots and, eventually, a slender green stem. Monitor its growth. Replace and replenish its water every day.
When the plant begins to show signs of maturity, move it to a large pot. Fill the pot with moist, humus-rich potting soil. Softly pat the soil down over the avocado plant’s root ball.
Planting Young Trees
If you live in a warm climate, you should be able to find young avocado trees at your local nursery. Always inspect young trees before introducing them into your garden. Make sure that the tree has a well-established root ball and healthy, disease-free shoots and leaves.
First, dig a hole that is slightly wider but a few inches shallower than the avocado plant’s root ball. The plant should be slightly higher than the rest of the soil to ensure that water does not pool around the base of the tree trunk.
If your saplings are stored in growing bags, use a sharp knife to cut off the bottom of the bag. Then, gently slip off the remaining plastic. Try not to disturb the root ball unless it is root-bound. If the tree is root-bound, you may need to cut through roots that are twined and twisted around the exterior of the root ball.
Place the root ball into the hole you have prepared. Then, gently replace the soil around the base of the tree. Do not pat the soil down. Water your plant immediately after planting.
Leave at least 20 feet between avocado saplings. Spaced trees will not produce as much fruit in their formative years. As such, large-scale growers often plant trees closer together. After a few initial harvests, they remove every other tree.
How to Care for an Avocado Plant
Water young plants three times per week. Reduce the frequency of your watering to once a week after the tree is established. Allow the soil to dry before irrigating again.
It is sometimes challenging for new growers to get the hang of avocado irrigation. That’s because these fast-growing plants need just enough water to saturate the roots. However, excess water can cause the growth of several detrimental fungi.
Test your soil to determine if there is any need to apply amendments or fertilizers before planting. Reach out to your local agriculture extension. Or else, purchase a soil test from a home and garden store. Test your soil several months before planting.
We recommend applying organic fertilizer before planting. Avocado plants need nitrogen, potassium, boron, zinc, as well as other minerals. Stage your fertilizer applications to promote growth and health during key stages of the growing process. What’s more, learn to identify signs of common mineral deficiencies.
If you apply a thick cover of mulch, you will not need to weed your avocado tree regularly. Mature trees shade the ground below them. As such, they often diminish the growth of any competition.
Replace mulch regularly and hand weed to avoid disrupting the shallow root network of young avocado trees. Over time, the leaves will drop and become an integral part of the soil that surrounds your avocado trees.
Create a ring of 4- to 10-inch deep coarse organic mulch around the base of your avocado tree. Lay the mulch several inches from the base of the tree. The mulch will help the soil to stay cool and moist. It will also help protect the tree’s shallow root system from pests and diseases.
Expert growers suggest using woody mulches with a diameter of at least ½ inch. A sound mulch will not rob the soil of nutrients. What’s more, it will not alter the pH of the soil.
While pruning has some proven benefits, it’s best to create a plan before removing branches. A well-cared-for tree should have a wide canopy with a few dominant branches.
Start by removing the lowest branches. These branches will struggle to access sunlight. Not to mention, they inhibit your access to the tree canopy.
You can also remove branches from the main canopy to allow greater access to sunlight. On top of that, remove any dead or diseased limbs.
As a good rule of thumb, prune your avocado trees regularly. What’s more, use sharp, sanitized pruning tools. The goal is to make modest, targeted cuts. This will help you to avoid making large, potentially disruptive cuts on your mature plants. As you can see in this video, you do not have to be selective when pruning limbs.
Control the width and the height of your tree. Pruning improves your access to fruit while improving your tree’s ability to thrive. You can also prune your trees for aesthetic purposes.
Tip: Mulch the limbs and foliage. Then, place them at the base of your tree. This is a great way to make use of otherwise discarded material.
How to Harvest and Store Avocados
It takes more than a decade for avocados seeds to become fruit-bearing trees. Meanwhile, it may take as many as 5 to 7 years for saplings to reach the fruit-bearing stage. Mature trees can produce hundreds of fruits.
Since the fruits are suspended several feet in the air and are highly susceptible to bruising, harvest time is often challenging for new growers to harvest them.
Keep in mind that avocados ripen at different stages. Only harvest the number of avocados you can consume within a few days. Ripe avocados spoil once they are removed from the trees.
Use a securely placed ladder or pole pruner to access mature avocados. Remove the fruit by cutting the stem directly above the top of the fruit. Make sure that your pruning tools are sharp and sterile. Keep a basket or soft vessel nearby. You do not want your avocados to yield to gravity. Bruised avocados are unattractive and easily spoiled.
Store your avocados in a cool, dry place. They may last for a few days to a week. If you’re up to your ankles in ripe avocados, consider sharing your excess fruits with neighbors and fruits. These delicious fruits perish quickly.
In recent times, manufacturers have started selling frozen avocados. However, these chilled fruits are usually met with mixed reactions. In any case, the creamy flesh tests best when sun-ripened and freshly harvested.
What are Some Pests and Diseases that Impact Avocado?
Avocados are resistant to most pests and diseases. Read along to discover a few common issues.
Root Rot Fungi
One of the most common issues to plague avocado trees is root rot fungi. This fungus causes stunted growth and discolored foliage. It develops when trees are exposed to excess moisture. Since fungus spreads quickly, growers must tackle it rapidly. You may need to cut back your trees and/or fumigate infected soils.
If you notice small spots on the bottom of your avocado tree leaves, you might have a Persea mite, or spider mite, infestation on your hands. These pesky little bugs can cause the leaves and fruit to prematurely drop off your avocado trees.
Persia mites are a common problem for California-based avocado growers. You may introduce one of the mites’ natural predators to organically mitigate the issue.
Armillaria Root Rot
Armillaria is a fungus that can develop in the soil surrounding avocado plants. It has the potential to spread throughout a tree’s root system, silently killing the tree.
You can prevent the development of this fungus by avoiding excess irrigation. If one of your trees succumbs to armillaria, quickly remove the damaged tree material from your garden.
Verticillium wilt is a fungal disease that impacts the foliage and branches of avocado trees. Infected trees can be successfully rescued\.
Avocado Black Streak
Avocado black streak is thought to be the side effect of excess soil salinity. It appears in the form of vertical black streaks on avocado tree trunks. There are no known treatments for this detrimental plant disease. As such, all growers must take care in maintaining their avocado trees to ensure their longevity.
Apply fertilizer, soil amendments, and organic compost to the base of your avocado trees. What’s more, have your soil tested annually. The results of your soil test will help you to create a strategic plan for your avocado trees.
Dothiorella canker is a disease that is known to impact California-grown avocado trees. It is a fungus that causes cankers on the branches and trunks of avocado trees. Prune infected limbs and plant materials. Burn or dispose of it away from your avocado trees.
While not necessarily a pest or disease, sunburn is a very common issue for young avocado trees. Many growers paint the trunks of their saplings with flat white latex paint.
The white paint shields the vulnerable green trunks from the harsh summer sun. Sunburned tree trunks develop unsightly patches and legions. Eventually, the damaged limbs will break off and die.
Borers are insects that burrow in and lay eggs in the branches and trunk of avocado trees. They cause the tree trunk and limbs to become structurally weak and vulnerable to infection.
Studies have shown that trunk injections help to control shot hole borers. Remove dead or damaged plant materials to ensure that borers do not have an easy entrance. As always, properly dispose of infected materials.
We hope you enjoyed our guide to growing avocados! Don’t let these magnificent trees intimidate you if you’re a first-time grower! These fast-growing, fruit-bearing plants are an excellent addition to any home garden.
Find a sunny spot in your yard where you’d like to see it rain guacamole. While all trees require a bit of care and patience, avocados are one of the most generous and quick species grown in warm climates.