If you have the right growing conditions for an avocado tree then you are in line for a potentially large harvest of delicious and nutritious fruits. A single tree can produce around 200 fruits in a season. If you plant a selection of varieties you can ensure an almost unbroken supply of nutty, buttery orbs year-round. Just think of all the swapping and bartering you could get up to with such a haul! Trees can grow fairly tall with a mature specimen reaching around 7 to 8 metres. Avocados require fairly precise conditions, so it'll only take a minute for you to work out if you can grow them in your garden.
Companions Comfrey –plant beneath trees. Flowering plants in the garden that attract pollinating bees – rosemary, borage, lavender etc.
Quantity 1 tree per household
Haas produces a crop of rough, almost black-looking medium-sized, buttery fruits with small seeds between November and March. Trees are spreading rather than tall.
Reed produces large green fruits that are ready for picking between February and April. Forms a smallish tree that makes it a good candidate for back yards.
Fuerte produces leathery, pear-shaped medium fruits with dark green skin that are ready for harvest between August and October. Grows into a large tree. Fruits are usually produced every other year. Good for lifestyle blocks where there’s space for a few trees.
Zutano more cold-tolerant than other varieties. Produces green, pear shaped fruits with knobbly skin.
Plant container grown trees in spring and summer as they like to have their roots in warm soil
Avocados grow in areas with warm summers and mild winter temperatures, There are cold-hardy varieties such as ‘Zutano’ that can be planted in cooler areas but anywhere with winter temperatures that are regularly lower than -2 degrees will be too cold. Young trees are particularly susceptible to frost and are protected with mesh cages where there is a risk of temperatures falling below 0 degrees. Avocados like plenty of sunshine and they can handle some dappled shade as long as they are in a warm spot. Avoid planting trees in the path of any prevailing winds. Trees can grow fairly large and their roots will hungrily take up available nutrients in the soil – you won’t find much will grow beneath them. Plant where they will be able to spread their canopy as wide as 8 to 10 metres. Having two trees can greatly improve pollination – but you’ll need sufficient space.
Dwarf varieties are available and these can be grown in large containers. This means that, as long as you have a long hot summer and you can protect them from cold winter temperatures, you can have a go at growing avocados in cooler parts of the country. Put them where they will get the most sun through winter.
Avocados need free-draining soil that is preferably loose, rich and deep. Ideally ground should be on a slight slope. Avoid hollows and dips where water might sit below ground.
Choose a grafted sapling (this means a selected root-stock has been used; look for a healed-over scar around the stem a few inches from its base). Plants grown from seed tend to take a long time to produce fruit and when they do they are fairly small.
Avocados need to be handled with great care. Always hold plants from beneath the plant bag — don’t lift it by the stem or you’re likely to damage delicate roots and threaten the tree's long-term healthy growth.
When you have selected the best planting area and are ready for planting, soak your tree in a bucket of water.
Plant your avocado tree into a mound of well-rotted compost – about a full stride from one side to the other and about knee high in the middle. This should help to ensure good drainage. Make a hole not much larger than the plant bag, and shallow enough to leave the top inch of the plant's potting mix above mound level. Before removing the bag, carefully cut the plastic from around the base of the tree and place it (with the plant bag still surrounding the sides) into the hole. Add some compost around the bottom of the plant bag then slit it up one side and pull off. Back-fill the hole without pressing down too firmly, and water well to ensure good contact between potting mix and surrounding soil/compost. At this stage, a cage of plastic mesh is often erected on wooden posts around the young tree to protect it from winds and cold temperatures - this also helps to support the tree as it gets established.
If growing a dwarf variety in a container choose something large like a half-barrel. Soak your dwarf tree in a bucket of water before planting. Fill the container to about a third with equal amounts of well-rotted compost and potting mix. Add a slow release granular feed or sheep pellets and mix well. Carefully remove your container-grown tree and stand on the compost mix – ensuring the soil level of your tree is level with the top of the pot. Back fill with more compost/potting mix and water well. Keep compost moist and support tree with a stake.
Mulch around base of newly-planted trees. Cover a circle as wide as the spread of the branches with a finger-deep layer of compost, rotted manure or old straw and replenish mulch when neccessary. Make sure the mulching layer doesn’t touch the stem of your tree as this can cause it to rot. This should be done for the first three years. It is important to not over-water the tree as it spreads its roots and starts to get established - but it should not dry out. Remove the tree’s flowers in its first year to stimulate strong root growth that is essential for long-term productivity.
Feed: Trees can be fed with a sprinkling of blood and bone meal around the outer edge of their drip line (widest edge of outer branches) in early spring.
Trees are usually productive after three to four years. Avocados mature but do not ripen on the tree—they have to be picked to transform from bullet to buttery texture. Fruit are picked when they reach the size indicated by their variety and they are still hard. Collect those that you can reach individually by hand, using a pair of secateurs to cut a short stem with each fruit. Place them in a soft, cloth bag or backpack. You can get long-handled picking poles that come with a small mesh sack for collecting fruit higher up. Fruit ripened at room temperature should be ready for eating within 4 days. To get them to ripen, lay fruit on their side and remove the stalk – this tells them they are on the ground and its time to ripen. Placing them inside a paper bag with a ripe banana can speed the process.
Storage: Avocados should be picked every few days as and when you need them. They will not store for all that long once they are off the tree because this stimulates their ripening process and once they are ripe, avocados go soft and pulpy in just a matter of days.
Generally avocados don’t need pruning but they can be cut back if they grow too large or they need shaping. Some varieties have their growing tip pinched out when they are still young to stimulate bushy growth.
Avocados are mainly problem free. If you look after them well they should be less susceptible to pests and diseases. Possums can be a problem when trees are in fruit.