Avocados are known for being rich in healthy fats and they make a great addition to any burger or sandwich. The guide below will help you learn the basics of how to grow avocados in your home garden.
Choosing a Location to Grow Avocados
Avocados will grow in shady areas but are productive only in full sun. The roots are highly aggressive and competitive and they will choke out nearby plants.
The shade under the trees is too dense to garden under, and the constant litter can be annoying. In cooler areas plant the tree where it will receive sun during the winter. Give the tree plenty of room–up to 20 feet.
The avocado is not suitable for hedgerows, but two or three trees can be planted in a single large hole to save garden space and enhance pollination. At the beach or in windy inland canyons, provide a windbreak of some sort.
Once established the avocado is a fairly tough tree. Indoor trees need low night temperatures to induce bloom. Container plants should be moved outdoors with care. Whitewashing the trunk or branches will prevent sunburn.
Soil to Grow Avocados
What type of soil is required to grow avocados?
Avocado trees like loose, decomposed granite or sandy loam best. The trees will not survive in locations with very poor drainage. Pooled water near the roots will cause rot and destroy the plants.
The avocado trees grow exceptionally well on hillsides. You should never plant them in stream beds. They are tolerant of acid or alkaline soil. In containers use a planting mix combined with topsoil.
Plastic containers should be avoided but will work if necessary. It is also useful to plant the tub with annual flowers to reduce excess soil moisture and temperature. Remember, plants must have proper drainage in order to survive. Container plants will need to be leached often to reduce salts.
Irrigation for Avocados
Will your Avocado Tree need irrigation?
Avocado trees may not need irrigation during the winter rainy season but watch for prolonged mid-winter dry spells. Over-irrigation can induce root which is the most common cause of the plant’s unsuccessful.
To test to see if irrigation is necessary, dig a hole 9 inches deep and test the soil by squeezing. If it is moist and the soil holds together, do not irrigate; if it crumbles in the hand, then we recommend that you water it.
Watch soil moisture carefully at the end of the irrigating season. Never enter winter with wet soil. Avocados tolerate some salts, though they will show leaf tip burn and stunting of leaves. Deep irrigation will leach salt accumulation.
How to protect avocados from frost?
It is important to choose a cultivar that is hardy in your area. Cold temperatures can damage and kill avocado trees. See the picture below to recognize avocado frost damage. Mexican types are the best choice for colder regions.
Plant above a slope for air drainage, or near the house for added protection. In youth, protect with rugs, towels, and such spread overhead on a frame. For further protection heat with light bulbs and wrap the trunk with sponge foam.
These measures also permit tender cultivars to become established in borderline locations; established trees are much harder than young ones. The upper branches can also be top worked with hardy Mexican types, which will protect a more tender cultivar on lower branches, as well as serve as a pollinator.
Harvest fruit before the frost season begins. Cold-damaged fruit turns black. Avocados are often in bloom at the time of frost and the flowers are killed, but the tree tends to rebloom. This is especially true of Mexican types.
Avocado Maintenance and Pruning
How do you prune an Avocado Tree?
The columnar cultivars require pinching at an early age if you want a nice-looking rounded tree. Others need no training. Most orchard practice avoids staking for a variety of reasons.
The best results are obtained by fencing the tree with plastic mesh for the first two to three years. Container and dwarf trees will need constant staking. The skirts of avocado trees are sometimes trimmed to keep rodents out, but the trees are usually not pruned.
Branches that are exposed to the sun by defoliation are very susceptible to sunburn and will most likely die. Such branches should always be whitewashed if possible.
It is usually best to avoid any pruning. Most types of avocado trees are not well adapted to espalier. They are much too vigorous and the avocado fruit is self-thinning.
Do Avocados need fertilizers?
You should start feeding young trees after 1 year of growth, using a balanced organic fertilizer. Do this about four times yearly.
Older trees benefit from feeding with nitrogenous fertilizer applied in late winter and early summer. High nitrogen levels are essential for healthy plant growth. Yellowing leaves indicate iron deficiency.
This can usually be corrected by a chelated foliar spray of trace elements containing iron. Mature trees often also show a zinc deficiency.