Avocado

Welcome to the best day of your life. My Avocado fun facts

The Latin word for me (avocado) is: Persea americana.

I originate from south-central Mexico.  If my memory serves me right, when the Aztecs discovered us around 500 BC (give or take, memory not as sharp as I thought), anyway; 
In their native language [ Nahuatl ], there word for Avocado is: ahuacatl … which in today’s English language translates to ‘testicle’ ….. don’t judge me.
Another Aztec word of interest is this combination:  ahuacatl meaning “Avocado”  +  molli meaning “sauce”.  Which a world-famous Spanish word is based on: …  Guacamole
National Guacamole Day is celebrated every 16th of September.

Avocado Facts

We are a huge family nowadays. Just some of my cousins:

Hass, Fuerte, Sharwil, Reed, Lamb-Hass, Shepard, Bacon, Wurtz, Mexicola, Ettinger, Gwen, Pinkerton, Edrandol, Zutano …. gee I could just go on and on and on and on……….

I here, these two are commonly found in Australia:  Hass & Shepard

Avocado Trees

So … We are evergreens, you know – never lose our leaves.

Some refer to our foliage, as feeling ‘leathery’.  We produce lovely white to yellow flowers, not to big, just the right size for Natures Pollinators to achieve their work (We love Bees). We can grow as high as 21 metres and live my god to over 100 years, that is Earth years you know.  I personally know a cousin of a cousin of a cousin, who is still producing fruit well into their fifties. 50 years old! Phew!

I am classified as a member of the flowering plant family: Lauraceae.

My Fruit

Here is an odd fact;   Not many people know this:
As long as our fruit are attached to the tree, it will not ripen.
This is due to what you humans call a fruit stem inhibitor.

The mature ones among us do fall off the tree. (always funny to watch, until it happens to you!) This is a good indication that the majority of us fruit, are Ripe and ready to pick. Now unless you know the variety of my tree, it can be tricky to know when it is good to eat.  Some of us stay green & others change to purple/dark green when ready to eat (hello Hass my mate).  Best way to check is to lightly press on the top of the fruit and if there is a bit of give, I should be ready.

Want to quicken the ripening:

Place me or a group of my friends (better idea) in a brown paper bag (environmentally aware I am!). 

By placing a banana or apple in there too, this will quicken the ripening process.

It is all to do with the “Ethylene gas” been released by the fruit which hastens the ripening process.  Do not worry it will not harm me or the other fruit.  This very natural gas converts the internal starches into sugar, which provides this naturally nature occurring ripening process.  Avocados do this to, but by adding just another type of fruit, as I said, it will hasten the whole process.

Where to plant your Avocado Tree

Here is the thing:  My feet (roots) do not like to be stuck in wetness.  I love a well-draining soil; heavier soils can become waterlogged and my feet are susceptible to Root-Rot. If you must plant me in a heavier soil mixture, then please build a mound, so the water can drain away.

Plenty of sunshine, we like around 6 hours of sun glorious sun. Definitely, protection from the winds if you have a windy location.

I love organic matter in my soil too.  Do you know … well, you about to! Us Avocados are one of the most sensitive horticultural plants around … to salt.  If your water quality is no good, then I am in trouble.  Also please refer to the section “Fertilisers & Manure” for some specific notes.

Best to plant about 3 metres from any of your buildings and spread us apart from each other, between 5-10 metres. You know how gardeners like to tickle the roots of plants to air them before putting in the ground. Well don’t. I hate been tickled; I will do the stretching thanks.

Oh, nearly forgot … I catch a cold as easily as you do.  If you can take measures to protect me from the very cold and especially that enemy Mr. Frost,  I will reward you with presents if you know what I mean, wink, wink.

Avocados prefer a neutral to slightly acidic soil

I like pH levels no higher than 6.5, ideally round 5.5

If I go into soil with a lot of limestone you can expect my leaves to turn yellow with green veins which will need to be treated in an ongoing basis.  You can also expect root diseases to be more severe in soil with a high pH.

When to plant

  • If your area is prone to frost (bite) my pals & I recommend the first two months of Spring
  • In warmer areas then my pals & I recommend the last two months in Autumn

This helps me to establish well and avoids the very hot weather periods too.

Fertilisers & Manure

My root system, especially the feeder roots are always shallow growing, so care (please) must be taken when applying these to me. Never, I will say it again slowly  N E V E R,  apply these when you plant me, it will kill my feeders and most probably kill me, personally I do not like that idea. If you need to prepare the soil, please do so 1-5 months or so before planting.

These are my core ingredients to pay attention to:

  • Nitrogen – Encourages my growth.  Pale or yellow-veined leaves if deficient.
  • Boron – Important to add before & during flowering for helping fruit set.
  • Calcium – Helps fruit quality.
  • Zinc – Lovely important trace element.   Patches of yellow on my leaves if deficient.
  • Soil pH levels

Of course, I cannot give you scientific values of amounts as I do not know where and what type of soil you have planted me in.  Just look after me, that is all I ask and then I can look after you.  You know what they say don’t you … Happy Tree, Happy Life!

Tip:  Look out for fresh manure as this can be high in salt, which we do not like.  It can burn our feeder roots.

My friends at Avowest Avocados have this additional information for you:

“At our orchards at Avowest most of the fertiliser is applied through irrigation so we do not usually worry about putting fertiliser in the planting hole. 

If you do wish to do this make sure it is not in direct contact with the roots.  Because avocado roots are shallow, they are easy to feed with surface applications.  General NPK fertilisers are fine but try to use brands that have potassium present as sulphate not chloride.  Chloride fertilisers will contribute to salt burn.”

Salt burn on leaves (browning colour)
Salt Burn of Avo Leaves

Compost and Mulch

Here is some more information from my mates at Avowest Avocados regarding this subject and pertaining more to the location of Western Australia in the beautiful continent of Australia. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.

The soils that avocados are commonly grown in West Australia are very infertile.  At Avowest when we plant trees in our commercial orchards, we add mulch and compost.  Usually we apply large amounts of low-quality mulch in the tree rows then rotary hoe it in. 

Planting Avo Tree - Spreading Mulch

Spreading mulch before planting

Planting Avo Tree - Rotary Hoe

Rotary Hoe it in

When we plant the tree, we add high quality compost to the hole.  A little is placed in the bottom of the hole before the tree is planted.

You want to avoid the trees graft union becoming covered with soil

If you do put compost in the hole it may subside with time.  You might have to plant the tree a little higher in the ground to allow for this.  When the tree is in the hole, add more compost around the side.  After the tree is planted, add more mulch to the top to help conserve water.

There is a difference between compost and mulch

Good compost is a basic mulch that has been broken down by microorganisms and will require the addition of artificial or organic nitrogen.  There has been a lot of research in West Australia that shows incorporation of compost prior to planting trees will improve the survival and growth rates of avocado trees.

Avocados have surface roots and love mulch additions after planting.  Pine bark is an excellent mulch but there are many others.  Be cautious with manures.  Chicken manure in particularly can have a lot of salt in it.

Thank you Avowest. I hope that was helpful. So remember the tip about fresh manure and it’s potential salt content issues.

This video is aimed at commercial growers planting trees but the same principals apply for home gardeners

Water Management

  • If tree is newly planted – my needs are from every day to every 2 to 3 days, depending on your location and temperatures at the time.
  • As I age into a beautiful, well respect member of nature – reduce to once a week.  Though watch out for them hot dry days.

After planting, water me heavily to wash soil particles against my roots and eliminate air pockets.  If you see the water pooling for too long you probably have the wrong soil type. (come on, did you not read my conditions for soil already)  Consider raising my height with extra additions of mulch around.  This will allow heavy applications of water or downpours of rain to drain away from my root zone.

Here is another bit of advise from my friends at Avowest:

You can kill avocados by irrigating too much

“If the water pools on the surface for longer than 5 minutes after irrigation there is probably too much water. Too much water will stop the tree roots from “breathing” and encourage root disease. Many people assume if their tree looks sick that it needs more water. Often this is the worse thing you can do. There are several devices available from nursery supplies that can measure soil moisture. At Avowest, we spend thousands of dollars every year in managing equipment to monitor soil moisture. This is the single most important aspect to successfully growing avocados.”

Reinforcing the Tip:  Before you water, just check my soil is not already very moist.  Remember my feet!

Pollination

As I said earlier, we love Bees and other pollinators.  The reason is not all Avocado varieties are good self-pollinators.  Even though our flowers have both male & female parts on the one flower. Each part alternates in their activation.  Here is a table to explain:

Flower
type
Day 1
Morning
Day 1
Afternoon
Day 2
Morning
Day 2
Afternoon
Afemaleclosedclosedmale
Bclosedfemalemaleclosed

So, for example my mate “Wurtz” is a good self-pollinator and can live by themself.  On the other end, my other popular mates  “Hass” & “Fuerte” are not as good, don’t get me wrong, it is possible for them to, but for a better crop they don’t mind help from the pollinators or even another Avocado tree of the opposite type of Class, not to posh, an A or B will do.

Stages of Fruit set

This helps us pollinate if you have at least one tree which is a different Flowering Class (Type A  or  Type B)  than the other tree(s).

Flowering

Now this can and is normally a tricky time for us.  There is nothing you can do unless you are the chosen one, my dear Weather God.

You see, we only flower once a year, very rarely twice a year.  For us to do this we need a very good 2-4 week period of the upmost perfect weather. Nothing to hot nor to cold & non fluctuating temperatures. 

Hoverfly pollinating Avowest Avocado trees

For example, my cousin in Perth, WA – Australia, needs their Winter/Spring time to have cool temperatures to begin their flowering and when this occurs they need a few days in-a-row for the temperature to not drop below the magic 10c. (Celsius), for fruitset to occur.

As you humans say …. It is in the lap of the gods.

Harvesting (Woohoo)

I like seeds, you like seeds, everyone likes seeds, but we Avocados planted via a seed or pip as I like to be called, will not bear any fruit for at least 8-10 years and even then, I cannot guarantee I will ever fruit.

The best way is from a grafted tree.  From plant day I will take 3-5 years to bear fruit.  I hear my mates at Avowest Avocados [make web-link here] produce beautiful grafted Avocado Trees for your pleasure.  Hit them up for one.

As for picking the fruit;  Since I do not ripen while on the tree, leave me hanging until you need one or two. I will soften in around one and a half weeks if left alone in the fruit bowl. If you just cannot wait for me (it feels good to be wanted), then re-read this section: “Want to quicken the ripening:

Pruning

We do not need much pruning; we live a happy existence. 

Go ahead and prune damaged & broken branches or to maintain my height or even if you are into this feng shui stuff.

The best time for me is when my grow is slow or dormant and before I flower.

Tip:  Important to remove any growth below the graft joint, I do not produce anything down there and it sucks away the nutrients I need elsewhere.

Pests and Diseases

Hands up who likes them?   No takers … me neither.

My number one pet hate is this disease:  Phytophthora cinnamomi (root rot).    It is my Achilles heel.  Once I have it, I know the end is near. It is the main root disease of avocados in the world and is widespread.   It is all to do with over watering and/or improper soil drainage. Setting your plant up with correct mulch / compost will help your tree. So please remember this.

Hey, look out for symptoms of yellowing of leaves which droop and drop off, bark peeling off, with branches dying.  There are systemic fungicides based on phosphite which are effective if used correctly.

I must tell you about  Anthracnose , because my cousins “Fuerte” & “Wurtz” keep banging on about it (I guess they get attacked the most).  Symptoms are small black spots on leaves, stems and fruit, with spots become bigger on fruit as it develops.  They say when its warm & wet weather out there, spray them with a liquid copper spray or copper hydroxide.

The usual pests are: Avocado mites, Avocado Brown mites & Persea mites (it always amusers me how the pests are called after the plant/tree they inhabit. I wonder if they look like avocados!

Anyway, all these suckers can be treated with something called Neem Oil.

Another couple of pesky pests are Mealybugs and Avocado Thrips (here we go again).  These annoying little buggers can be prevented by the ever beautiful, charismatic and charming Ladybugs.

Ladybug Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash

That is it folks, I hope you enjoyed the read, now avo-go at planting and may the avo be with you for many a years.

Signing off

Keep the mulch up after the tree is planted.

Keeping Mulch Up