Avocados are easy to grow in warm-temperate to tropical gardens and are a nutritious power house of vitamins, minerals, beneficial fats and antioxidants. Low in sugar and containing no starch or salt, planting an avocado tree can be the best way to grow your way to good health and nutrition.
Give trees full sun and shelter from frost and strong winds. They also need protection from salt-laden winds in seaside locations. Although they like extra water during dry periods, they hate boggy conditions, so good drainage is essential. Soil should be sandy and well composted to ensure good drainage. Avocados grow well on sloping ground, where water does not settle around the roots.
Avocados can be grown from seed, but in such cases cannot be expected to produce fruit for at least ten years. A better option is to plant only grafted plants, which will usually fruit within three years. Fruit does not ripen on the tree. Pick it and allow a week to 10 days for it to ripen (see ‘Harvest’, above). There are several varieties of avocado available to home growers, including Hass, Fuerte, Wurtz, Sharwil and Hazzard. Grown on dwarf root stock, they should not exceed 2.5m in height.
Preparing the soil
The secret to growing an avocado tree successfully is to ensure excellent drainage. Build up garden beds at least 30–50cm high and 1m wide, digging plenty of Searles Premium Organic Compost and 5IN1 Organic Fertiliser into the existing soil.
Mulching is essential as avocados are a rainforest tree and are surface feeders. A mulch of sugar cane straw and compost can be laid up to 10cm thick and should be spread over the entire ‘under-canopy’ root zone. Re-apply it every year in August or throughout the year as needed.
Avocados need to be well fed, so apply Searles Kickalong Fruit & Flower organic plant food in spring, early summer and early autumn according to the instructions.
Avocados enjoy warm, wet conditions so make sure you keep the water up to them through the growing season, especially during summer heatwaves. However, be careful not to overwater in winter.
Avocados are not strictly self pollinating. While some varieties can fruit well on their own, cross-pollination between type A trees (with morning receptive flowers) and type B trees (with evening receptive flowers) will enhance fruiting. In some varieties, it’s essential for good fruiting, so always ask if you’re not sure. It’s always ideal to plant a type A and a type B tree in close proximity, if you have space!
When the fruit adopts a slightly duller sheen and the button at the stem of the fruit starts changing to a lighter colour, the fruit should be ready to pick. Pick one fruit and put it in a paper bag or in a dark cupboard to ripen. If it softens within a week or two, it should be okay to start harvesting.
Pests & diseases