Whether it be smashed avocado on toast, guacamole or in a sandwich – avocados are a strong seasonal favourite. Rich in vitamin K, vitamin E and potassium and full of healthy fats, the avocado is a sandwich and salad staple. Now that Spring is here it is a great time for you to plant your own avocado tree.
The trees themselves have become very popular to grow as gardeners recognise that given the right conditions they are not a difficult tree to grow, thus ensuring one’s own plentiful supply of fresh avocados of good quality and avoiding the wild price fluctuations of store prices.
Hass is probably the most widely recognised avocado variety, but there is also the lesser known Reed and other varieties such as Bacon, Fuerte, Hashimoto and Cleopatra (dwarf variety). If you plant several varieties, you will not only increase pollination with better fruit set, but as they fruit and ripen at slightly different times, you’ll have a supply for a longer period.
When to plant avocados
Plant your avocado in mid to late Spring when the soil temperature is warmer and the weather is clearer. Due to popularity, there is often a back log to purchase an avocado tree. Get in early because the avocado is worth the wait!
Where to plant avocados
Site selection is critical to the success of your avocado. They grow best in a warm spot with well-drained soil in full sun, not only that, but they need protection from strong winds and frosts, especially when they’re young. If you can grow a lemon, you can grow an avocado. Once established, they can withstand frosts to -2C and are relatively tolerate to salt.
Avocado trees need a bit of room to grow. If you leave them to their own devices, they can eventually grow up to 12 metres high and 6 metres wide. Grafted trees will produce fruit after four to seven years.
If you’re short on space, you can grow an avocado in a large pot or container, not unlike a citrus. If it is given the correct nutrients, is watered regularly and is in a sunny but sheltered spot, it will yield fruit, although this will be less than an unrestricted tree. If you’re planning on growing in a pot or container, we recommend that you opt for the Reed variety.
Once you’ve planted, add a thick layer of mulch like Kolush Manuka Mulch and water deeply.
Avocado trees have an interesting arrangement with their flowering and have been classified into ‘A’ type and ‘B’ type tree varieties. While they can self-pollinate, they’ve developed an unusual method of achieving genetic diversity. The plants flowers have both male and female flowers on the tree, but only one gender is active at a time.
‘A’ Type Flowering Pattern (Hass & Reed)
The female opens in the morning of the first day for two to three hours and then closes. The male flower opens in the afternoon of the second day for two to three hours then closes.
Cross pollination of two varieties helps in the warmer climates. In the cooler climates opening and closing of the flower tends to overlap therefore making them more self-fertile.
Cross pollination should be from a ‘B’ type flowering variety such as – Hashimoto, Bacon or Fuerte.
‘B’ Type Flowering Pattern (Bacon, Fuerte & Hashimoto)
The female part opens in the afternoon on the first day for two to three hours then closes. The male part opens the morning of the second day. During cooler weather the flowering can be delayed and quite erratic. This can mean the opening and closing of the male and female flowering can overlap, increasing rates of self pollination.
When the temperatures are warm and reach 21C or above, the flowering becomes much more regular.
Note: All varieties are self fertile but the weather conditions will make a significant part to the amount of fruit set. If you have issues with fruit setting then planting planting a mixture of both ‘A’ and ‘B’ flowering types will increase the pollination.
- Hass – New Zealand’s favorite avocado, crocodile skinned tasty fruit, heavy cropper. Fruit mature from September to March, ‘A’ type flowering pattern, cross pollinated by Fuerte or Bacon.
- Reed – Large cannon ball fruit, heavy cropper and very nutty flesh. Fruit mature from February to June, ‘A’ type flowering pattern, cross pollinated by Hashimoto, Fuerte and Bacon.
- Fuerte – Very vigorous green skin avocado with some cold tolerance. Fruit mature from September to December, ‘B’ type flowering pattern, cross pollinated by Hass and Reed.
- Bacon – A smooth skinned green avocado, with fruit maturing July to September, ‘B’ type flowering pattern, cross pollinated by Hass and Reed.
- Hashimoto – Very vigorous green skin avocado with some cold tolerance. Fruit mature June and July, ‘B’ type flowering pattern, cross pollinated by Hass and Reed.
There are no set rules when it comes to pruning avocado trees. Your pruning should aim to maximise the amount of light the tree gets and also manage tree size and shape. Deadwood removal at any time is encouraged and major structural pruning in Summer should be avoided to prevent sunburn.
Other growing tips
- Growing avocados requires patience.
- It’s not uncommon for trees to shed their leaves in late Spring especially during flowering
- Avocados typically follow an alternate bearing pattern. This means they will have lots of fruit one year and very little the next.
And if you need another reason to grow Avocado: