We’re very lucky that when we purchased our house 13 years ago it came with a mature, and delicious avocado tree. Wanting to know more about how to care for that tree I attended a remarkable lecture at the Huntington given by avocado experts Carl Stucky and Julie Frink. From the Huntington lecture I gleaned the following factoids:
- Avocados varieties are divided into three “races”: Mexican, Guatemalan, and West Indian.
- Avocados are extremely frost sensitive, more so than citrus.
- Mulch, mulch, mulch! Avocados like a thick layer (6 to 12 inches) of course mulch. Once you mulch you have to keep mulching because the shallow roots of avocado trees will often grow up into the mulch.
- Avocados like a well drained soil and won’t tolerate wet feet. So if you dig a hole and fill it with water and that water sticks around for a day, plant something else.
- Avocados use a lot of zinc and may need supplemental applications of zinc sulfate placed in shallow holes.
- What few pests avocados have can be sprayed off with a hose.
- Occasional deep waterings flush out chlorides in the soil that can cause leaves to turn brown at the tips and poor fruit production. In fact if the first rain of the season is less than 3 inches, you should irrigate to flush out salts that build up during the dry season.
- Avocados take a long time to ripen on the tree–12 months or more depending on variety.
For additional reading Stucky recommended the following internet resources:
One thing that I discovered this year is that you can leave avocados on the tree for a very long period. We had at least a six month harvest window. There’s actually still a few on the tree.
As for squirrels, Stucky’s advice involved extraordinary rendition and water boarding, but we’ll spare you the details.