Green gold!

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:

California Avocado Society
California Avocado Commission (The “growers” part of their website)

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.

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  1. “As for squirrels, Stucky’s advice involved extraordinary rendition and water boarding”

    You know, I’m betting that works where hazelnuts are concerned too. I likewise spare my readers the details.

  2. So jealous that you can grow avocadoes! Do you happen to know if they can be grown in pots and moved indoors, or in a greenhouse? I’ve been able to grow a few figs that way here in Chicago and if I move back to Texas I’d love to have an avocado tree, except we do get a frost maybe 3 weeks of the year there…

  3. Sarah,

    Sadly, you can’t grow avocados in pots due to their huge lateral root systems. Some people grow them as houseplants, but eventually they will croak in a pot.

    And my apologies to readers about this post. I realize avocados don’t grow in most places.

  4. When I was in Puerto Rico a few years ago, I experienced a type of avocado that was much larger than the ones I had at home. After I was home, I went into a Hispanic grocery store and found the same type labeled as “Cuban avocados” I never see this type in our Safeway and other grocery stores. I am wondering which of the 3 mentioned varieties this might be.

    Can avocados grow in southern Arizona, such as Tucson?

  5. At the lecture they mentioned a few varieties that are grown in Arizona. Unfortunately I failed to write down that info.

    I’m guessing that the “cuban” avocados are probably a West Indian variety adapted for humid, tropical places, but I don’t know for sure.

  6. Being south of Tucson, I would love to know of an avocado that I could grow here. We just had a really bad winter with a deep freeze that did a number on my citrus trees. If anyone knows of a variety, please let me know.

  7. I’m lucky to have avocados in my yard, too. Curious to know what you’re doing with your abundance. We just trimmed a tree and ended up with about 100 pounds of avos that are, of course, ripening all at once. I’ve shared with neighbors and friends, made guacamole, used them (fresh and frozen) in smoothies, and even considered (but then rejected) an avocado pie. I wish there was a way to preserve them besides freezing!

  8. @Kris:

    100 lbs! I wish we had that abundance. We’ve never had *too* many avocados. We’ve given away some of our biggest harvests, but that’s as far as it’s gone. I agree, it’s hard to preserve avos–can’t can ‘em or dry ‘em or ferment them.

    Re: recipe possibilities, I just noticed that my favorite Mexican restaurant, Cacao in Eagle Rock, breads and deep fries avocados and puts them in tacos. I’m trying that next time I go.

  9. I decided to plant an avocado trip along side my house about 4 years ago. This past winter I had some yummy avocados. However, what I failed to realize (yes I’m embarrassed), I didn’t realize how big avocado trees can grow. Now I’m concerned that I have an avocado tree that is about 8 feet tall alongside my house and growing. I can keep in trim and short, but I’m concerned that the roots will grown under the house and into the pipes and the pavement. Should I move it. Will the roots spread and uproot my house or can I keep it short and trim? Anyone?

    • Our avocado does not have invasive roots, and it’s old. It’s only about 10 feet from our patio. So I don’t think yours will tear up the pavement. I’ve never noticed any of the avo trees around here displaying those big roots that tear things up–like ficus roots do, for instance. Of course, google is your friend for questions like this. I’m no expert.

      That said, I do know you’re not supposed to plant any tree right up against your house–it’s bad for the foundation, and the tree can’t grow right either. I don’t know how close the avocado is to your house. So that may or may not be a problem.

      You can trim your tree. It’s very important to allow the avocado shade itself. It doesn’t like sun on its trunk or branches. On the leaves, yes, on the woody parts, no. Think of it like a fair skinned lady who needs a sun umbrella. You can trim it back, but don’t expose the trunk and branches to sunlight. Leave cover. Also, a pro tip: if you want lots of fruit, give it lots of mulch. Let the leaves it drops stay beneath it. Ours seriously has at least a foot of organic matter under it. It also gives us hundreds of the world’s best avocados!

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