Firstly, never start growing avocado trees from a pip. Why not? The tree will grow enormous, and you can never pick the fruit, and secondly they take a long time to bear and you'll have to wait ten long years or more before you can enjoy the enormous health benefits.
Grafted trees are smaller, easier to reap, and will bear in the third year. Furthermore, if you prune your tree properly you can enjoy a dwarf avocado, no more than 3-4m high.
The hass avocado tree is the world's favourite; more about it lower down.
Spot our thirty-year old Hass. It's easy to reap the fruit.
Choosing the right variety
It's a bit technical, but important if you are planning on growing avocado trees.
Avos have two flowering types and, for good pollination, it's best to have one of each. So, either plant two trees, a type A and a B, or chat to your friends in the neighborhood.
There's a good chance one of them will have an avocado tree; if it's from type A, then you must plant B.
Also take into consideration how much frost you get. In thirty years, we've had two bad freezes. One was 2014 and many of the branches were killed but the tree has survived.
Some varieties are more frost resistant.
Here's the trick. The flowers open twice, the first time to receive pollen from another tree, and then again the next day to provide pollen for other trees. Let's call these two openings:
But, there's a but, and it's a big BUT!
Type A flower opening I (receiving pollen) is in the morning of the first day only, and pollen giving II is the afternoon of the next day.
Type B flowering opening I is in the afternoon of the first day, and pollen giving II is the next morning. Overnight both A and B undergo a sex change. Transvestites.
So, Type A avos (morning receivers) must have a Type B (morning pollen providers) in the neighbourhood for good pollination. There's little point having an avo tree which gives little fruit.
The tree in the picture above is a Hass in our garden, and I swear it's loaded with more than a 1,000 avos. I usually eat one or two a day.
If you are growing avocado trees, but can plant only one, and no neighbours have an avo, then plant a type A; they are less reliant on a cross pollinator.
Growing avocado trees means that along with the olive you have the queen of oils, rich in monounsaturated fatty acids.
Type A avocado
The common Type A's are Hass and Pinkerton, and I have one of each in our garden. They're the kind that enjoy their sex in the morning, and are quite frigid in the afternoons! They've only got eyes for Type B suitors!
Type B avocado
The most common Type B is the Fuerte. They enjoy their sex in the afternoons, and need a Type A to provide pollen. Got it? If not... just read it again, I'm a bit slow too and have to read things several times before it clicks! Alzheimers Light! We have a Fuerte too in our garden.
Apologies if you find avocado facts boring but, if you want to really enjoy the health benefits of avocado from your own garden, then it's important to grasp these simple facts. Avocados are quite unique in their sexual habits.
"In every case where we have studied it, cross-pollination has resulted in increased fruit set. This requires an "A" and a "B" variety growing with their branches over-lapping or at least close together."
DR. B.O. BERGH
Choose the right spot.
I've just paced out that 30 year old Hass avocado tree in our garden. It stretches 14 metres in diameter. So, here's the plan:
If you have plenty of space in your garden, plant a Hass and a Fuerte at least 7m apart, and preferably 10m apart.
If you have limited space... then it's time to have the neighbours over for drinks. Propose to them that they plant a Hass avocado tree on their boundary with you, and you plant a Fuerte avocado tree on your boundary (spin a coin!). Then each of you can enjoy half the crop of each tree. Win-win.
Avocado growing has one frustration: most varieties with one exception tend to bear very heavily one year, and very lightly the next year. If you and your neighbours can make a plan when planting avocado trees then both families can enjoy avocado benefits every year - if you're lucky enough that they bear in alternate years! Sometimes it's feast or famine!
Choose a spot in full sunshine. You'll notice that our Hass avocado tree is being overshadowed by some Cryptomerias. I am about to get a Tree Fella to lop the top half off the offenders.
Update: We've taken out the offending cryptomerias completely, and the Hass is already starting to benefit, new shoots abound.
And another update for 2018; this is looking to be a bumper year when all three of our grafted avocados are going to bear together, but the wild one from a pip is still languishing and must be nearly ten years old. Not one fruit has set.
TREE PLANTING HELP
Step I, go and get your choice and very strong spade. Step II, retire to the boudoir and do your lower back exercises top of the agenda, even if you don't have a lower back problem. Otherwise you may soon have. Digging holes 3'x3'x3' is hard work. Whilst you're about it, do these FROZEN SHOULDER exercises prevention is better than a cure.
Now, swallow several mouthfuls of fine spring drinking water ... grit your teeth, go and do those exercises again, a couple more swallows (no gin allowed!), and ... call that strapping lad, your son! Only joking, gardening gloves, a hat and with plenty of resolve head for the orchard. Two hours' hard labour awaits you! TREE PLANTING HELP ...
Follow the guidelines at that Tree Planting Help page for more information about what to put into that crater you've just dug.
Interesting... I'm a chiropractic patient too. I have my back troubles, largely because of a Leg Length Inequality ... a short leg. Several times in the first weeks of "living behind the geraniums" (Dutch saying for retirement) I had to consult my chiropractor, happily my daughter with whom I now practise part time, but since then, the more I garden the less back pain I suffer. But... I very religiously, with great fervour, do those lower back exercises. Every morning, without fail.
So, by and large, when growing avocado trees one has to keep in mind that they are cross pollinators. And what does the pollination? Insects, primarily our friendly honey bee.
It's no coincidence that we have a good set. Even though that Type A Hass in the top picture is probably fifty metres from our Type B Fuerte (not ideal, too far apart) the fact that we have 50,000 busy little pollinators in our garden makes the cross pollination certain. You can't avoid the science when growing avocado trees.
Colony Collapse is a national disaster in America. No one really understands it yet, but the real value of the honey bee ironically is not honey; it's pollination. Fortunately avos, unlike almonds, are not utterly dependent on insect pollination. How to start beekeeping ...
Aside: The joy of my life is in no small measure because I abhor the couch potato mode of living. Learning to turn off the TV has made so much space for flying my glider...read about one of the most exciting days in my life: Baptiso to immerse ...
Carpentry, beekeeping and writing books like A FAMILY AFFAIR ... meet Jan Jansen, the villain of the peace. And Santie Veenstra and Janet Twycross. Of Peter Thomas who aged 45 suddenly discovers he is the father of four teenagers!
It's good to have six books published now.
"The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease." Voltaire
But nature can't cure if it doesn't have good nutrition. And, for the chiropractor, healthy nerves means plenty of oleic acid, the healthy monounsaturated fatty acid that coats every nerve. Avocado fat; it's just one of the virtues of growing avocado trees.
The Hass (a type A) is our favourite when growing avocado trees. It has the creamy texture of the coastal avocados that we can't grow at this altitude (3600') with a nutty flavour.
When the fruit turns black on the tree it's time for me to climb the tree, yes I still do it at 63 twice a week, picking about 20 pears. Then "she who is always right" wraps them in newspaper and they go on a warm sunny window sill for a week or so.
Another big advantage of the Hass is that it is the exception that flowers every year, whereas most avocado hybrids bear only in alternate years. See here one pear about to be picked, and three small pears which will only be ripe next Christmas. Hass has fruit every year.
Growing avocado trees
The Fuerte (a Type B) also has a smooth buttery flavour. What I like is that I can enjoy it on bread without having to use butter. It's so rich in healthy monounsaturated oils that one really doesn't need to first butter your bread. We particularly love the fuerte in a cucumber avocado salad.
It's borne a huge crop this year, but there's not a single fruit set for next season. When growing avocado trees you have to be patient in the alternate years!
PINKERTON AVOCADO TREE
Growing avocado trees
I confess I don't know too much about the Pinkerton, a type A. We only planted ours last year, in the hole above, adjacent to the Fuerte, to improve pollination. It survived the coldest winter in sixty years with no problems. It reputedly also has a great flavour and also is high in those essential fatty acids especially oleic acid. Starve yourself of fat, the good fats, and the chances of getting those horrible nerve illnesses like Motor Neuron disease increases dramatically, particularly if you are on a high carb diet. Every nerve is coated in fat... starve your nerves of your fat at your peril.
We realised that Hass and a Fuerte might not give us year round avocados every year, hence the third variety, growing avocado trees Pinkerton is a new experiment for us.
More about those neurological disease (quite an academically challenging page, but never fear, despite my Alzheimer's Light I managed to write it!) TINGLING IN ARMS AND HANDS AND LEGS...
Update: It's now two-and-a-half years since we planted the Pinkerton. Fancy our delight this spring...
It's now four years since we planted our Pinkerton avocado and we had seven avos this year, but just look at all the flower on the tree. Next year we're expecting a bumper crop.
The tree is 30 foot tall and only four years old.
And another update on growing avocado trees; our Pinkerton is now six years old and we are having a feast this year.
One thing I love about growing avocado trees is that they are no fuss plants; they just get on and do what they're supposed to do; produce you a handsome crop of delicious healthy food.
You may need to water them in a prolonged dry spell but if you've been following our rainwater harvesting model then you won't have a problem with that.
Perhaps once a month I do throw a bucket or two of the juice from our rainbow worm farms experiments on them; they are heavy feeders and can use all the extra nutrition you can provide..
Half an avocado, a can of coke and a pint of beer all have about the same number of calories. But... Calories in avocado ...
It's spring so I've just applied 2 kg of gypsum lime. In November, January and March I'll broadcast 400g of 416 (38) or 619(38) fertilizer, which is recommended by a chiropractic patient who specializes in plant food.
Remember this is the southern hemisphere; in Spring, midsummer and autumn you need to be feeding your trees.
We're still struggling with whether we are totally organic, or inorganic fertilizers have a place in the management of growing avocado trees.
Making honey mead is an option if you and others have been growing avocado trees; they produce an abundance of pollen and a very dark nectar. Myself, I love all natural honeys, but it's not to the liking of some; if you can get some a little cheaper then making a honey mead would be something interesting, and a little different.
How do you fancy having two dozen quarts of this in the cellar?
» Growing avocado trees
Bernard Preston is a semi retired chiropractor; growing avocado trees is just one of his many passions.
It's said that at an ancient Greek funeral, the mourners asked only one question; was he passionate?
Being passionate makes for a full and fun life.