Avocados are very “on-trend” at the moment. They go beautifully with eggs on toast, on a bagel with olive oil and feta, or even just cut in half and eaten with a spoon! In fact, thumbing through the pages of any current magazine will just about bring up a new recipe for how to enjoy them every which way. However, given the price of them – anywhere between $4-7 each, you may just be looking to mortgage your house to satisfy that avo craving. Therefore, what’s the harm in trying to grow a tree? It could save you a fortune while uncovering a hidden green thumb.
Many of our franchisees also enjoy running avocado orchards when they’re not gardening, tree trimming, or behind the mower. It can be a rewarding process, so why not read our how-to guide and grow a tree for yourself?
The backstory of the Avocado
The avocado has its roots back in south-central Mexico where it began life in 7,000 BC. However, in recent years, it was discovered that Incan mummies in Peru dating back to 750 BC were buried with what appeared to be avocado seeds.
As early as 500 BC, avocados were cultivated in Mexico, but they were known as Persea Americana. Eventually, they became known as aquacate which, in English, became avocado. Avocados are now a staple of many South American diets, but they also feature heavily in the west as well. People consume them for breakfast, in guacamole, and even in desserts such as cheesecake or mousse.
Here in New Zealand, not every part of the country is blessed with the ability to grow them. They grow beautifully in Northland, Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne, and some people have even had success gardening them in Golden Bay and Nelson as well. However, those in the deep south will have less luck due to the colder conditions.
Can I grow them?
Even if you love gardening and are quite good at it, you may still struggle to grow an avocado tree – depending on your conditions and where you live. You need to have protection from the wind, as well as a warm and sunny spot in your yard. What’s more, you must have at least two metres of free-draining soil due to the sensitive roots.
You can grow avocado trees in coastal locations due to their salt tolerance, but even the slightest hint of frost will have them withering up and dying. A light frost will burn young growth, while temperatures as low as -3 degrees will kill young trees.
The slow way
Growing an avocado tree from seed can give you a sense of pride, even if you’re waiting 15 years to enjoy the fruits of your labour. The next time you get out a personal loan and buy an avocado, keep the seed. Here’s what to do with it.
- Wash it and pierce it with three evenly-placed toothpicks.
- Fill a glass with water and put the avocado on top with the bottom half in the water and the top half dry. The toothpicks will keep it in place.
- Place the glass in a warm area but not in direct sunlight.
- Wait. Roots and a stem will begin to grow and when they are 6-7 inches long, cut them back to three inches.
- When the stems have leaves again, and the roots are thick, plant them in fertile soil with half of the seed exposed.
- Water it but don’t drown it. Keep it in partial sunlight.
- When the stem grows to around 12 inches, cut it to half the height to encourage new shoots.
- Once the sapling has outgrown its pot, get your gardening gloves out and plant it outside in good sunlight. You don’t need to plant this shallow-rooted plant too deeply.
To literally enjoy the fruits of your labour, you are in for between five and 13 years of waiting. After maturing at around five years old, you may see as much as 200 to 300 avocados per year.
The fast way
If you don’t want to wait over a decade to enjoy an avocado and salmon bagel, then you can opt for a faster method. Instead of growing the tree from seed, you can buy a pre-grown tree from a reputable garden product supplier. Then, instead of having to painstakingly fight to keep it alive, you merely have to carry out tree trimming to keep it in tip-top shape. It might take a few years for it to produce fruit, but it’s better than risking a 15-year wait.
How to carry out tree trimming of your Avocado tree
Not everyone is a gardening expert, and that’s okay. There are plenty around who can help you out when you require it. If you want your avocado tree to produce fruit and thrive for many years to come, then it’s crucial to stay on top of your tree trimming requirements – generally in Spring.
If you believe you can tackle the task on your own, here’s how to keep your avo tree in tip-top shape.
- Remove damaged, dead, or diseased parts.
- Remove crossing branches or any part of the tree that may cause it not to grow as it should.
- Shorten long branches.
Tip: Never remove more than 20 percent of the tree at any one time. If you haven’t carried out tree trimming on your avocado tree in some time, it may take several years for you to bring it back to its former self.
It’s clear to see that to get that coveted avocado, you need to be willing to put in the hard yards. Otherwise, you may end up like the several thousand New Zealanders who put on a brave face as they buy a $7 avocado from the supermarket.