New Avocado Trees

sfbaysailorAugust 20, 2007

I have just purchased Fuerte and Mexicola Grande trees in 5 gal. containers. I don't have a lot of yardspace and I am considering putting them both in a single large hole. The area does not get full sun all day. At this time it is getting full sun from about 10AM to 4PM. I am going to prune the tall bush, that shades it in the afternoon, and should get sun for at least 2 more hours. In the Winter,the tree that shades it now, loses it's leaves, and they will get more sun than during the spring and summer. Any advice would be appreciated, I have read many of the other posts on avocados here.

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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Ummm. Both become huge trees. I doubt that "in the same hole" would slow them down significantly.

Perhaps you would consider exchanging the trees for one of the "dwarf" avocadoes. They generally go to 15 feet or so.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 12:52AM
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In the spot I picked for the trees, it will be ok if they grow 40-50 ft, there is a large Catalpa that is about 60ft tall now. I would probably also try to prune them back, if necessary. One of my concerns is the amount of sun exposure they will get while the Catalpa has it's leaves, It will shade the Avocado trees in the morning.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 9:14AM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Should work okay, just so long as you have enough space.

But even if they are in the "same hole," you need to place them at least 18 inches apart, this to allow for expansion of the individual trunks.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 12:59PM
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In it's natural habitat avocado trees grow as understory, rainforest trees. They do not need full sun to grow, but will need a long period of daily filtered light. But without direct sun they may grow tall and spindley and not produce a full crop of fruit.

In my area, trees planted on steep north-facing slopes have this tall, thin growth pattern because they don't get enough direct sun in the winter months.

Make sure you research before you plant... I love avocado trees but I wouldn't want one in my backyard. Lots of debris, nothing will grow under them, large water requirement, weak limb structure, poor salt tolerance, narrow temperature range, etc., etc. Of course, some positives too, including yummy fruit, great shade.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 2:34AM
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Thanks jean, avorancher,

I had read about keeping them 18 inches apart when planting. Having nothing grow underneath them will be a plus in that area of the yard, and while I don't need a full crop, I would like to get some fruit. Once the trees are about 10 feet tall,they would probably receive full sun from 8-9Am till 7-8PM during the summer. In the winter, the early sun would be filtered thru the limbs of the tall Catalpa tree. The large need for water may get a bit expensive, I do realize. While I am not sure if I will succeed with the Fuerte, I am more hopeful with the Mexicola Grande.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 5:36AM
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Just a note as far as having them in the backyard, we do and love it... I believe we are in the same sunset zone, I am in Santa Clara (near San Jose.) We bought a house a few years ago and it already had a well established avocado tree (which was a pleasant surprise when we realized what it was months after purchasing the house) so I don't know about starting them.

Once established though, it's great. It does drop a LOT of leaves, but we just keep them heaped up under the tree to aid in drainage, and I also love the leaves near the bottom to add "browns" to my compost. I even occasionally find a pit with a sprout growing under there. I've yet to successfully transfer one to a pot, but I'm still trying. Oh yeah, and the although it does drop leaves, there are always green foliage on it, which is nice, in contrast to the fig tree which is bare in winter. The avocado tree is near a corner, so it's not a big deal nothing can grow under it, and we just allow the grass to grow as close as it can and it works fine.

The limbs seems pretty strong, they are large and the kids climb it all the time. And we don't water it particulary, but I understand the root system is probably quite spread out by now and it gets lots from watering the grass and of course in the winter.

And, yes, the very best part is that all winter we get the best avocados. We eat gaucamole on a daily basis. It's the good kind of fat, right? ;) I love how they ripen after picking them, so that you can control when and how many avocados you want when and you are not at the whim of the tree and it's production entirely. And it's an incredibly nice shade tree to sit under in the hot afternoons. It blocks the afternoon sun on a good portion of our yard, which I really enjoy.

Good luck with your trees! They are definately worth it.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 2:19PM
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kcdeadeye13(9b Ca)

Avocado trees are shallow rooted and will do best if you can have a decent amount of mulch under them. They are surface feeders, and have most of their roots in the top four or five inches of soil. They also don't like soggy feet, but do like good clean un-salty water with good drainage. sfbaysailor if you can build up the ground by mixing into your native soil, some compost and some sand where you are planting your trees, it would help with drainage, and your new trees would love you for it. catankgirl did you have any damage from the past winter's freeze? How cold did you get? Do you know what variety you have? What is the diameter of your trees trunk? Kern

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 4:47PM
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I have sandy-clay type soil, and was thinking of prepping the soil for several feet around the planting site, at least 2 feet down. The soil drains ok, but does puddle during winter storms...

On another note, do most, or all avocados ripen after they are off the tree, not before?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 5:11PM
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kcdeadeye13(9b Ca)

Yes they all will be picked when firm. I have seen some longer necked varieties that will ripen irregularly with the neck sometimes softening up first and almost spoiling before the rest of the fruit is ready. Hopefully your standing water is for a short time only. Kern

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 5:46PM
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Kern, It's hard for me to tell the actual diameter, it's kinda ovalish shaped at the base. I'd guess maybe 10-12 inches. I'm not sure the variety, my husband has a guess, but I forget what it is. It's skin is not the real bumpy kind, more smoothish, but not perfectly smooth, you know?

I didn't notice any damage from the freeze, but I'm far from an expert. (Can't you tell?) I hope there wasn't, because I love this tree.

Anyway, since my description is less than clear, I took a few pictures. It's afternoon sun, so not the best.

Here is one to tell the relative size compared to our shed, fence, and playstructure. It's the large tree in the middle/right of the picture. On the left of the shed is our fig tree.

Here is a close-up of the fruit. It's months from being ready though.

I can probably get much better pictures at a different time of day of the whole thing. I'd be interested in any knowledge on anything we should be doing to keep this thing healthy. It's too tall for my husband to reach the very top to prune though, so I wonder if it needs any attention from a professional.

To the OP - I apologize for taking over your thread...

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 6:53PM
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kcdeadeye13(9b Ca)

catankgirl. Your tree certainly looks healthy. It looks to be about 18' tall. If next year you want to top it you could do that with a pole saw pretty easily. Once established, avocados are fast growers and will come back quickly after topping. Do leave the leaves on the ground under the tree as you are doing. That is really good for the tree. You can spread some avocado and citrus fertilizer under the tree now and then, especially in late winter early spring, and summer. How cold did it get last winter for you? The damage I was talking about would have been easily seen. Twigs would have been hanging on the tree dead if you got really cold. I am going to guess you didn't get much below 29 degrees if that. Your tree is a beautiful looking avocado. Kern in Newman

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 9:29AM
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Thanks for the input, Kern! I do love the tree. I'm guessing we might have had some freezing temperatures, but not by much so that the ground didn't really freeze. I could look it up, but your guess is probably right. I'm new to gardening and don't really watch the temperature much... yet... I'm going to tell my husband about looking into renting a pole saw, the tree does look a little lopsided.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 11:53AM
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What's that address in Santa Clara catankgirl? I'll be over for some 'cados. Ha ha. Nice tree you have there.
I just wanted to add that 2 years ago I planted the same varieties sfbaysailor has. I am also in the Bay Area. The trees are 10 - 15 feet apart in the back 40 of my property. I believe they have established was touch and go the first year. During last Winter's freeze I protected them with cardboard sides and a tarp on top. The 20 degree weather did not bother them with this protection. My neighbor's newly planted 'Haas' did not survive that cold snap. I believe you have chosen good cold tolerant ones for this area sfbaysailor. Here's to avocados soon for all!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 12:42PM
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kcdeadeye13(9b Ca)

You won't have many branches to cut. You can buy a saw for around $50.00. Make sure to undercut the branch before making the top cut, so that the branch won't split. Kern

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 12:58PM
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deep_roots, ha! People always tell us they will take our extras. We usually don't get very far down that list. ;)

Kern, I meant to ask too. You mentioned if we want to prune it "next year," what is the best time to prune it? End of winter? Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 3:17PM
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You would definitely have noticed feeze damage. It looks like someone took a blow-torch to the leaves and twigs. I had no damage this winter but I can walk to areas that were totally destroyed.... it was sad. It's all about micro-climates.

You can prune most anytime, but I wouldn't do it in mid-summer because branches and fruit are sensitive to direct sun and can be sunburned. You want to keep as much leaf coverage as possible when temperatures are hot.

I prune around February or March. FYI: When you prune, you will cut off either the current bloom (or fruit) or the following year's bloom. Since avocados take 12 to 15 months to mature, you will be losing 1 to 2 years' worth of fruit. Heavy pruning will sometimes make the tree enter into a vegetative mode and you can lose up to 3 years fruit. You might consider just pruning some branches this year... some next year, etc. so you will still have a continuous supply of goodies to give away and keep your friends happy.

I wish my trees were only 18 feet tall.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 3:37PM
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Thanks for the great info on pruning! Goodness, I had no idea others got to be so big. Ours really hasn't grown that much in height since we moved in. I guess we are fortunate that it is the kind it is! It really does seem big in our backyard.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 4:54PM
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greenwitch(Sz19 SoCal)

I'm a member of California Rare Fruit Growers and earlier this year one of the meetings had a speaker who works with commercial orchards. Avocado growers are stumping their trees in December, selecting only a few well spaced sprouting branches and pruning off the rest. The trees produce more, do not require ladders to harvest the fruit and require far less water, etc. We saw slides, they are cut pretty short maybe 3-4' and yes some farmers are having a hard time changing their paradigm.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 8:30PM
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Greenwitch... I'm a commercial grower with around 4000 trees. There are plenty of experts out there with a myriad of new ideas. I help fund research at UC Riverside on avocados and attend monthly meetings as well as annual symposiums on recent research. For every research conclusion there is another that counters it. In a recent meeting on growth regulators, the speaker, a research professor, told us that she had just visited her first grove that morning... imagine the moan from the audience. There are approximately 7000 commercial avocado growers in California.

I've seen high density plantings (10 ft. spacing), hedgerow pruning, stumping, single limb pruning, continuous topping, root pruning, etc. etc. All of them work to some extent. I did a similar technique to what you describe to 200 trees about 4 years ago but wasn't happy so I'm letting them regrow.

Most all the advice on this thread is good... even if some might be contradictory... sort of like research data. :-)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 2:17AM
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Nice Tree, catankgirl, here is to hoping I have established trees in a few years. deeproots, I had read about using light coverings for the trees during cold spells, but not about using cardboard for the sides, which I usually can get. I should be putting mine in the ground Labor Day weekend. Does anyone think this may be to late and that I should overwinter them in the container?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 6:51AM
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kcdeadeye13(9b Ca)

If it were me where you live, I would put them in the ground now. Deep roots' neighbor's Hass being newly planted and a Hass, probably died at 29 or 30 degrees. If we have a cold spell again, just plan to cover them with a couple of blankets supported by some thin stakes. Avocados don't really like being in pots and I think yours will take off faster in the spring if you put them in the ground now. I wish I had your lows. My "normal" lows are around 25, with last winter getting to 17 degrees, with below 30 for 15 hours. It is not only the cold temps., but also the duration that kills. Since you are in the bay area, I am guessing your lows this past January didn't last long, and weren't much below 30. Good luck! Kern

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 9:48AM
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kcdeadeye, I now wish I had paid more attention, I don't know just how low we got, but it was cold. I can remember this area hitting a low of 14 degrees many,many years ago. I am sure I will be paying a lot more attention to the cold this year. Our average winter lows are supposed to be 30 degrees.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 4:23PM
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kcdeadeye13(9b Ca)

Avocados get hardier with age, so do protect them well for a year or three. Kern

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 5:29PM
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The Sunset Western Garden book says that St. Augustine grass will grow under an avocado tree. Has anyone experienced this to be true? I live in zone 18. My tree covers half of the yard (giant trunk)and I would love to have something other than dirt under the tree. I'm even considering artificial grass but have no idea how that will affect the tree.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 6:25PM
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Hi sfbaysailer.
I live in San Jose Ca. and was wondering where you bought your Mexicola avacado tree.
I bought one in Watsonville a couple of years ago but the frost got to it the first winter. I want to try again.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 3:14PM
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elladog(z10, SoCalif, Sunset 22)

Sfbaysailor, by now your avocados are probably well on their way, and youÂve gotten lots of good advice here. I just want to add my experience with avocado trees. I donÂt think the amount of sun you get will be a problem. Our neighborÂs avocado is in the 15 or 20 foot space between our houses, which is largely shaded. By now itÂs about 30Â tall, so itÂs high enough to get sun, but it grew well without it. I also recently discovered a volunteer avocado over there which has grown to about 6Â so far in dense shade (anyone want to come dig it out?).

Our tree gets plenty of sun, but it doesnÂt like freezing temperatures much. Fortunately, we donÂt get many hard freezes here in Long Beach, and the tree is so well established that it isnÂt badly damaged by what we do get, but it can affect how large a crop we get. We normally get 300-400 avocados a season, but it will produce less if it is stressed by a freeze. The thing that really seems to affect production, though, is how many bees we get. I suggest planting flowers that will attract bees to your yard to help with pollination.

Several people said that avocados require a lot of water. Ours only gets rainfall (about 15" per year average) and what water we give our lawn (which isnÂt much).

I was surprised to see people saying that nothing grows under an avocado. The area under ours is so thickly planted you can barely walk under there. Mainly itÂs where my husband grows ferns. In addition to the ones in the ground (leather fern and woodwardia), we have staghorns on the wall and several ferns in pots hanging from the tree. Clivia and impatiens also do well under there. It may be because my husband has pruned the tree to a fairly open canopy, high enough to make it easy to walk under. ThatÂs a good thing, since itÂs about 40Â wide and extends out over the lawn. Several years ago Sunset magazine came out to see what heÂd done with the pruning, but when they got here they seemed more interested in the plants growing under the tree.

I must say that we do have a lot of avocado roots extending out into much of the yard. In a few places they raise up the lawn. We used to play what we called "obstacle croquet."

Walknnancy, we grow St. Augustine under our avocado, out about 10Â from the trunk. It does fairly well under there, except for the most densely shaded areas.

You donÂt want to let your avocados ripen on the tree. Toward the end of the season, about the time it starts forming buds, they begin ripening on the tree. The flavor isnÂt as good and the pit starts sending sprouts into the meat. We can tell when ours have begun to tree-ripen, because the raccoons, opossums, and squirrels start feasting on them.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 8:59PM
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