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New avocado trees: will what I want match with what will work?

Posted by benbratcher none (My Page) on
Thu, Sep 5, 13 at 16:13

I live in Riverside County (Corona-Eastvale) and would like to add avocado trees in a raised bed along a wall in my backyard; I have about 34' here (photo enclosed). As I plan for these, I want to make sure I plan properly as I take into consideration the following questions:

SUNLIGHT - This eastern-facing wall receives sunlight, but I'm not sure if it's 6 hours since it gets blocked by the homes on either side, especially the further down the wall you get. Tom Spellman at DWN did a home consultation in July for the other newly planted fruit trees you see, and and he's said this area I've selected would be fine for the trees (I even e-mailed him again to confirm this), but I still wanted to more opinions before I invest my resources of time and money into this.

SOIL - We have poorly draining soil. I'd like to place the trees in a raised bed along the wall. I plan to put a French drain below, but can the roots flourish in a raised bed? I'd like to keep the trees smaller, but not sure if the roots will need more space; how much space do they need?

VARIETIES - After reading about their favorable taste profiles, I have interest in Jan Boyce, Kona Sharwil, Queen and Reed. (Although it appears I may be missing out on Dec/Jan for the purpose of year-round avos.) I've read positive things about Hellen, Holiday, Lamb Hass, Nimlioh and Sir Prize as well. Any suggestions considering my location?

SPACING - how much space do I need to have between trees (this will obviously determine how many trees I can successfully grow)?

COLD TEMPERATURES - considering my location, which can get down to 30-32 some nights in the winter, how should I keep this in mind in selecting varieties?

TREE SIZE - I, like Patty S., have a no ladder policy in my backyard for picking fruit; not sure if this can apply to avocado trees as well? I know this may differ from cultivar to cultivar, but how small can you realistically keep these trees?

I appreciate your insight and guidance.
Ben


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: New avocado trees: will what I want match with what will work

I only have Hass avocados- far too large for your situation. I can't even reach the avos with a ladder. I planted mine 12 feet apart and that was far too close- I should have planted them 20 feet apart. Mine are also 12 feet from the fence, which means the neighbors get half of the avocados because the bearing branches are on their side. Are the avocados you mentioned dwarf avocados? If you want more than two trees there, you may want to go with dwarf varieties.
Renee


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RE: New avocado trees: will what I want match with what will work

This space would permit but two avocado trees and that would be after increasing both the length and width of your plot. They may block your neighbor's ability to receive sun in their side windows after several years once they go up and over the fence, but the nice thing is that they will have avocados for free. Realistic spacing I would think would be around 20X20'.

None of the varieties mentioned have a dwarfing habit. You would have to go with something like a Gwen or a XX3/Holiday. Our Gwen stands around 10' after the Santa Ana winds topped a few years ago.

Avos are shallow rooted, extremely sensitive and will extend to your dripline.

The Irvine Field Station where all of these varieties are grown have average winter low's in the 40's but have reached recorded lows in the 20's and sometimes in the 30's. We grow many of these varieties and last winter reached times of 25 and 26F with no significant damage. And, we have no cinder block walls for protection.....

Pam


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RE: New avocado trees: will what I want match with what will work

The area I am dedicating to my 5 Avos, existing Fuerte plus the Haas, Lamb Haas, Sir Prize, and Reed, is 35x45' with a block wall at the North and East side. I'm holding the Fuerte to 15' diameter and 30' tall with regular work. It usually gets 6-8 feet taller each year and then I trim it back

A friend that is here at the moment is holding his 20 year old Haas to 15' diameter and 30' height by topping it severely every few years. I can't see how you could hope to keep either of those pickable from the ground unless you trim them constantly.

I understand the Reed should be easy as they only grow 12' wide by 15' tall. That sounds easy to keep to size and perhaps some of the other varieties you mentioned don't get huge. I know Queen gets huge, perhaps bigger than Haas.

You do know about pole pickers and pole saws, right? You don't need to keep a tree to 8' in order to avoid ladders. I do most picking and trimming in 12' tall citrus without a ladder.

When I DO use a ladder, I normally use one of my 1AA rated Double Ladders. They have steps on both sides so they have a much wider footprint for stability. My ground is almost flat. If I'm not secure, I get the right tool for the job or don't do the job.

An example: http://us.wernerco.com/en/view/Products/Climbing-Equipment/Stepladders/T7400/T7408


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RE: New avocado trees: will what I want match with what will work

Appreciate all of your insight guys! It almost sounds like I need to modify my approach because of the spacing that avocados require. Maybe come about 6' from the wall to provide more space there? I'm also concerned about sunlight hours decreasing the further I go down the wall at left.

What are the thoughts about multiple avocado trees in one hole? (See https://www.fourwindsgrowers.com/fruit-trees-vines-and-berries/avocados.html. - third paragraph under sub-head "Planting.")

I also found this writeup by the CRFG (http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/avocado.html - under sub-head "Location"): "The avocado is not suitable for hedgerow, but two or three trees can be planted in a single large hole to save garden space and enhance pollination."

What do you make of these ideas? Sounds like cultivar characteristics would be important. Not sure which ones would be easiest to keep smaller.

Why do avocado trees need so much space?


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RE: New avocado trees: will what I want match with what will work

Okay, well, we CFRG members consider the avocado to be the "SUV" of the garden :-) Their growth habit is just large. Very large and for many cultivars, sprawling. Next time you're down in Fallbrook, or N. San Diego county, stop your car and get out to see the size of some of the commercial (mainly Hass) avo orchards, and you'll see what we're talking about. Some are the size of a small house. I'm not kidding :-)

Now, that all being said, you've been given some good suggestions for more compact cultivars. I would also suggest Gwen, which is an exceptionally flavored avocado. Holiday is also very good, and stays quite small (although slower to produce, so be patient). You might also consider Stewart, which is also reasonably compact, and Lamb Hass, which is a cross between Hass and Gwen, precocious, heavy producer, upright in its growth habit, smaller than Hass, and has a very long growing season (my best avo). But, bigger than Gwen, although with drop crotch pruning can be kept down. But, the best tasting of all the A type avocados by far is Jan Boyce. If I could only grow one A type, it would be the coveted Jan Boyce. And, Reed, right up there with Jan Boyce, produces huge, round, softball-sized green skinned avos, but stays compact. I would say folks are probably evenly split between Jan Boyce and Reed being the two best A avos. These are all A type avos, so to help with cross pollination, you should include a B type, and the best by far (and up there in taste with Jan Boyce and Reed) would be Sharwil (or sometimes called Kona Sharwil). This is Hawaii's main commercial avocado, and exceptional. It can get bigger than Reed or Gwen, but then, all the B types I would recommend are larger avos (Hellen, also exceptionally flavored B avo gets too big for your area).

Don't plant two avos in one hole. That's just marketing hooha to get you to buy more trees, I'm shocked our article says that. Avos really aren't suited for that. HUGE mistake. I wouldn't even do that for citrus trees. Stone fruits, sure, but avos, no way. Don't worry so much about trying to match growing habits, but prune as needed to keep the size down.

Here are some links for you, for resources, information as well as for purchasing options:

http://ucavo.ucr.edu/
http://www.epicenteravocados.com/ (very nice folks, btw)
http://www.sub-tropicalfruittrees.com/ (Atkins Nursery in Fallbrook - they are growing all the above cultivars, service commercial growers as well as all of us CRFG's in SD and Orange counties, nice family-owned commercial/retail grower. Good citrus there, too)

Now, to your area - watch your drainage. Avos really prefer to be on a slope (which is why they do SO well in Fallbrook, and my area - they're all growing on a slope, and so are mine). They are worse than citrus for hating to sit with wet feet. They can be very prone to Phytophthora (root rot). Never remove the dropped leaves as they require their own dropped leaves as mulch for their sensitive feeder root system. Their roots can be pretty significant - a little concerned about your block wall. Based on your area, I would say squeezing in 3 compact avos would be it. So, maybe pick two A avos and 1 B avo to be planted in between your A's, and you should be good to go. And, as far as temps - you've got that nice block wall that will provide a bit of a microclimate for your trees. Guatamalean avos are most cold sensitive, so keep that in mind.

Patty S.

This post was edited by hoosierquilt on Tue, Sep 10, 13 at 23:02


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RE: New avocado trees: will what I want match with what will work

Thanks Patty :) Always so helpful.

Jan Boyce, Reed and Sharwil all sound like excellent avos, but will my limited spacing realistically allow for these cultivars because of their size?

How close can I plant to the wall? Naïvely, I was thinking I could just plant within a couple feet and just have a bed extending to about 3-3.5 ft from the wall, but thanks to you all, I’m questioning how realistic that is now, considering the size potential for mammoth-sized trees.

I think raising the root ball up in a raised bed will help considering my poorly-draining soil. Since I don’t have a slope, I plan to put in a French drain at bottom to hopefully help with drainage.

If avocado roots are shallow, how deep do they typically go? How much spacing tree to tree, at minimum, should I allow?

And being between the 2 houses should getting enough sunlight be a concern?


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RE: New avocado trees: will what I want match with what will work

Years ago, I really wanted to buy an Avocado ranch in Fallbrook. I LOVE Fallbrook! So then I investigated what it takes. Wow! Avocados NEED lots of water, so I'm thinking your poorly drained soil might be a blessing!

If you drive through Fallbrook now, you will see many neglected and dying orchards because the costs of water and fertilizer are so high!

We didn't move to Fallbrook, and we now have acreage in Hemet. There will be a couple Avocados planted on the same drip system as the water craving Macadamias.

Good luck to you and enjoy your avocados!
Suzi


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RE: New avocado trees: will what I want match with what will work

Well, avocados are very particular about how their roots receive water, Suzi. Sitting in standing water is sure death for an avocado tree. Which is why Fallbrook and N. San Diego County were so perfect - all planted on slopes. Avocados prefer being planted on a slope so the water will drain away. Their feeder roots prefer water to pass by them. Yes, they need a LOT of water. And the only reason they are still hanging on in our area, is because they really don't grow well anywhere else (as opposed to citrus, another water-hungry commercial crop). And, the fact that people are willing to pay $1.50 to 2.00 a piece for them. But, unlike citrus, which are being successfully grown in other areas of California, due to water prices having climbed to the outrageous amounts we see here in San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles counties (and to almost the same extend in Riverside and San Bernardino), avocados have not been able to acclimate to the Coachella or Imperial Valleys. So, they're hanging in there, in Fallbrook, still. So, standing water is about the worst thing you can have for avocados, proper drainage is critical to having them survive.

Ben, to your questions:

Jan Boyce, Reed and Sharwil all sound like excellent avos, but will my limited spacing realistically allow for these cultivars because of their size? - You can keep them pruned down to size using drop-crotch pruning. Those 3 cultivars are worth the pruning, trust me.

How close can I plant to the wall? Naïvely, I was thinking I could just plant within a couple feet and just have a bed extending to about 3-3.5 ft from the wall, but thanks to you all, I’m questioning how realistic that is now, considering the size potential for mammoth-sized trees - at least 6 feet. Preferably 10 to 12 feet.

I think raising the root ball up in a raised bed will help considering my poorly-draining soil. Since I don’t have a slope, I plan to put in a French drain at bottom to hopefully help with drainage. - Yes, Yes, Yes! Thing BIG mound or berm. Excellent option. And, a french drain below the mounds, a couple of feet down, sloping away from the trees, hopefully towards your front yard (and out to the street if you don't need the water elsewhere in your yard). I would also see what's happening with your next door neighbor's drainage. Is it draining over to your yard? Are you dealing with your and THEIR water? If so, make your neighbor fix their drainage issues. That's really a big no-no, as some else's water draining over into your yard could affect your home's foundation and that is grounds for a lawsuit. I would make your mound or berm at least 1 to 2 feet high (if you can make it 3' high, that would be superb) and 3 to 5 feet around (or, just continue the berm straight across for all 3 trees). Put down at least 20 pounds of gypsum spread around the base of each of the trees, plant and then mulch the area with 6 inches of woody mulch keeping the material about 6-8 inches away from the tree trunk. Of course, the french drain system should be below the mounds, about a foot or two down in the ground. You can also spread gypsum down into your french drain system as well. That gypsum application will really, really make a difference in the drainage of your soil. And, lastly, it wouldn't hurt to apply one application of Agri-Fos at planting, then again in 1 month. Apply a 3rd application of Agri-Fos in Feb or March, and then once a year in Feb or March thereafter, just to make sure you don't end up with Phytophthora issues due to water built up in the soil. You can also apply it to your citrus for the same reasons. An ounce of prevention can save you a pound of cure (and agony) later on.

If avocado roots are shallow, how deep do they typically go? How much spacing tree to tree, at minimum, should I allow? - the feeder roots are very, very shallow. Most exist within the top 6" of your top soil (as compared to citrus feeder roots, which exist in the top 12 to 18" inches of your soil, and they're considered shallow rooted, so you can see how very shallow avocado feeder roots are). That's why their leaf drop is so critical to their survival. They literally make their own mulch, and if removed, it will affect the health of your trees (and even kill them, eventually, believe it or not.) Their feeder roots will grow into their leaf mulch/mold. They have very sensitive root systems, and do not like to be transplanted after being established. But, they can send down fairly deep anchor or tap roots.

And being between the 2 houses should getting enough sunlight be a concern? - It can be. I have an inherited (was planted here before we bought the house and moved in) that was planted in the worst possible spot on my entire acre for an avocado - in nearly full shade, at the lowest part of my yard where the large part of my yard drains down to via two large swale systems. It is amazing it is still alive. I would have transplanted it, but it was too large and established. I figured I'd kill it for sure if I tried. It has produced 3 avocados for me since we moved in, in 2009. As opposed to my Lamb Hass, in the ideal location (full sun, on a nice slope), that produced about 30 avos this season (3rd season), and will have over 100 this next year. So, sun is pretty important. If you're sure they will get at least 6 hours of sun, I think they'll be okay. They might grow slower, and produce a little less, but, considering avocado trees can be prolific producers, that may not be a bad thing with 3 avos, lol! I would plant the Reed in the middle, as it is the most columnar in growth habit, and then simply keep them all down to about 15' and you're good!

Patty S.


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RE: New avocado trees: will what I want match with what will work

Interesting, Patty! We have nothing but slope here, so I'm hoping a couple avocados will grow. Didn't realize they don't like wet feet! No worries here, but I guess Ben is going to have to amend his soil.

I was determined to plant a certain rose from Roger's Gardens in Orange county, so I dug a deep hole. I struck clay! Brick colored clay! That rose never did much. It was forced to live in a clay pot!

Good luck with your avocados, Ben!
Suzi


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RE: New avocado trees: will what I want match with what will work

Yes, you are amazing Patty. Can’t thank you enough for all these valuable nuggets of info.

I ordered a Suncalc sunlight calculator and tried it out in the area yesterday. Unfortunately, when I checked it last night it said “partial shade” which they define as 1.5-4 hrs per day. (Womp-womp) So it appears that won’t be the ideal spot lol.

Now thinking of transferring all these recommendations to a place that gets adequate sun in my front yard, that’s of similar spacing, 18’ wide x 30’ long (Patty this is on the opposite side of the neighbor that innocently overwaters his front yard.) I plan to raise the trees up in this area as suggested.

But a concern I have is wind. I’m learning that avocados are quite susceptible to wind damage? There are no wind breaks out in the front yard. How concerned should I be and are there any precautions I can take? Would it be advisable to start off with an older tree that’s stronger? And when the wind blows won’t it also take with it the leaf drop mulch?


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RE: New avocado trees: will what I want match with what will work

I wouldn't worry about wind in your yard, Ben. You have too many houses surrounding your area to really have any serious wind issues. If you end up with Santa Anas, go out and soak your trees, and spray them down in the morning and early evening. They'll be fine. That will put water up into the trees and leaves, and help keep the leaf drop where it belongs. Frankly, smaller, 5 gal. trees in general (for all trees) will establish better than larger trees due to roots being a bit rootbound. And this is even more important for avocados, who have very, very sensitive root systems. If you are concerned about wind, consider planting a nice large ornamental tree to the east of your avocados as a wind break (would that be in your front yard perhaps)? This will help to deflect Santa Ana winds. I'm not so much worried about north winter winds, but it's the hot, dry Santa Anas that are damaging to both citrus and avocados.

Patty S.


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