Growing Avocado Trees in your Backyard

Debi Markley, a California Rare Fruit Grower and Organic Garden Club member for many years, told us about her abundant backyard fruit trees at the Organic Garden Club meeting. She has been growing many of fruit trees in her yard for years.

She said to grow an avocado from seed in a small pot with soil and not in a glass of water. Avocados have shallow roots. If you don’t graft a new seed stock onto your plant, you probably won’t have good tasting fruit. She showed us how to graft the avocado seedling to create an especially delightful variety. You have to graft onto your stock when it is about as thick as a pencil and well established. Then you can keep the grafted tree shaded for six months before planting it in a square hole. She keeps her newly grafted trees under her Cherimoya Tree and waters them with a micro sprinkler twice a week.

Let the roots dry out between watering or you’ll get root rot. Debi usually plants in the evenings. She uses a square hole and goes as deep as she can, about 20”, but not wide. She puts divots on the sides so the roots have somewhere to go besides in a circle. She adds fishbone meal and perlite type additives and fills the hole to the depth of the pot. She puts in the tree with its shallow roots in the hole and covers it into a mound and adds mulch. 

To bear fruit, you need to graft and plant two avocado trees – an A and a B. The trees change sex in the afternoon, and are different than they were at 10 a.m. Shade the newly planted trees with a shade cloth and tree stakes. Stake the new plant on both sides, but don’t touch the tree and keep the tree shaded.

Roots will grow in the top few inches of soil. Let the leaves and twigs that fall stay on the ground for mulch. Continue to add mulch to keep away weeds.  Be sure to water at the drip line, not around the trunk. You can protect the trunk with a mixture of ⅓ water and ⅔ white latex paint with no additives. No need to paint the north side of the tree, as the sun doesn’t get there. She uses a metal tag to identify the tree.

Pick off the flower buds and don’t let the tree bear fruit until it is at least 3 years old. It takes about 1000 flowers to get one fruit. Avocados don’t need much fertilizer, but you can use steer or horse manure around the edges. Don’t use chicken manure.

There are 3 basic types of avocados – Mexican, Guatemalan, and West Indian. Debi grafts different hybrid varieties to produce her excellent fruit, like A-flower Julia and a B-flower Magoon. Prune after harvesting the fruit, probably in September. Keep trees trimmed to 8 – 10 ft tall. It’s easier to pick the fruit. 

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