Avocados are tropical forest trees in the Laurel family or Lauraceae. These trees come from Southern Mexico, Central America, & the Caribbean. They are large evergreen trees that perform best in relatively frost free subtropical climates. The fruits are prized for their delicious flesh & their contribution to a healthy diet. The foliage of the Avocado tree is considered an herb & is used to flavor food. Many avocados (if not all orchard quality trees) are grafted. Varieties that produce choice fruit are grafted on top rootstocks (roots) that are resistant to disease, or are dwarfing. Avocado trees are not recommended for containers as the extensive root system needed to produce quantity & quality fruit cannot be easily achieved. Only dwarf Avocado varieties are suited to long term container cultivation. Avocados have a shallow but extensive root system.
What Avocados Like
Exposure:Avocados demand full sun, in order to produce good quality fruit. Avocados do not tolerate windy exposed conditions well because they have brittle wood & large leafs.Areas where avocados thrive do not experience temperatures that fall much below 25*.Avocados grow best in warm frost free climates away from the immediate coast. These trees grow well in Southern California in USDA zones 9 & 10 as well as Sunset zones 19 through 24.
Soil:Avocados grow best in loamy rich well drained shallow soils. Avocados can be grown in areas with surprisingly poor soil. This is achieved because the plants are shallow rooted & nutrients can be absorbed quickly. These trees resent being planted in saline, heavy, or poorly drained soils.Avocados love mulch, add organic compost once or twice a year 4 to 10 inches thick! Mulch the area under the canopy. Avocados are hungry trees so the addition of organic compost (or mulch) to the soil makes a big difference on improving the quantity & quality of fruit.
Irrigation:Avocados are tropical forest trees. New trees require once a week deep irrigation to produce quality fruit. They also grow year round, thus requiring a relatively consistent yearlong watering schedule. Avocado trees have evolved shallow roots that absorb nutrients & water quickly & efficiently. In most of Orange County, established avocado trees need watering two to three times a month (March through October). In the winter, water once a month only if rains fails. Avocados are sensitive to salts in the water (causes leaf tip burn) to remedy this irrigate deeply so that salts do not build up in the soil; compost mulch also works well to absorb these salts.
Diet:Avocado trees are heavy feeders. Feeding Avocados trees once a season (or once every three months) provides evenly spaced feedings that will sustain growth year round. Fertilize with organic granular fertilizers.We recommend Dr. Earth Organic Fruit Tree Fertilizer.Adding a layer of organic compost, once or twice a year as mulch is key to growing a happy healthy tree. Avocados are prone to iron & nitrogen deficiency in our native soils (causes yellowing of the foliage).
Pruning: Avocados must be trained so that they conform to an architecture that promotes health & vigor. Only prune when there are fruit present, or recently after harvest. The window is short extending just several weeks after fruit has ripened. In short you want to prune the plant before it starts to flower again. This will prevent you “pruning away” the next crop of fruit. We want a tree with an open structure with a dense canopy of foliage but an uncluttered crown of branches. Remove all dead & crossing branches whenever noticed. Protect the graft union & remove any suckers that sprout below it. Keep your trees short & compact this makes harvesting & pruning easier (mature trees can be kept easily to 15 to 25 feet for years). Dwarf & container grown trees benefit from being staked. It is beneficial to keep the branches off the ground & away from fences or buildings. This helps prevent fruit rats from easily gaining access to the trees canopy. Care must be taken to quickly remove any foliage or branches that sprout below the graft union (the place where the fruiting upper portion of the plant is grafted onto the lower rootstock portion).
Harvesting:Harvest fruit when they are slightly soft & have achieved their “full color” often turning a dark green or even blackish in color. Avocados have the ability to further ripen once picked off the tree a little green & unripe. Avocado trees produce fruit in cycles often one year will be poor while the next year brings an ample harvest. The fruit should be easily removed from the stem when ripe.
Pollination: Avocados are self – fruitful but can produce better if planted near another Avocado tree. Avocado varieties are grouped into two categories (A & B). It is best to plant an A tree near a B tree for optimum pollination & production.
HASS (A)-The year-round avocado. Distinctive for its skin that turns from green to purplish-black when ripe; the Hass is the leading variety of California Avocado and has an excellent shelf life. This variety was developed in La Habra CA in 1926. The fruit has high oil content. The most commonly encountered Avocado. Ripens Feb. to Oct.
BACON (B)-A very popular mid-winter green variety with high oil content. Bacon is a green-skinned variety of good quality & high yield. Bacon is a medium-sized fruit. This variety is perfect for OC gardens as it was developed in Buena Park in 1954. Ripens Oct. to Jan.
PINKERTON (A)-A premium winter variety with large high quality fruit. Pinkerton is a high quality avocado with small seeds. This is a frost sensitive Guatemalan Variety developed in 1972 that makes a large spreading tree. Ripens Oct. to Jan.
REED (A)-The summertime variety. A large round fruited variety with a high quality creamy flesh. The trees are columnar & grow taller than wide. This is a great variety for coastal areas it was developed in Carlsbad, California in 1948. Ripens June to Nov.
LITTLECADO (A or B)-A Dwarf Avocado! This avocado variety is perfect for smaller home orchards & is one of the best Avocado for containers. It grows up to 20 to 25 feet tall & wide. It bears when rather small. Ripens May to Sept.
STEWART (A)-Another excellent North Mexican variety. The small fruits are similar to Mexicola in taste & appearance but the seed is not as big. This is a nice dense compact tree that tollerates less than perfect conditions. To top it all off this variety is very frost resistant. Ripens Sept. to Nov.
MEXICOLA (A)-One of the best tasting Avocados. This variety was developed in Pasadena, CA in 1910. The trees are dense & vigorous & are remarkably frost tolerant compared to most Avocados. The tasty fruits are small but plentiful. The skin is paper thin making it perfect for fresh eating. Ripens Aug. to Oct.
FUERTE (B)-The original California Standard. This variety is from Mexico where its name means strong. It earned this name because the tree is tough & resilient to diseases & frost. This variety was once the dominant commercial variety in California (but the skin was too soft for shipping). Ripens Nov. to June
HOLIDAY (A)-This avocado is a dwarf variety perfect for smaller home orchards. It grows up to 10 to 15 feet tall. This is the best Avocado variety for containers. It bears when rather small. The fruit are large, up to 30oz. Ripens Aug. to Jan.