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‘av-a-go with avocados!
A large evergreen, growing up to 15 metres in height, the avocado tree (Persea americana) features dark green, oval leaves and produces delicious pear shaped, green fruit.
Where to plant
As a central American native, the avocado thrives in similar conditions to those found in some parts of New Zealand, however it will not grow in all regions. While avocado trees thrive in the upper North Island – where avocados are grown commercially – they can also grow successfully in the lower North Island, and upper South Island.
Loving the sun, avocados need a healthy dose of sunlight and warmth. Make sure to plant in a north-facing location, where plants will receive regular periods of temperatures between 11 (when blossoming) and 17 degrees Celsius.
The avocado tree is not a fan of frost and will be damaged by temperatures below -2 degrees Celsius. Young trees are particularly susceptible to frost damage, although even mature trees can suffer from burns caused by frost to fruit and leaves, so always choose a frost-free location.
Plant in a sheltered location to prevent wind damage to fruit.
How & when to plant
The best time to plant avocado trees is in October.
Avocado trees should be planted in well-drained, well-aerated, non-compacted soil, with moderate fertility and high organic matter content.
If avocado trees are planted in waterlogged soil, the roots will rot, resulting in poor harvests and, ultimately, the death of the tree.
Ideally soil should consist of a phosphorus level of 25+ on the Olsen scale, a moderate potassium level, and high levels of calcium and magnesium.
Plant at least six metres apart and apply mulch around the base of the tree to control weeds.
Do not add chemical fertilisers when planting, however manure should be added into the hole a few months beforehand to ensure optimum growth.
A wide range of pests and diseases affect avocado trees. Always consult your local garden centre for details of such threats in your area to ensure you identify problems early and manage them effectively.
A pyrethroid insecticide should be sprayed onto the trees in spring to reduce damage caused by bronze beetles, and Ridomil fungicide applied in autumn.
Apply small amounts of fertiliser regularly to young trees.
Prune low branches – within 30cm from the ground.
Avocados will not ‘ripen on the vine’. The fruit are usually mature at roughly 9-12 months at which point they may be picked in order to ripen.
Thanks to the New Zealand Avocado Growers’ Association and Industry Council for providing photos and additional information. To learn more about growing your own avocado trees, visit: www.nzavocado.co.nz.
So, now you know, go ahead and ‘av-a-go, at growing your own... avocados!
Be sure to check out our traditional and quick and easy recipes for guacamole dips!