Updated Version of 12/24/18 blog to correct errors
Advice for the Home Gardener from the Help Desk
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County
Client's Request: I would like to plant an avocado tree that has the following specifications: I live in West County where it is cool and foggy and I want a dwarf tree that is self-pollinating. Also, how far from my existing avocado tree can I plant my new tree?
Pollination: While avocado trees self-fertilize and produce fruit, yields should increase if both a Type A avocado tree and a Type B avocado tree are planted in order to increase the chances for successful pollination. The avocado tree has both functional male and female organs. The male floral organ (stamen) which produces pollen, is comprised of the anther and filament. The female floral organ (pistil) which receives the pollen, is comprised of the stigma style and ovary.
The avocado exhibits a type of flowering behavior known as “synchronous dichogamy.” An individual flower will open for two days and the timing of the male and female phases is distinct. There are two flowering types, referred to as “A” and “B” flower types. “A” varieties open as female on the morning of the first day. The flower closes in late morning or early afternoon. The flower will remain closed until the afternoon of the second day when it opens as male. “B” varieties open as female on the afternoon of the first day, close in late afternoon and re-open in the male phase the following morning. This flowering behavior is believed to promote cross-pollination since the male and female phases of an individual tree occur at different times. It is believed that the interplanting of complimentary flower types can boost fruit set and yield by making pollen more available.
The following identifies common varieties for each flowering type:
Table 1 of http://ucavo.ucr.edu/Flowering/FloweringBasics.html
You mentioned that you have an existing avocado tree. If you know which flowering type your tree is, then plan to plant another tree of the other flowering type, so you will be more successful in cross-pollinating both trees.
You also asked how far apart to plant the two trees. You can plant the new tree anywhere in the yard and cross-pollination should occur. Depending on the size of your existing tree, be aware that you don't want to plant the new tree in the shadow of the existing tree. Here is a link that provides information on avocado tree flowering behavior:
In general, avocado trees do best at moderately warm temperatures (60‒85 degrees F.) with moderate humidity. Optimum fruit set occurs from 65‒75 degrees F. Cooler or warmer temperatures are less ideal. They can tolerate temperatures, once established, of about 28‒32 degrees F with minimal damage. Plant your tree in March through June. If you plant during the summer, there is always the risk of sun damage, because avocado trees don't absorb water very well when they are young. Plant in a spot protected from wind and frost, and planting in full sun is best. The avocado is a shallow-rooted tree with most of its feeder roots in the top six inches of the soil, so give it good aeration. Its root system is very sensitive, and great care should be taken not to disturb it when transplanting. Avocado trees like the pH of the soil to be about 6‒6.5. If you have heavy clay soil, elevate the tree in a mound for better drainage, making the mound 1‒2 feet high and 3‒5 feet around. Here is a link with information on growing avocado trees:
In my research for finding a type of dwarf avocado tree, I found this link:
The Wurtz avocado tree (flowering type A) is sometimes referred to as Little Cado and it is the only true dwarf variety of avocado. It will consistently produce good fruit from May to September. Compared to other avocado trees which can grow up to 80 feet, a Wurtz grows to about 10 feet. It is a hybrid created from the Mexican and Guatemalan avocado species, and produces abundant fruits within one to two years of planting if it is a grafted tree. Grown in the right conditions, and properly cared for, a Wurtz avocado tree will do well in mild-winter areas of California. While it can tolerate temperatures as low as 25 degrees F, it should be kept in a warm environment with protection against strong winds and frost. A young tree, one that is less than 12 months old, requires shelter from direct summer sunlight or the stems and bark will burn. If its trunk is exposed to sun, it will also be important to protect it from sunburn by painting it with a 50:50 mix of white interior latex paint and water. After several years the tree will grow enough foliage to shade itself from the sun.
If the Wurtz avocado tree is cared for properly, it will start growing flowers for pollination sometime between January and March within one to two years of planting (if it is a grafted tree). Purchasing a grafted tree from a nursery is the easiest way for the home gardener to have a fruit-bearing tree. Once the flowers are pollinated, the Wurtz bears fruit that ripens between May and September. The fruits are dark green and medium in size ranging from 6‒12 ounces. They have thin, shiny skins with a small seed. The fruits have been rated by growers as having a good and consistent flavor with an oil content of 16%. Avocados will not ripen while still on the tree. Harvest when fruits are of mature size and still firm. They will ripen in one to two weeks at room temperature.
Good luck in growing your next avocado tree and let us know if you have any further questions.
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (BY)
and Allen Buchinski for correcting the original's copy errors and the editor's misses.
Note: UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available almost year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays (e.g., last 2 weeks December), we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 2380 Bisso Lane, Concord, CA 94520. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 608-6683, email: email@example.com, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/. MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ignore.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog.
Advice for the Home Gardener from the Contra Costa Master Gardeners' Help Desk
Client's Questions and Concerns
Client called with “huge problem with birch trees". She left her email address, but also asked for someone to call and help her with some advice. Called several times but couldn't leave a message since her voicemail box was full. Sent her an email with some of the “usual” problems with birch trees and asked her to contact us if she needed more information. (Note: Although this advice didn't come to satisfactory conclusions, CCMG Help Desk thought it would be beneficial to remind gardeners of the value and care of their trees, especially the oft-planted and vulnerable birch trees, and the need for prioritizing tree care especially during the drought. You can replace and restore many shrubs and perennials in several years and at moderate costs; replacing trees can be expensive when you include value to the property and costs of removal, and can take many years.)
Response and Advice from the CCMG Help Desk
Thank you for calling Master Gardeners with your birch tree problem. However, in order to help you, we will need some more information and either samples or photos of the tree.
In the meantime, I have included information which might be helpful adapted from an article from a Solano County Master Gardener blog:
- Most likely your birch tree is a European white birch (Betula pendula), native to northern Europe with its cooler climes and plenty of rainfall to sustain the trees. They grow magnificently there, and to their full potential, much larger than any you'll likely see in Contra Costa County.
- In Contra Costa County, especially the central and eastern areas, the life span of a birch tree is approximately 25 years due to heat and lack of rainfall. Decline will often show in branch dieback or leaf drop. During drought, birch trees – which need consistent and deep irrigation – will show signs of stress such as dead branches. Or depending upon the tree's age and care, those dead branches may just be signs of old age and a steady decline.
- Many homeowners with birch don't realize how stressed birch trees can get in drought periods. The natural habitat of birch trees is the forest, where they grow alongside creeks and streams.
- Birch are often planted in lawns and home owners forget that when they stop or reduce irrigating their lawns that birch will often be put in stress unless additional water is provided.
- If your tree is in a lawn, remove the grass from around the trunk out to the drip line and replace it with a layer of fine bark mulch, chopped red cedar bark or aged compost. A bender board around the perimeter of the mulch will prevent the mulch from working into the lawn.
- To determine the actual soil moisture “feeding” your birch, you can push a long screwdriver into the soil, working outward from the trunk to the drip line under the leaves. If the screwdriver does not easily penetrate the soil, then the tree must be irrigated.
- One method of supplemental tree irrigation is to lay several lengths of soaker hoses, working outward from the trunk to the perimeter of the tree under the drip line. Attach a garden hose to the soaker hose and let the water drip for several hours until the screwdriver will easily slip into the soil. You can find a rmuch more duable and automated version of this watering system at http://ccuh.ucdavis.edu/public/drought/tree-ring-irrigation-contraption-tric-1/tree-ring-irrigation-contraption-tric
- The birch root system is also extremely sensitive to fertilizers and herbicides, including weed and feed products as well as mechanical damage, for example string trimmers.
- When birches get stressed during even our “usual” Northern California summer droughts, borers can move in. This problem is often exacerbated by reduced irrigation during our current long-term drought. The bronze birch borer, Agrilus anxius, is the main culprit. Apparently there is quite a large local population of the borers. Intensive insecticide applications may keep them at bay. Check the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management website for more information on preventive measures: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/GARDEN/PLANTS/birch.html.
If you go to this link and in the right columns scroll down to 'birch borers', you might find clues to what is ailing your tree bug-wise. However, it is important to positively identify the cause before any measures are taken to manage the problem, so we look forward to hearing from you again.
With a little TLC, you should be able to coax a few more years out of your birch.
Contra Costa Master Gardeners' Help Desk
Note: The Contra Costa Master Gardener Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us//span>/span>