- Author: Bud Veliquette
The avocado (Persea Americana) is sometimes described as the perfect food because of its digestibility and nutritional value, according to the California Master Gardener Handbook (2002).
Our backyard has an 30 year old (as yet unidentified) avocado tree which has been a real gem! It produces beautiful fruit and has proven to be frost hardy during a recent mid-January cold snap. Although we live in Vallejo, which is in Sunset’s zone 17 where frosts are relatively rare, Solano County has 3 additional zones: zones, 14, 15, and 9 in the Vacaville area. And you could have your own micro climate within those zones. For example a property on a hill or ridge top will have good “cold air drainage”, with temperatures a good 10-12 degrees F warmer than in lower lying areas.
According to UC Extension San Diego, the ‘Haas’ cultivar is the preferred one for Southern California coastal valley areas, which is where most of them are grown commercially. However, Mexican varieties (Persea americana drymifolia) can be grown in the Bay Area, as well as the “banana belts” of the San Joaquin Valley. Top Sunset Garden Book picks include ‘Fuerte’ (hardy to 27 degrees F), ‘Bacon, ‘Mexicola’ (very cold hardy to 20 degrees F), and ‘Zutano’ (hardy to 27 degrees F). I’m guessing our tree could be a ‘Bacon’, ‘Fuerte’ or ‘Zutano’, because the color of our fruit is dark to medium green, turning darker when ripe. It has a mild, nutlike flavor, and is quite good in a salad.
Fruit ripening varies with the cultivar. ‘Bacon’ and ‘Fuerte’ mature November to March, and ‘Mexicola’ matures August to September. Avocado varieties have flowers categorized as Type A or Type B, depending on the time of day they open and when pollen is released. Sunset recommends either planting a tree of each type, or buying a tree that has the opposite type grafted onto it, which is most likely the case with our tree, since we have only one.
Avocados need good drainage with occasional deep watering. Mulch should be applied 6 to 12” deep, but it needs to be kept away from the trunk. Although these trees are very susceptible to ‘Phytophthora’ root rot, the mulching and additional gypsum added to the soil, creates conditions which suppress this fungus.
So, experiment with this tropical treat. Although your harvest may not be of commercial quality, some of the hardiest varieties can be successfully grown.
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
My sister-in-law has a seedling avocado tree in her backyard. It was given to her and my brother-in-law about 40 years ago by a good friend. When they received it as a gift, it was about two feet tall and you could see the avocado stone with the plant emerging from the middle. It was planted in their backyard about 10 feet away from the house and close to the side fence. Today this beautiful tree is about 55 feet tall, 20 inches in diameter and covers the side yard. They had no idea that it would ever get so large. Over the years the tree was fertilized with boxed ‘Avocado Food’ and kept trimmed away from the house, but received no other special treatment. The first fifteen years the tree had no fruit, but was enjoyed for the shade it provided. Then avocados began appearing. The avocados are thin skinned, creamy like butter and delicious. They are green on the tree and turn black when ready to harvest. This year there were so many avocados (they grew like grapes, and were as large as a fist) that we were overwhelmed. My son from Sacramento (Monkey-Man) came down three separate days and climbed the tree, spending hours picking and filling grocery bags with fruit. My sister-in-law’s garage was wall-to- wall with bags full of avocados. We estimated 400 pounds total. They were gladly shared with family, friends, neighbors, church members and anyone walking by the house. This was an exceptional year, but if the tree performs as it has in the past, next year should be a lighter bearing year. We’ll see!
Here’s how to start your own seedling avocado tree
Remove the seed from a store purchased avocado without damaging it. Soak in water for 10 minutes, and then clean the remaining fruit off without removing the brown skin on the seed (the seed cover). The top of the seed is the pointed end and the rounded end is the bottom. Push three or four toothpicks at equal intervals into the side of the seed, about 2/3 of the way down from the top. The toothpicks will support the seed as it sits on top of a cup of water with its blunt end submerged. Keep the seed warm, about 65 degrees, in a bright location out of direct sunlight, making sure the bottom third stays under water until you are ready to transplant. Change water often. BE PATIENT. It takes awhile for roots to form and longer for a shoot to appear. When a shoot develops and grows to 6 inches, it is ready to transplant into a 4 inch container. In several months transplant again into a larger pot and move outdoors to a sunny location. Feed with soluble houseplant fertilizer and pinch the growing tips occasionally to keep the tree bushy. When planting in the garden, imagine this tree 50 to 60 feet tall in years ahead and place it accordingly. You may be fortunate in future years to have delicious fruit. Remember seedlings can provide regular sized fruit, dwarf sized fruit or no fruit at all. Have fun with this propagation project and good luck.