Saturday, June 26, 2010
Thoughts: How to grow your own avocado tree!
Don't throw out that seed! You can grow a beautiful houseplant or even your own tree following these simple steps.
1. Wash the seed. Using three toothpick, suspend it broad end down over a water-filled glass to cover about an inch of the seed.
2. Put it in a warm place out of direct sunlight and replenish water as needed. You should see roots and stem sprout in about two to six weeks.
3. When the stem is six to seven inches long, cut it back to about three inches.
4. When the roots are thick and the stem has leafed out again, plant it in a rich humus soil in a 10-1/2" diameter pot, leaving the seed half exposed.
5. Give it frequent, light waterings with an occasional deep soak. Generally, the soil should be moist but not saturated. Yellowing leaves are a sign of over-watering; let the plant dry out for a few days.
6. The more sunlight, the better.
7. If leaves turn brown and fry at the tips, too much salt has accumulated in the soil. Let water run freely into the pot and drain for several minutes.
8. When the stem is 12 inches high, cut it back to 6 inches to encourage the growth of new shoots.
9. While it is true that you can grow a tree from an avocado seed, keep in mind that a tree grown from seed will be very different from its parent variety and may take 7-15 years to begin producing fruit. Fruit from a tree grown from seed tends to have different flavor characteristics than their parent variety. Known varieties such as Hass avocados are grafted to preserve their varietal characteristics rather than grown from a seed.
Avocados in the Home Garden
Avocado trees are a popular for landscaping. They like soil ph of 6 to 6.5. It is a shallow rooted tree that needs good aeration and does best when mulched with coarse material such as redwood bark or other woody mulch about 2" in diameter. Use about 1/3 cubic yard per tree, but keep it about 6 to 8 inches away from the trunk. Plant in a non-lawn area with full sun, protected from wind and frost. The ideal time to plant is March through June. During summer there is risk of sun damage since young trees can't take up water very well.
The hole should be as deep as the root ball and just a bit wider. Gently place the root ball in the hole taking care not to disturb the delicate root system. If the ball is root-bound, carefully loosen up the soil around the edge and clip away any roots that are going in circles. Back fill the hole with soil. Do not use gravel or potting mix.
The major nutrients needed by avocado trees are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) in a balanced fertilizer with zinc. Feed young trees sparingly (1 to 2 teaspoons per tree, per year) of balanced fertilizer. Spread out over several applications if you like.
When watering, it is best to soak the root system well, and then allow the surface to dry out somewhat before watering again. Depending on the weather, this may mean watering once a day or once every two weeks.
Will my avocado tree produce avocados?
“Ungrafted” trees (like those grown inside from seeds) rarely produce fruit. In order to have an avocado tree that produces fruit, one must graft the seedling. Since the process of grafting involves mixing the tissues of the seedling with those of a producing tree, it is often just easier to simply buy a grafted tree from a reputable nursery. Once grafted a plant grown from seed can take anywhere from five to 13 years to flower and bear fruit.
Can I graft my own tree?
Avocado grafting requires precise weather conditions and therefore a successful graft yield is often low - even for professionals.
Why should I plant a non-producing avocado tree?
Avocado trees provide a spacious and uncluttered canopy within the foliage. Also, avocado branch growth patterns lend very well to tree climbing. For these reasons alone, a non-producing avocado tree is no waste.
Did you know?
1. Avocados are a fruit, not a vegetable, belonging to the genus Persea in the Lauraceae family
2. Avocados are sodium and cholesterol-free and have only five grams of fat per serving, most of it the monounsaturated kind
3. I enjoy eating one to 4 avocados daily!!!
4. Avocados were once a luxury food reserved for the tables of royalty, but now Avocados are enjoyed around the world by people from all walks of life
5. Brazilians add avocados to ice cream
6. Filipinos puree avocados with sugar and milk for a dessert drink
7. The avocado is also called an Alligator Pear because of its pear-like shape and green skin
8. Avocado is a corruption of the Spanish word aguacate, which is in turn a corruption of the Aztec word ahuacatl
9. California produces about 90 percent of the US nation's avocado crop
10. San Diego County is the Avocado Capital of the U.S., producing 60 percent of all the avocados grown in California
11. There are about 6,000 avocado growers in California; the average grove size is around 10 acres
12. A single California Avocado tree can produce about 500 avocados (or 200 pounds of fruit) a year although usually average about 60 pounds from 150 fruit. There must be ALOT of avocado trees in the world!
13. There are seven varieties of avocados grown commercially in California, but the Hass is the most popular, accounting for approximately 95 percent of the total crop volume
14. About 43 percent of all U.S. households buy avocados
15. Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. They also act as a "nutrient booster" by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein, in foods that are eaten with the fruit.
Do avocados offer nutrients beneficial to babies?
Avocados can be an important part of your baby's growth and development. Fresh avocados are sodium and cholesterol-free. They contribute valuable nutrients including 8% of the recommended Daily Value (DV) for folate; 4% DV for fiber and potassium, 4% DV for vitamin E; and 2% DV for iron. A serving of avocado also contains 81 micrograms of the carotenoid lutein and 19 micrograms of beta-carotene. One serving also contains 3.5 grams of unsaturated fats, which are known to be important for normal growth and development of the central nervous system and brain.
Avocados and the Environment
1. California Avocado farmers rely on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to combat pests and diseases. As a result, California Avocados rank among the lowest of all fruits and vegetables for pesticide use
2. If treatment for pests is necessary, the softest chemicals are selected to have the least impact on the environment and on beneficial organisms in the orchard
3. With the number of California Avocado groves becoming Certified Organic the trend toward organic production is on the rise. New Certified Organic avocado acreage is coming into production in California each year to meet the ever-increasing demand for organically grown fruit
4. Avocado orchards help renew our air supply and keep it fresh by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen
5. Southern California Avocado orchards remove 25 - 88 lbs of (dry nitrogenous) pollutants per acre from the environment. (Based on University of California deposition data)
6. Orchard trees lower air temperature by evaporating water in their leaves
7. Avocado tree roots stabilize the soil and prevent erosion
8. Avocado orchards can reduce storm run-off and the possibility of flooding. By slowing runoff and filtering rain water, orchards can improve water quality
9. Avocado orchards provide shelter for wildlife
The avocado (Persea americana) originated in south-central Mexico, sometime between 7,000 and 5,000 B.C. But it was several millennia before this wild variety was cultivated. Archaeologists in Peru have found domesticated avocado seeds buried with Incan mummies dating back to 750 B.C. and there is evidence that avocados were cultivated in Mexico as early as 500 B.C.
From Aguacate to Avocado
Spanish conquistadores loved the fruit but couldn't pronounce it and changed the Aztec word to a more manageable aguacate, which eventually became avocado in English. The first English-language mention of avocado was by Sir Henry Sloane in 1696.
The best way to tell if a Avocado is ready for immediate use is to gently squeeze the fruit in the palm of your hand. Ripe, ready-to-eat fruit will be firm yet will yield to gentle pressure. If you plan to serve the fruit in a few days, stock up on hard, unripened fruit.
Ripening a Avocado
* To ripen a Avocado, place the fruit in a plain brown paper bag and store at room temperature 65-75° until ready to eat (usually two to five days).
* Including an apple or banana in the bag accelerates the process because these fruits give off ethylene gas, a ripening reagent.
* Soft ripe fruit can be refrigerated until it is eaten, but not for more than two or three days.
Picking, Packing and Shipping
Avocados are harvested by hand with the help of special shears called clippers. Using ladders up to 30 feet high and poles up to 14 feet long to reach the fruit in tall trees, pickers place the harvested fruit in large nylon bags fastened around their shoulders. Each bag holds 30-50 pounds of fruit.
The harvested avocados are carefully placed in large picking bins that can each hold between 600 and 800 pounds of fruit.
The picking bins are transferred by forklift, tractor or trailer from the grove to a large truck which picks up the fruit, hauling it several bins at a time to the packing house.
At the packing house, avocados are immediately put into cold storage for about 24 hours to remove the field heat and to preserve their quality. Then the pre-cooled fruit is ready for packing.
Each bin of avocados is carefully placed on a conveyor belt, which gently tips over the bin, allowing the fruit to roll onto a grading belt, where graders hand check and sort the avocados by size.
Avocados are shipped from the packing house in refrigerated trucks. If they are being shipped internationally, they are placed in special atmosphere-controlled containers and sent by air freight or cargo ship.
Once these strict quality and freshness procedures are complete, the avocados reach grocers around the country and are ready for purchase.
Fresh Avocado Varieties
There are close to 500 varieties of avocados. Some are:
A mid-winter green variety. A green-skinned variety of good quality, the Bacon is a medium-sized fruit available late fall into spring.
* Oval-shaped fruit * Medium to large seed * Easy peeling * Light taste
* Medium, ranging from 6 to 12 ounces
* Smooth thin green skin
* Yellow-green flesh
* Skin remains green, darkens slightly
* Fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe
An established favorite. Harvested late fall through spring, the Fuerte is the original high quality California Avocado.
* Pear-shaped * Medium seed * Peels easily * Great taste
* Medium to large fruit, ranging from 5 to 14 ounces
* Smooth thin green skin * Creamy, pale green flesh
* Skin remains green * Fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe
The Hass-like green variety. Gwen is similar in appearance, taste and texture to Hass, but slightly larger.
* Plump oval fruit * Small to medium seed * Easy peeling * Great taste
* Medium to large, ranging from 6 to 15 ounces
* Pebbly, thick but pliable green skin * Creamy, gold-green flesh
* Green skin turns dull * Fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe
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.
* Oval-shaped fruit * Small to medium seed * Easy peeling * Great taste
* Full range from average to large, 5 to 12 ounces
* Pebbly, thick but pliable skin * Pale green flesh with creamy texture
* Skin darkens as it ripens * Fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe
The California summer sun variety. Exceptional flavor and a large robust size are the hallmark of this new avocado variety.
* Pebbly skin with pale green flesh * Smooth, creamy, nutty taste * Large in size * Symmetrical in shape; displays exceptionally well
* Ranges in size from 11.75 oz to 18.75 oz * 32 = 11.75 oz to 14.00 oz * 28 = 13.75 oz to 15.75 oz * 24 = 15.75 oz to 18.75 oz
* Looks and ripens like a Hass avocado * Oval shape * Medium-size seed
* Skin darkens as it ripens * Yields to gentle pressure when ripe
A premium winter variety. Pinkerton avocados have small seeds, yield more fruit per tree and are available in a full range of sizes early winter through spring.
* Long, pear-shaped fruit * Small seed * Excellent peeling characteristics * Great taste
* Large fruit, ranging from 8 to 18 ounces
* Medium thick green skin with slight pebbling * Creamy, pale green flesh
* Green skin deepens in color as it ripens * Fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe
The summertime variety. A large, round fruit available in the summer months and early fall.
* Round fruit * Medium seed * Easy peeling * Good taste
* Medium to large, ranging from 8 to 18 ounces
* Thick green skin with slight pebbling * Creamy flesh
* Skin remains green * Fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe
A season opener. Easily recognized by its shiny, yellow-green skin, the Zutano is one of the first varieties harvested when the season begins in September and is available through early winter.
* Pear-shaped fruit * Moderately easy to peel * Light taste
* Average to large fruit, ranging from 6 to 14 ounces
* Shiny, thin yellow-green skin * Pale green flesh with light texture
* Skin retains color when ripe * Fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe
Challenges: In order to have an avocado tree that produces fruit, you have to graft the seedling. Grafting involves mixing the tissues of the seedling with those of a producing tree. Once grafted a plant grown from seed can take anywhere from five to 13 years to flower and bear fruit.
Triumphs: I love that due to their thick, pebbly skin, the fruit inside of a Avocado is naturally protected, placing Avocados amongst the lowest of all fruits and vegetables for pesticide use! Avocado trees survive with little interference from humans!
What I Ate Today:
Food fest 1: 2 peaches
Food fest 2: An avocado!
Food fest 3: Strawberries and a peach :)
Food fest 4: Macadamia nuts
Food fest 5: Another avocado! Some strawberries and beautiful sweet blueberries.
Recipe: My 3 favourite avocado recipes are The Earth Diet Guacamole AND Strawberry Nut Pie AND Avocado Sweet and Spicy Salad! These ecipes are on www.theearthdiet.org website!
Exercise: A walk in Manhattan!
131 days to go!!!
This information was provided by Dr. Mary Lu Arpaia, Extension Subtropical Horticulturist, Kearney Agriculture Center, Parlier, CA. and Dr. Ben Faber, Farm Advisor, Soils and Water, Avocados and Subtropicals, Ventura County, CA. For more information about avocado horticulture, visit http://www.ucavo.ucr.edu.