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Avocado

Tree

A medium (30 ft; 9.1 m) to large (65 ft; 19.8 m) tree, the avocado tree is classified as an evergreen, although some varieties lose their leaves for a short time before and during flowering. The tree canopy ranges from low, dense and symmetrical to upright and asymmetrical. Limbs are easily broken by strong winds or heavy crop loads.

Avocado Growing Guide


Tree


A medium (30 ft; 9.1 m) to large (65 ft; 19.8 m) tree, the avocado tree is classified as an evergreen, although some varieties lose their leaves for a short time before and during flowering. The tree canopy ranges from low, dense and symmetrical to upright and asymmetrical. Limbs are easily broken by strong winds or heavy crop loads.

 


Planting an Avocado Tree

If trees are not planted immediately after arriving from Nursery, keep the trees in well protected area and water them daily. Do not store the plants in plastic bag for many days as it could have root rot fungi. It’s best to dig hole 3 times the depth of  plant root ball. Properly planting an avocado tree is one of the most important steps in successfully establishing and growing a strong, productive tree. The first step is to choose a healthy nursery tree. Commonly, nursery avocado trees are grown in 1 gallon containers and these trees stand 1 to 3 ft from the soil media. Large trees in smaller containers should be avoided as the root system may be "root bound". This means all the available space in the container has been filled with roots to the point that the tap root is growing along the edge of the container in a circular fashion. Root bound trees may not grow properly once planted in the ground. Inspect the tree for insect pests and diseases and inspect the trunk of the tree for wounds and constrictions. Select a healthy tree and water it regularly in preparation for planting in the ground.

Site Selection

In general, avocado trees should be planted in full sun for best growth and fruit production. Select a part of the landscape away from other trees, buildings and structures and power lines. Remember avocado trees can become very large if not pruned to contain their size. Select the warmest area of the landscape that does not flood (or remain wet) after typical summer rainfall events.

Planting in Sandy Soil

Prior to digging a hole, remove a 3 to 10 ft diameter ring of grass sod. Dig a hole 3 to 4 times the diameter and 3 times as deep as the container the avocado tree has come in. Making a large hole loosens the soil adjacent to the  tree making it easy for the roots to expand into the adjacent soil. It is not necessary to apply fertilizer, topsoil, or compost to the hole. In fact, placing topsoil or compost in the hole first and then planting on top of it is not desirable.

Backfill the hole with some of the native soil removed to make the hole. Carefully remove the tree from the container and place it in the hole so that the top of the soil media of the container is level with or slightly above the surrounding soil level. Fill soil in around the tree roots and tamp slightly to remove air pockets. Immediately water the soil around the tree and tree roots. Staking the tree with a wooden or bamboo stake is optional. However, do not use wire or nylon rope to tie the tree to the stake as they may eventually damage the tree trunk as it grows. Use a cotton or natural fiber string that will degrade slowly.

Planting in Rockland Soil

Many areas have a very shallow soil and several inches below the soil surface is a hard calcareous bedrock . Remove a 3 to 10 ft diameter ring of grass sod. Make a hole 3 to 4 times the diameter and 3 times as deep as the container the avocado tree has come in. To dig a hole there are several options: use a pick and or a digging bar to break up the rock or contract with a company that has augering equipment or use a backhoe. Plant as directed in the proceeding section for sandy soil.

Planting on a Mound

Many areas in Florida are within 7 ft or so of the water table and experience occasional flooding after heavy rainfall events. To improve plant survival, consider planting fruit trees on a 2 to 3 ft high by 4 to 10 ft diameter mound of native soil.

After the mound is made, dig a hole 3 to 4 times the diameter and 3 times as deep as the container the avocado tree has come in. In areas where the bedrock nearly comes to the surface (rockland soil) follow the recommendations for the previous section. In areas with sandy soil follow the recommendations from the section on planting in sandy soil.

Spacing and Pruning

Planting distances depend on soil type and fertility, current technology, and expertise of the homeowner. Avocado trees in the home landscape should be planted 23 to 30 feet or more (7.0 to 9.1 m) away from buildings and other trees. Trees planted too close to other trees or structures may not grow normally or produce much fruit due to shading.

Soils

Avocado trees do not tolerate flooding or poorly drained soils but are adapted to many types of well-drained soils. Continuously wet or flooded conditions often result in decreased growth and yields, nutrient deficiency symptoms, dieback, and sometimes tree death. Under these conditions, trees are highly susceptible to root infection by Phytophthora fungi.

Care of Avocado Trees in the Home Landscape

To promote growth and regular fruiting, avocado trees should be periodically fertilized and watered and insects, diseases, and weeds controlled on an as needed basis.

Fertilization

In Florida, young trees should be fertilized every 1 to 2 months during the first year, beginning with 1/4 lb (114 g) of fertilizer and increasing to 1 lb (455 g) per tree (Table 4). Thereafter, 3 or 4 applications per year in amounts proportionate to the increasing size of the tree are sufficient but, not to exceed 20 lbs per tree per year.

Fertilizer mixtures containing 6 to 10% nitrogen, 6 to 10% available phosphorus petnoxide, 6 to 10% potash, and 4 to 6% magnesium give satisfactory results with young trees. For bearing trees potash should be increased to 9 to 15% and available phosphoric acid reduced to 2 to 4%. Examples of commonly available fertilizer mixes include 6-6-6-2 [6 (N)-6 (P2O5)-6 (K2O)-2 (Mg)] and 8-3-9-2 [8 (N)-3 (P2O5)-6 (K2O)-3 (Mg)].

From spring through summer, trees should receive 3 to 4 annual nutritional sprays of copper, zinc, manganese, and boron for the first 4 to 5 years. Thereafter, only zinc, manganese, and possibly boron applications are necessary. Avocado trees are susceptible to iron deficiency under alkaline and high pH soil conditions. Iron deficiency can be prevented or corrected by periodic soil applications during the late spring and summer of iron chelates formulated for alkaline and high soil pH conditions (Table 4).

Irrigation (Watering)

Newly planted avocado trees should be watered at planting and every other day for the first week or so and then 1 to 2 times a week for the first couple of months. During prolonged dry periods (e.g., 5 or more days of little to no rainfall) newly planted and young avocado trees (first 3 years) should be well watered twice a week. Once the rainy season arrives, irrigation frequency may be reduced or stopped.

Once avocado trees are 4 or more years old irrigation will be beneficial to plant growth and crop yields during prolonged dry periods. The specific water requirements for mature trees have not been determined. However, as with other tree crops, the period from bloom and through fruit development is important and drought stress should be avoided at this time with periodic watering.

Avocado Trees and Lawn Care, Weed Control, and Mulch

Avocado trees in the home landscape are susceptible to trunk injury caused by lawn mowers and weed eaters. Never hit the tree trunk with lawn mowing equipment and never use a weed eater near the tree trunk. Mechanical damage to the trunk of the tree will result in weakening the tree and if severe enough can cause the tree to dieback or die. Do not use weed and feed products around or near the base of tropical fruit trees as this may cause them to decline.

The easiest way to prevent weeds from becoming established adjacent to the tree is to maintain a grass-free area 2 to 5 ft or more away from the trunk of the tree. Mulching avocado trees in the home landscape helps retain soil moisture, reduces weed problems adjacent to the tree trunk, and improves the soil near the surface. Mulch with a 2 to 6 inch (5-15 cm) layer of bark, wood chips, or similar mulch material. Keep mulch 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm) from the trunk to prevent rotting of the base of the tree.

Roots of mature avocado trees spread beyond the drip-line of the tree canopy and heavy fertilization of the lawn adjacent to avocado trees is not recommended and may reduce fruiting and or fruit quality. The use of lawn sprinkler systems on a timer may result in over watering and cause avocado trees to decline. This is because too much water, too often is being applied which results in root rot.

Pruning

Formative pruning during the first 2 years may be desirable to encourage lateral branching and growth. After several years of production it is desirable to cut back the tops of the trees to 10 to 15 feet (3.1 to 4.6 m). Selectively removing a few upper limbs back to their origin (crotches) each year will help prevent the loss of the lower tree canopy due to shading by the upper canopy. In addition, maintaining a smaller tree facilitates tree care and fruit harvest, makes it easier to spray the tree, and greatly reduces possible storm damage. Do not remove lower tree branches.

Pruning should be done soon after harvest for early varieties, but after danger of frost has passed for late varieties. Severe pruning is sometimes used to reduce tree height or width of very large trees. It does not injure avocado trees, but reduces fruit production for one to several seasons. Once avocado trees become 30 ft (9.1 m) or taller extreme caution should be used in pruning the trees. Climbing trees to prune them is dangerous and not recommended. Pruning of large avocado trees should be done by a professional arborist that is licensed and insured.

Harvest, Ripening, and Storage

Avocado fruits do not ripen on the tree. In general, avocado varieties may be harvested anytime during their season of maturity. Use this as your guide as to when picking your fruit may begin. However, slight year-to-year variations occur in when maturity begins. The easiest way to determine if your avocados are ready to harvest is to harvest one large fruit and place it on your kitchen counter top. A mature fruit ripens in 3 to 8 days after it is picked. If the fruit does not ripen properly (e.g., shrivels, becomes rubbery or exhibits stem end rot), select another fruit (again larger fruit are generally more mature than smaller fruit at the beginning of the season) and repeat the test.

The fruit from an avocado tree does not all have to be harvested at the same time. This feature allows you to leave the fruit on the tree and pick fruit only when you want to eat it. Remember, it takes 3 to 8 days from the time you pick a fruit until it ripens and is ready to eat. As the season of harvest for any given variety passes there is an increased chance the fruit will fall from the tree. So although avocado fruit can be held on the tree, eventually they will drop.

Florida avocados ripen best at temperatures of 60° to 75° F (16° to 24° C). At higher temperatures, fruit ripen unevenly and develop off-flavors. The lowest safe storage temperatures before fruit ripen are 55° F (13° C) for West Indian and 40° F (4° C) for most other Florida varieties. Chilling injury is characterized by a browning or darkening of the skin and/or grayish-brown discoloration of the flesh. After fruit ripen they may be stored in the refrigerator.



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