Tuesday, April 21, 2009

About Avocados - Grow Your Own Tree

Don't throw out that seed! You can grow a beautiful houseplant or even your own tree following these simple steps.

Wash the seed. Using three toothpicks, suspend it broad end down over a water-filled glass to cover about an inch of the seed.
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.
When the stem is six to seven inches long, cut it back to about three inches.
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.
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.
The more sunlight, the better.
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.
When the stem is 12 inches high, cut it back to 6 inches to encourage the growth of new shoots.
Don't expect your house plant to bear fruit. Although this does occur occasionally, it usually requires grafting. A plant grown from seed will take anywhere from five to 13 years to flower and bear fruit. Fruit on trees grown from seeds are seldom good to eat.

Avocados in the Home Garden
California Avocado trees are one of the most popular tropical fruit trees used in landscaping in zones 9, 10 and 11. 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 7-4-2 fertilizer and zinc. Feed young trees 1/3 to 1/2 pound of actual nitrogen per tree per year, spread out over several applications if you like.
When watering, it is best to soak the soil well, then allow it to dry out somewhat before watering again. At planting, the tree can hold about 2 gallons of water. Depending on the weather, your tree may need a gallon of water a day along the coast. Typically, trees need to be watered two to three times a week. A mature tree will take about 20 gallons of water a day.
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.



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