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A guide to growing your own avocadoes

There are a few tricks to growing avocados successfully but the preparation is so worth it. 

Could there be a more perfect food than the avocado? I think not. Creamy, fatty (but good fatty), delicious with almost everything, and oh so healthy – it’s hard to beat this superstar fruit.

The avocado plant is thought to have originated in Mexico but was cultivated throughout South America before Europeans arrived. The seeds were then distributed all over the world and I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say I’m very happy they made it here!

It may seem like a far-off dream to have your very own supply of avocados but with a little know-how, it is possible.

Although you can grow an avocado tree from seed it is much less reliable and will take a long time to produce fruit. The best idea is to buy a grafted avocado tree from a garden centre; choose the healthiest looking one you can find.

Grafted plants normally produce fruit within two to four years, compared to about eight to 20 years for trees grown from seed. For an avocado tree to thrive it needs a relatively warm climate. Areas of the country such as Marlborough, Nelson, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Bay of Plenty, Auckland and Northland are ideal climates. In theory, if you can grow lemons you can grow avos.

When it comes to choosing which variety to grow, it’s really personal preference. ‘Zutano’ and ‘Fuerte’ are the hardier varieties and can withstand a small amount of frost. You can also get dwarf cultivars that are good for urban areas or where not so much space is available. To increase pollination and provide a better yield, plant two avocado trees – an A type (e.g.‘Haas’), and a B type (eg ‘Fuerte’).

Do the ground work

Preparation is key when it comes to gardening and even more so when growing avocados. As a rule, the better the soil, the better your plants will grow. The best time to plant avocados is spring, and they prefer sandy, well-drained soil. If you have clay as your base, use a digging fork or something similar to open up room for the taproots to go down. Then build up a good-sized mound to plant in. Shelter from wind is essential for avocados. Tuck them in behind other plants that protect them from southerly draughts. If you can, extend this shelter on each side depending on what winds your property is affected by. Young avocado trees will also need protection from the sun as their branches and trunk can get easily sunburnt. Some posts around trees with shade cloth draped over can help with this until they have a protective canopy of their own.

When you’re ready to plant:

·Early morning or evening are ideal times to plant so that your plants aren’t exposed to the hot sun straight away.

·Soak your avocado tree in a bucket of seaweed or plant tonic and allow it to drain; this will help prevent transplant shock and give your plant
a healthy boost. 

·Choose your spot carefully as the roots of an avocado are very sensitive and don’t like being moved. They also need to be a sunny position to receive at least six hours of sunshine a day.

·Add a layer of organic compost or similar to the planting area before digging a hole approximately twice the depth and width of the root ball of your plant. Avocados are not big fans of clay. The best soil to plant avocado trees in is free-draining loam or volcanic soil with organic matter.

·Gently loosen the root ball of your plant and position the plant in the centre of the hole. Fill in with more compost and press down gently around the base of the plant. 

·Water in well and continue to water regularly. Watering your avocado tree is very important, especially when it’s young. If you think you’ll forget, set up an irrigation system to do the hard work for you. 

· Surround the base of the tree with a generous layer of mulch. 

·Plant ground-cover companion plants nearby, such as nasturtiums and other bee- and insect-friendly varieties. 

·After about one year of growth, start regularly feeding young trees. Established trees benefit from feeding in late winter and early summer. 

·Avocados can be harvested from early spring to early autumn when they are at mature size but are still hard. They will only soften once picked and left at room temperature. 

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