Native to the Caribbean, Mexican, South American, and Central American regions, the avocado tree belongs to the flowering plant family Lauraceae. This tree is cultivated for its valuable spherical shaped fruit; avocado, a large seed containing berry. It is a large erect tree that can grow up to 70 feet in height, and branches out broadly. It is dense and evergreen, shedding leaves in early spring.
It bears small inconspicuous, greenish-yellow avocados from January to March, in terminal clusters of 200 to 300. Although, pollination occurs with so many flowers, only a hand full are capable of bearing fruit, as nearly 5% of flowers are defective in form and sterile, while most shed pollen before pollination occurs. To grow and yield a good harvest, one should have the basic information of how to take good care of the tree.
The basic tree care starts with its propagation method. One can either graft this tree, or grow it by sprouting its seed. A word about the seed propagation method. An Avocado tree borne from a seed will bear flowers and fruits anywhere from 5 to 14 years. However, the fruits grown from seeds are seldom good to eat. If you still want to try growing from the seeds, here is its method. An avocado tree is grown using the mechanics of hydroponic gardening where water, instead of soil is used to germinate the seed (pit).
- Take an undamaged seed, cut open, and clear all the flesh around the pit.
- Wash the pit, and pat it dry.
- In a glass jar filled with water, and a mouth as big as the pit, settle it (pit) on the top, submerging it only half way in water.
- Place the jar near a well-lit window, replenishing the water every 2 to 3 days, while ensuring that the jar is free of any contaminants.
Moisture and sunlight will aid the rooting process, which will sprout in about 3 to 6 weeks. When the stem has grown six to seven inches in height, your seedling is ready for transplantation. If you find this method too tedious, and are worried about the fruit crop, head straight to a plant nursery, and get yourself an avocado sapling.
Avocado trees are very versatile in their adaptability to different soils and environmental conditions, but they prefer a rich, loose, sandy loam, and well drained soil between pH 6.0 and 7.0, with full or partial sunlight. As they grow large, and replanting them tends to hamper their growth, select a location where they will have ample space to grow. They also need large spaces as their roots are extensive, and can prove to be quite invasive to the plants growing nearby. The roots can aggressively compete for soil nutrients, and are quite capable of choking nearby plants. A young avocado should be watered lightly. Avoid fertilizing it in its first year, after which, feed it with nitrogenous fertilizer late winter and early summer, or four times yearly.
An established avocado tree is a fairly tough tree, but as with all trees, it is also prone to problems. Yellowing of the leaves is an indication of either over-watering or iron deficiency, which can be easily corrected by controlled watering, or a foliate spray of trace elements containing iron for the respective problems. In its early years, until the tree reaches the age of five or six, it requires protection from frost. Another problem is that of biennial fruit bearing in which a heavy yield in one year is followed by poor yields the next. It is also prone to root rot, brown mite, verticillium wilt, phytophthora canker or collar rot, dothiorella fruit rot, sunblotch, thrips, etc. The treatment for these diseases and pests will depend upon individual symptoms and solutions.
With good care, your tree will bear its first fruit in about 5 to 6 years. Avocados are expensive and high in demand. Just a couple of well grown trees can earn you a good amount of moolah in the local market.