Summer through autumn can be some of the best seasons purely for the avocados. The avocado fruit is one of nature’s superfoods, both for its health benefits and its ability to taste good however you eat it. Avo toast, avo on salad, avo in guac — breakfast, brunch, sneaky midnight snack — the possibilities are numerous and delicious.
There’s always the option of running out to the shops for some avocados, but you can also grow avocados at your own place. That way, when they produce fruit, you’re right there to eat it!
If you want your own avocados to spread, slice, or scoop all for yourself, here’s a guide on how to grow avocado trees — right in your backyard.
All About Avo
The avocado (Persea americana) is actually native to Central America, and has existed in their cultures for thousands of years. Since then, it’s spread to other tropical and subtropical regions, but can also grow in milder climates.
The Hass avocado is one of the most popular here in Australia because of its creamy, buttery taste. As a tree, it can grow to 10m in height and its branches can spread 8m wide. Harvest Hass avocados from August to December.
If you prefer smaller avocados, there’s the Fuerte avocado, which produces small-to-medium avos from April to June. Contrary to its fruit size, it’s one of the tallest varieties. The Fuerte tree is 12m in height and 8m in spread, so make sure you have room!
The Wurtz avocado is a dwarf variety, perfect for pots or compact gardens. Despite being a dwarf cultivar, the Wurtz avocado does bear medium-sized fruit. It reaches a height of 4m and a spread of 6m, and bears fruit from August to October.
Why Grow An Avocado Tree
An avocado tree is one of the easiest trees to grow from seed in your garden — the only caveat is that it takes a long time. (10 years!) If you don’t want to wait as long, grafted young trees bought from a local nursery will take about half the time to produce fruit. But once they do, you’ll have yourself an avo feast.
As mentioned, avocados are one of nature’s superfoods. They’re jam-packed with nutrients: fibre, folate, vitamins C and E, magnesium — and even more potassium than a banana! They’re also rich in monounsaturated fats (oleic acid), particularly the variety that’s most common down under: the Hass.
The fruit is an excellent dietary addition, even for babies! Mash it up for baby food, or put some on toast, or slice it into a salad — it’s everything you’ve avo wanted.
Where To Grow Avocado Trees
Avocado trees grow best in tropical and subtropical climates — in Australia, that’s zones 1 to 3. Still, it’s also possible to grow the appropriate varieties in zones 4 to 6 so long as there’s no frost.
If you live somewhere warm, plant your trees in autumn to avoid your plants withering in the hot sun before they’re established. In areas that experience frost, plant avocado trees in spring.
Plant avocado trees where they can get plenty of sunlight — just be aware of young trees in the summer, since they can be sunburned. They should also be kept out of strong winds, particularly while still maturing.
Like many fruit trees, the avocado tree prefers well drained soil. For a garden, plant your avocado trees deep (at least 1m!) and in fertile ground (anything but clay will do). The trees like slightly more acidic soil (pH 5.5), so check your soil conditions before planting. If in doubt, you can hire a professional gardener to help you clean and prep your garden ahead of time.
For potting mix, choose a high-quality, well drained soil without clay mixed in.
How To Grow An Avocado Tree
From avocado seed
Avocado growing is easy to do from seed (or pit!). It just takes some effort and a lot of patience — a decade of it — to get your homegrown avocados for eating.
- Once you’ve eaten up all the fruit (which shouldn’t take long), take the seed (or pit) and clean it. You can soak the pit in water to loosen any remaining fruit. Be careful not to remove the brown skin — that’s the seed cover.
- Find the ‘bottom’ of your avocado seed — the flatter part of the seed. It’s important because this is the section that will go into water; it won’t sprout otherwise.
- Pierce the seeds with three toothpicks around the circumference. This will act as ‘scaffolding’, supporting the seed as it rests in water.
- Half-submerge the seeds in a clear glass of water. Place the glass somewhere with plenty of sunlight, and change the water only as needed — about once a week.
- Wait for the seed to sprout in about 2-8 weeks. If you’ve got no luck, try again!
- When the stem reaches 15cm, cut it back to about half its length. When it reaches 15cm again, it’s ready to transfer.
- Place your sprouts in a 30cm diameter pot with soil, each with the top half exposed. Leave it somewhere to soak up the sun.
- Water frequently to keep the soil moist but not soaked. If your leaves are yellow, not green, that means your plant is overwatered. Let it dry out for a few days to prevent the roots from rotting.
- When the plant is established, transfer it out to your garden to give it the needed room to grow. Slowly taper off watering as it develops. After that, you’ll only need to wait a year or ten to enjoy your very own avocados right in your garden.
NOTE: If you’re growing a Wurtz avocado tree or similar, simply transfer to a bigger pot as needed!
Grafting is the process of biologically joining two sections of different trees. In the case of avocados, you’ll be grafting an avocado cultivar branch (the scion) to the rootstock of another close relative. This speeds up the fruit-bearing process, sometimes giving you a harvest in half the usual time.
However, grafting avocados isn’t easy, even for professionals. If you’re going to attempt, make sure to buy a graft plant from a nursery that’s accredited by the Avocado Nursery Voluntary Accreditation Scheme (ANVAS) to ensure you’re getting a tree of high quality.
It may take longer, but as a DIY avocado grower, you’re better off doing it from seed. Just prep your soil well, mind the water content, and go grow your avo!
How To Harvest Homegrown Avocados
Avocados mature on the tree, but they won’t ripen until they’re picked. Check if your fruits are ready for harvest by picking one — just pluck it off the tree — and bringing it indoors for a week. If it ripens but doesn’t shrivel, go grab some toast and invite some friends over for brunch!
Avoca-Do’s and Don’ts
While a single tree can successfully produce fruit on its own, growers of avocados prefer to plant two or more trees together. There are two types of avocado trees — A Type (female flowers in the morning, male in the afternoon) and B Type (female flowers in the afternoon, male flowers in the morning). This leads to cross-pollination, allowing your avocado tree to bear fruit.
It’s important not to overwater your tree since this can lead to root rot. While the tree is establishing itself, water when the top layer is dry. Otherwise, you only need to supplement your mature tree with water during dry months.
Fertilising and Mulching
Fertilise young trees regularly while they’re establishing themselves. Otherwise, only use fertiliser during fruiting season, to give your avocados a boost.
When trimming your tree, never cut more than one-third of a branch. Light pruning can be done year round, but heavy pruning should be saved for winter to spring.
Cut the tallest branches to lessen its height, and its outermost branches to keep its width in check. If you anticipate difficulty — or if your tree is too tall for comfort — you can get it professionally pruned instead!
The avocado tree is great for companion plants because of its wide canopy. It’s particularly great for tropical plants that thrive in partial shade. Some ideal companions for your avocado tree include lavender, onions and garlic, strawberries, and herbs like basil and coriander.