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The avocado is a rather weird fruit, it lacks sweetness, it's usually green when ripe and needs to be picked from the tree and stored at room temperature before it can be consumed. Often called an avocado pear this is not because the shape resembles a pear but because it softens off the tree.
Today you pay around $3 per avocado. At that price home growing makes a lot of sense as a mature tree can produce hundreds of fruit. Even though they are tropical, avocados grow well in Perth gardens, once you understand what they need.
Being tropical, timing is important, as young avocado trees are vulnerable to cold and frost. So spring, going into early summer is ideal. Choose grafted tree from the nursery rather than a home raised seedling. Seedling trees will eventually fruit but don't be surprised if it eventually translates to 12 or 15 years.
Choose a sunny location and prepare a hole at least twice as wide as the pot that it came in.
Planting out is a critical step to ensure grafted trees 'take'.
Carefully remove the grafted tree from its pot and examine the roots, looking for horizontal encircling roots and a mat of roots at the base. If either of these is seen it's important to cut through the circling roots and remove the mat in order for the tree to get a good start in life. Failure to remove this pattern of root growth can imprison the tree forever.
Add one potful of Baileys Soil Improver Plus to the backfill soil if planting in-ground, If your soil is very sandy, improve first with Baileys Clay & Compost to improve nutrient and water holding capacity. Use this mixture to surround the root ball in the new home. Build up a saucer shaped moat in the surface of the soil so that water is concentrated near the root zone.
Avocadoes can be planted in pots, if planting in a pot use a free draining mix like Baileys Premium Potting Mix. Give your tree a good soaking immediately after planting.
The first three months after planting is a critical time. Moisture stress can stop growth rapidly and if too severe, kill off the plant. To this end a 7.5cm thick layer of Baileys Moisture Mulch will assist to keep the roots moist.
Feeding & Maintenance
Young trees can't handle full sun, frost or strong winds. To get your tree over the hump of the first season in the ground, set up a protective 'hoochi'. Hammer 4 tall tomato stakes into the ground in a square with the tree in the centre. Attach a surround of shade cloth to the stakes to protect the tree from prevailing wind. This climate shelter also increases the humidity around the tree so that it's more like its home environment in tropical Ecuador and Guatemala. After 12 months the shelter can be removed.
Once your tree is up and growing it requires regular fertilising every 2 months from October to April. Use a high potash, organic based fertiliser like Baileys Soil Matters Garden.
Avocado trees don't need to be pruned every year, the main reason for pruning is to shape them or keep them low so you don't need a ladder to pick the fruit. The best time to do so is immediately after harvest.