Booyong Conservation RetreatOrchard

Avocado

We learnt in the first year that avocados don’t like frost and we lost one this past summer due to a dry and hot summer. We have one left, but we will persist as they are a family favourite. I have recently acquired a taste for Avocado and Brett and Jack are long-time fans. If we can keep this one alive, it will grow 10 -12 metres high.
The avocado or Persea americana is native to Central and South America, where the different varieties grow over a range of climates. Like many other fruit trees, it is important to grow the right variety to suit your location and climate. I am uncertain of the kind we planted, but believe it was purchased from Daleys.
What we’ve learnt about the avocado so far – Drainage is important for an avocado tree and the root system does like to get too wet. They are susceptible to ‘root rot’ (Phytophthora (Phytophthora cinnamomi), a common soil-borne fungal infection which affects avocados and spreads in waterlogged soils. They grow well on sloping ground, where water does not settle around the roots and enjoy warm, wet conditions and it is important to keep the water up throughout the growing season and during drought and heat waves. In addition, we need to be mindful not to overwater them in winter. As you can see there is a lot to consider and be mindful of, especially when we are not at the farm consistently during the summer months.
Avocados are highly nutritious, and they produce lots of fruit, so the tree needs to be fed well. Use a complete organic fertiliser like Searles Kickalong Fruit & Flower organic plant in spring, early summer and early autumn with a bit of extra potash and add a dusting of a hundred grams per square metre equivalent of gypsum in the spring. A ph of 5.5 – 7 is most appropriate for avocados. We will also surround them in shade cloth this April to ensure they are protected from frost.
Mulching is essential as avocados are a rainforest tree and surface feeders. A mulch of sugar cane straw and compost can be laid up to 10cm thick and needs to be re-applied every year in August or as required. Comfrey is a beneficial companion plant for the avocado tree by serving as a trap crop for slugs, they also benefit from flowering plants in the garden that attract pollinating bees – rosemary, borage, lavender etc.
According to Gardening Australia Avocados ripen once harvested, and, dependant on variety, this can take about a week to 10 days. “Wait until the first one falls to the ground, and put that in the cupboard, keep it for about a fortnight to ripen and it’ll be ready to eat. And at that stage you know that you can harvest them from the tree. When the little button at the top starts to change colour and goes a bit lighter, just snip it off, put it in a brown paper bag, put it in the pantry for about a week to a fortnight and it will get soft and it will be magnificent”.
There are a variety of Facebook and Pinterest pins suggesting Avocados can be grown from seed, but if you do it this way you would not expect fruit to produce fruit for at least ten years. We’ve had several seeds germinate in the compost and veggie garden at home but have purchased a grafted tree for the farm for this reason.
Avocadoes are so incredibly versatile, we love them in guacamole, on nachos and in smoothies. We also have an incredible dressing we make that is rich and smooth (a family favourite). They are also delicious on bruschetta or smashed on toast under poached eggs at the farm. So many reasons to love them – they’re high in vitamin c and full of anti-oxidants, and K (important for helping your blood to clot) and folate. They also contain minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure) and manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function) and are filled with dietary fibre.
A word of warning regarding all avocado types – many parts of the plant can be highly poisonous to several animals, mainly horses, cattle, goats and birds. The also cannot be fed to chickens, so please be mindful not to do so when you visit the farm.