In Florida, Southern California and other frost-free regions, the avocado is a practical fruit and shade tree for the home grounds, thriving either in or out of the lawn area. A heavy mulch or cover crop should be maintained beneath the tree to conserve soil moisture and keep weeds in check. Avocado flowers are borne in winter, when subfreezing temperatures will destroy the crop. Its bearing habit is cyclical; heavy crops are invariably followed by lighter yields. Protection must be provided from strong winds and intense dry heat.
Avocados are planted from November through May. The planting hole should be at least twice as large as the root ball, to give the tender roots room to establish themselves.
In the bottom of the hole, place two shovels full of well-rotted compost mixed with the same quantity of good topsoil, preferably a rich sandy loam. If the hole is three feet deep, these amounts could be increased. Add enough topsoil to bring the top of the ball of roots level with the ground. Place the tree on this in the center of the hole and fill in with good soil in which some compost is mixed. This will put humus in the soil. Firm the mixture around the ball of roots as the filling in proceeds. When the hole is almost filled in, have a gentle stream of water from the hose run in to settle the soil, so there will be no air pockets. Let the water run long enough so it will reach down below the ball of roots, then fill in with more soil to bring it up to ground level. Make a basin around the tree to hold water. Give a thorough watering once or twice a week until the newly planted tree is established. When it has put out eight or nine inches of new growth, once in two weeks should be enough to water unless the soil has very free drainage and the weather is very hot. Keep the water running for 45 to 60 minutes. Temperatures and soil conditions vary in different districts. No set of rules can be given that will be used to cover all sections, and a little experience will show what the right amount is. If there is good drainage any excess water will drain away.
As the trees grow, additional feeding may be given by applying a trowel full of blood meal and two of bone meal once in six weeks during spring and summer. Do not apply after August, for the new growth may be nipped in sections where there is danger of frost. Always give deep watering after applying fertilizer.
Do not cut off lower branches. They protect the trunk from sunburn. There are preparations on the market with which to paint the trunk for sun protection.
No pruning is required except to keep the tree in shape, well balanced and symmetrical in growth. In old trees keep all dead wood cut out. Never expose large bare branches to the sun as they are easily sunburned.
Cultivation should not be done near the roots, as they resent being disturbed. Keep a mulch of compost, leaves or old steer manure on the ground around the trees throughout the year. There will have to be several fresh applications of compost, as it will wash into the soil. The mulch should be three to four inches deep. Keep it several inches away from the trunk of the tree. Water the trees well before putting on the mulch.
Varieties of Avocados
Duke is a hardy variety for interior valleys and colder districts. It has a green, oval fruit of pleasant flavor. The tree is large, well branched and is one of the fastest growing avocados, with the fruit ripening in September and October.
Fuerte has a fruit of fine quality and is the leading commercial variety. The tree is large and spreading, and it grows well in the California coastal belt. It ripens in various localities anywhere from November to May.
The fruit of the Edranal variety has a rich, nutty flavor, and does not discolor when fully ripe. The tree is of upright growth, excellent for the home garden, as it requires less room than other varieties. It has large fruit with small seed and ripens from May to August.
Anaheim has a large, green, oval fruit that ripens from May to August. The tree is of upright growth and bears heavily.
Hass has one of the longest ripening seasons and produces a heavy crop each year. This purple black avocado is of fine flavor, and is perhaps the leading summer-ripening avocado grown commercially. It is excellent in the California coastal and foothill areas, ripening from May through October.
Ryan has fruit of finest quality and ripens after Fuerte, bearing a heavy crop each year. The fruit, pear shaped and green, ripens from May to October.
Nabal is particularly good in coastal areas. The fruit is round with seed and smooth skin. The flesh is rich and of exceptionally fine flavor, ripening from June to September.
Pueblo is a very fine home variety which is hardy to frost. From November to January the small trees bear heavy crops of large dark pear-shaped fruit with superior flavor.
Nutritional Value of Avocados
Avocados are rich in vitamins A, C and E. Other nutrients include thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, potassium, calcium, and iron. Avocados are high in unsaturated fatty acids. Because of their high unsaturated fatty acid content, they are credited with the ability to lower the cholesterol level in the bloodstream.
Avocados also make fine potted plants in-doors. To start the seed, place it large end down in the mouth of a jar full of water. Insert toothpicks in the seed. When a root forms and shoots appear, it is ready to pot. Grow near a sunny window, and pinch of terminal growth to prevent spindliness.