Want to do yourself and everyone else in our community a favor? Plant an avocado tree. The tree will help remove excess carbon from the atmosphere, will be a source of a wonderful nutritious fruit to share and enjoy, and will give you shade and beauty as it grows into a mature tree. Use avocado diplomacy and give an avocado to spread good will and help the environment. Here’s how to properly select and plant an avocado tree and make the world a better place.
There are many varieties of avocado but some of the most popular — and delicious — are Hass, Fuerte, Reed, Gwen, Pinkerton and Lamb-Hass. These varieties should be in stock or you should be able to order them from your local nursery professional.
Where to Plant
Selecting where to plant the tree is a very important consideration that people often overlook. An avocado tree does best if planted in an area that gets full sun, has well-drained soil, is protected from windy conditions, and is in a frost-free area.
* Drainage test: Dig a hole about 18 inches deep and fill it with water. If the water has not drained completely by the next day you may want to chose a different site or you may need to plant your tree on a mound: Click here for tips on how to “mound” avocado trees in areas of poor drainage. (Ignore the section on fungicide use.)
All varieties of avocados are grafted on to a rootstock of some type. These rootstocks may have certain advantages such as a tolerance to disease or adverse growing conditions. Since Phytophthora root rot is a major problem in our area, ask your nursery representative if he or she has or can get you a tree that has a root rot-resistant rootstock such as Duke 7, Toro Canyon or Merensky (Dusa).
Selecting a Tree
Avocado trees are often available in several different sizes at your local nursery, but I recommend planting a healthy young tree is in a plastic sleeve or a container of 5 gallons or less. Trees that have been transplanted multiple times tend to be less healthy and more expensive.
When to Plant
Avocado trees can be planted any time of year but the best time to plant them is in spring while the soil is starting to warm. February, March and April are good months to plant. Whenever you plant them, it’s best to avoid planting during periods of frost or high temperatures.
How to Plant an Avocado Tree
First you will need the following for planting: the tree, a shovel, one or two bags of mulch, and 10 to 20 pounds of gypsum. If you have lot of gophers in your yard, you may consider a pre-made gopher wire basket to protect the tree’s roots while it’s getting established. Gophers can kill young unprotected trees.
1. Dig a hole about 15 inches deep or the depth of the tree’s root ball and two to three times the width of the pot or sleeve the tree came in. Gently tamp the dirt at the bottom of the hole to remove clumps or clods of soil. Make sure the hole is large enough to accommodate the gopher basket if needed. Place 1 to 2 inches of soil on top of the wire and tamp down the dirt to create a smooth air pocket-free area to place the root ball on.
2. Carry the tree to the hole with one hand under the tree supporting the roots and the other hand supporting the side of the container. This is very important to avoid damaging the tree.
3. Gently place the tree in the hole on firm soil to check for correct planting depth. The top of the tree’s soil line should be slightly above the native soil line (about ½ to 1 inch). If the tree is in a plastic sleeve without a bottom, cut the sleeve, being careful not to cut too deeply and damage the roots, and remove the plastic. If your tree came in a regular plastic pot, gently roll the pot on its side to separate the roots for the side of the pot. Then carefully remove the tree from the pot, taking care to keep the root ball intact, and gently place it in the hole.
4. Back fill the hole with moist native soil (amendment is not necessary and may damage the roots) and gently tamp the soil around the root ball with the shovel handle to remove air pockets. Make sure the upper surface of the root ball is not covered with dirt and use excess soil to build a raised basin around the tree to contain water. Evenly spread 10 to 20 pounds of gypsum around the base of the tree and gently water the tree, making sure to wet the top of the root ball. Fill and let the basin drain a few times to thoroughly wet the soil.
5. Finally cover the wetted area with a layer of mulch 2 to 3 inches deep keeping the mulch off the tree’s trunk.
6. Make sure to keep the tree well watered especially in its first year. For young trees this means 1 to 4 times per week depending on weather conditions. In extreme heat they may need to be watered daily.
That’s it! I hear many tales of unsuccessful avocado tree plantings, but with a little forethought and care that can be avoided.