Avocado is primarily grown in Rio Grande Valley and is also grown in southern part of Texas. The fruit is an important ingredient in Mexican cuisine, and because of the evergreen leaves of the tree, many people are now interested in growing avocado in their home gardens. So, here is a guide to avocado horticulture that you will find extremely useful.
An avocado tree cannot grow in extreme cold. While the young plant does not like direct sunlight, it is considered a tropical tree. It flourishes in regions that are frost free and even light frost can kill the tree. So, only grow avocado in your garden if you area does not get frost.
Select a location to plant the tree. The soil in the area should be well drained soil and you should also be able to protect the tree from cold climatic conditions. It is best to plant the tree in the south side of your house. Also, bear in mind that the avocado tree can grow quite big, so do not plant it close to your home.
When it comes to avocado horticulture, there are three varieties of avocados that are popular. These are West Indian variety, Guatemalan variety and the Mexican variety. The West Indian variety cannot tolerate cold growing conditions at all and produces fruits that have a watery flavor. However, this variety is resistant to several diseases and can tolerate salinity.
The Mexican variety can tolerate cold growing conditions, but not saline ones. The fruits are ready for consumption in summer and have a great flavor. This fruit is green, purple or black with a thin skin, which makes the fruit more prone to diseases. The leaves give out a characteristic smell of anise when crushed. This smell is missing in other varieties of avocado.
The Guatemalan variety is somewhere between the Mexican and West Indian varieties.
Usually, growing an avocado from a seed is not recommended; and if you select a seedling, it could be a decade before the tree begins to give fruits. You should opt for branches that are cut for grafting to grow the tree. Place the graft in a growing medium that does not contain soil. This will facilitate the growth of roots. Keep the graft in this growing medium until the plant is healthy and well established, and then transfer to the soil. Stake the transplanted tree and provide some sort of shade during the first few months. You can use a burlap sack and prop it on some sticks to protect the plant from the sun.
Remove grass and weeds from the surrounding area to reduce competition. Water the plant slowly and deeply, but do not allow the water to stagnate around the plant. During the first year, fertilize the plant with 1.5 cups of ammonium sulfate each month. Thereafter, in the 2nd year, fertilize with one up each month, and in the 3rd year fertilize with two cups each month. The period to fertilize the tree is from February till September. Do not prune the tree during the first three years, but get rid of dead branches in spring. If you notice that any branches were damaged during winter, wait for the new growth to start before cutting of the affected limb.
During winter, protect the growing tree from cold by wrapping it up with a tarp, quilt or plastic. You can even introduce a source of heat into the tent to ensure that the tree keeps its leaves. Heat can be provided with stoves, camp lanterns or incandescent lights.
Your grafted avocado tree should be ready to bear fruits after two years. The amount of fruit that the tree bears is dependent on the variety you have planted. Most varieties should be ready for harvesting in summer, but some hybrids only ripen in September or even October. The fruits do not ripen on the tree and hence, they have to be picked and then kept until they are ripe enough to use. You will know a fruit is ripe by gently applying pressure on it. If it is soft, it is ready for eating or being used as an ingredient in one of your dishes. Usually, avocado fruits ripen 3 to 8 days after being harvested.
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Texas A and M University Extension Cooperative: Home Fruit Production - Avocado