Avocado trees are a popular fruit crop that need a good amount of sunlight to grow to their full potential. Avocado trees prefer warmer climates with plentiful sunlight exposure and minimal frost exposure. Inadequate sunlight exposure can result in poor flowering, and lack of pollination, resulting in smaller or non-existent fruit.
Most avocado trees grow best in either full sun or partial shade, receiving at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight during the growing season. The long-term health of avocado trees also benefits from more sunlight exposure, as it increases photosynthesis, strengthens the tree’s structure and can improve overall fruit production.
Excessive sunlight exposure isn’t a good thing either. Avocado trees have delicate foliage that’s vulnerable to sunburn and other damages from intense sunlight exposure. If too much sunlight is present, it is possible to burn the foliage and cause irreversible damage.
How does a grower know the ideal amount of sunlight for their location? According to the American Horticultural Society, an avocado tree needs around eight to 10 hours of direct sunlight per day to produce sufficient flowering and fruit. It is ideal to place your avocado tree with its canopy facing east, so that it’s exposed to maximum sunlight throughout the day.
Plants can react differently based on the climate and care they’re receiving. Jean-Michel Jamet, an expert in agricultural sciences from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, says sunlight should be carefully monitored and adjusted accordingly. He recommends that growers use a light meter to monitor the amount of light their tree is receiving. If the light is below eight hours per day, he recommends supplementing with artificial light.
According to Lane Sutton, a horticulture expert from the University of Florida, growers should place their trees in locations protected from the wind. Wind can cause leaf damage and stunt fruit production. He also recommends using a light shade cloth if needed, to create the ideal balance of sunlight and protection.
In addition to the right amount and positioning of sunlight, avocado trees also need additional nutrients to thrive. Rami Catano, a horticulture expert from the University of California Cooperative Extension says that regular fertilization is key for excellent growth. He says a well-balanced fertilizer with trace elements of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium can help fulfill the nutrient requirements.
Avocado trees require plentiful watering throughout the year. The amount of water needed varies based on the season and the tree’s age. Young trees need more water than mature trees. Receiving too much or too little water can result in stunted growth and problems with flowering and fruit production.
According to the University of California, an avocado tree needs up to five gallons of water per week during winter and up to 10 gallons of water per week during the peak growing season. It is important to inspect soil moisture during hot periods, as an avocado tree can suffer from lack of water very quickly in the heat. Watering should be done during the early morning to avoid fungal diseases, and should also be done evenly on all sides of the tree.
Anav Tal, an agricultural engineer from the University of California, also recommends performing an irrigation audit every 6 to 12 months. The audit should check for leaks, necessary repairs and optimal water levels. According to him, the ideal irrigation system should deliver a steady flow of water that can be controlled from a reliable source.
Caring for Avocado Tree
Frequent pruning can benefit an avocado tree, as it controls its size and shape. Pruning should be done during the winter and summer months, when the tree is dormant. Pruning should only be done when necessary, and any limbs larger than two inches in diameter should be removed.
According to the University of California, it’s also important to periodically remove dead, damaged or diseased branches. This helps protect other parts of the tree from harm and keeps it healthy. Avocado trees are prone to several types of diseases and pests, so it’s important to inspect the tree on a regular basis.
Overall, avocado trees require adequate sunlight, ample water and enough nutrient supply to reach their full potential. If a grower is able to provide all these factors in the right proportions, their tree will bear both beautiful foliage and delicious fruits.
Avocado trees are also vulnerable to damage from extreme weather. According to the University of California, they’re sensitive to frost damage and hurricanes. When dealing with frost, the grower should cover the tree with a frost cloth or wrap it in plastic sheeting to avoid frost burns. When dealing with hurricane-force winds, the tree’s canopy can be protected with ropes or staking.
There are plenty of additional measures a grower can take to further protect their avocado tree. Placing a cover over the canopy when strong winds are predicted, checking for signs of stress frequently, planting disease resistant varieties and performing regular soil tests are all important steps to maintain the health of an avocado tree.
Harvesting and Storage
Avocado fruits are commonly harvested from the tree by hand. Depending on the variety, the fruit will reach maturity after six to twelve months on the tree. To determine if an avocado is ripe for harvesting, look for signs like a slight yielding when lightly pressed, and a change in color from green to yellowish-brown.
For best results, harvest the fruit as soon as it’s ripe. This is because the ripening process will continue even after the fruit’s been picked. Ripe fruits can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator, depending on how fast you plan to eat them.
Avocado fruits can also be harvested from the ground. When an avocado reaches full maturity, it falls from the tree, making it easier for a grower to collect them and avoid climbing the tree.
Seed Propagation of Avocado Trees
Avocado trees are also popularly propagated from seed. This process is relatively simple, as most avocado varieties can be grown from seed. To begin, a grower should select a healthy avocado and allow it to sit at room temperature until it softens and the outer layer of skin falls off. Once the skin has been removed, the grower should submerge the seed in water and allow it to germinate.
The seed should be monitored during the germination process until a root has emerged. At this point, the seed should be placed in a pot of soil, taking care to not disturb the root. The seed should then be watered and kept in a warm, sunny location. As the seed grows in size, it will need to be re-potted in a larger pot, with soil amended with compost, manure or fertilizer.
Once a seedling has reached about 12 inches in height, it can be transferred outside if the grower is located in a favorable climate. If not, the seedling should remain indoors until the outdoor temperatures are suitable for avocado growth.
Common Growing Mistakes
Avocado trees are fairly simple to grow, yet they’re still open to mistakes. Some common ones include over-fertilizing which causes excessive tree growth, and under-fertilizing which causes reduction in flowering and fruit production.
Vance Costello, an urban horticulture expert from the University of Maryland Extension, also cautions against planting an avocado tree in soil that is too clay or sandy. Clay or sandy soil can cause problems like soil compaction and nutrient deficiency. He recommends mixing the soil with organic material, to loosen its structure and increase water infiltration.
In addition, Costello cautions against becoming reliant on chemical solutions for pest control. He says chemical solutions should be used sparingly, and in cases where other pest control methods haven’t worked. He also says a stationary water source should be avoided near the tree, to prevent mosquito infestation.
With the right care and maintenance, an avocado tree can live for many years and provide delicious fruits. Providing the perfect balance of sunlight, water and nutrients is the key to having a healthy and productive tree.