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Cold-Hardy Avocados

COLD HARDY AVOCADOS




Avocados Persea Americana



Avocados are considered a tropical fruit, grown commercially in California, Mexico, and extreme south Florida near Homestead. However, varieties discovered in the mountains of Mexico have considerable cold resistance, and will survive temperatures into the mid teens to low 20s, especially if grown in a protected location. At the University of Florida campus, as every agriculture student remembers, there was a medium sized dark-skinned avocado (known as 'Gainesville') that ripened every year next to Hume Library (where we all studied), and was sought after by both the students in the know and squirrels!

We grow a number of varieties of cold hardy Avocados, that are adapted to Zones 8-10, from coastal SC to TX!

Cold Protection

Make sure you plant them on the south face of a building, or underneath overhead canopy, much like protecting citrus. Avocado trees in the home landscape should be planted 25 to 30 feet apart or more. Placing freeze cloth over them during hard freezes also helps protect them. Another helpful technique is to mulch the plant above the graft union, so that it protects the rootstock and the graft from cold air (soil is warmer than air). The coldest temperatures listed per avocado variety depend on winter weather conditions. Some conditions such as age of the tree, elevation, moisture levels, relative humidity and wind speed can result in a variance of the temperatures listed. Please protect all young plants during temperatures in the mid 40's. Consider maintaining the height of your avocado tree to 20' to make an easier fruit harvest and to provide winter protection.

Planting site

Your planting site selection should be well-drained, non-low lying area, sandy loam soils with. Full sun is required for fruit production minimum of 6 hours of full sun. Prepare the area by removing any weeds prior to planting. This step is often over looked but is absolutely critical to any successful planting. Weeds and grass steal light, water and nutrients from your trees.

Soils

Avocado trees do not tolerate flooding or poorly drained soils but are adapted to many types of well-drained soils. Continuously wet or flooded conditions often result in decreased growth and yields, nutrient deficiency symptoms, dieback, and sometimes tree death. Under these conditions, trees are highly susceptible to root infection by Phytophthora fungi.

Trees grow well and produce satisfactory yields in the sandy and limestone soils of Florida if not subjected to flooding or poor drainage. In the home landscape, select an area that does not flood. If there is a potential for excessively wet or flooded soil conditions plant on a large hill or mound made up of native soil, 2 to 4 ft high (0.6 to 1.2 m) by 4 to 6 ft diameter (1.2 to 1.8 m).

Planting

Dig the hole twice as wide as the pot but no deeper than the root-ball. Do not add soil amendments to the soil such as compost, peat,mulch or organic matter, this acts like a sponge and increases root rot and robs the trees of nitrogen from the fertilizer (microbes breaking down the organic matter use nitrogen in the process). Also, do not use fertilizer, potting soil, or chemicals on your young trees.

Carefully remove the tree from the pot keeping the soil around the roots intact. It helps to tap the outside of the container to loosen the edge. Do not yank the tree out of the container as this can separate the roots from the tree. Carefully separate the roots if they are root bound. Plant the tree at the same height they were grown in the pot, not deeper.

Partially fill in the planting hole with the native soil. Set the tree in the middle of the hole. Avoid planting the tree too deep. Using some soil, secure the tree in a straight position, then fill with native soil and firming the soil around the lower roots making sure there are no air pockets. Keep back-filling until the soil is above the root collar.

We recommend creating a water-holding basin around the hole and water the trees in thoroughly at planting. Remove the berm at the end of the second growing season. Water slowly at the drip-line. Water in thoroughly, making sure there are no air pockets around the roots. Air pockets prevent roots from growing into the soil around it. After the water has soaked in, spread a protective layer of mulch 2-4" deep around the trunk pulling the mulch a few inches away from the trunk for good air circulation. Choices for mulch, leaf litter, hay, shredded or fine bark, pine needles or use weed mats to prevent weed competition.

Remove the pot stake that came with the tree. If the tree appears stable staking is not needed. If using Grow Tubes then staking the tree is not necessary. If staking is necessary, hold the trunk with one hand to find the height at which the unsupported top can stand up on its own and will spring back to a vertical position if lightly flexed. Allow trees a slight amount of flex rather than holding them rigidly in place. Tree straps should be made of material that will not injure or girdle the tree.

Fertilization

Avocado trees should be fed on a regular basis after their first year of growing in the ground or in a container. Fertilize using well balanced citrus / avocado food at least 4 times per year and as often as once a month. You can try Espoma Citrus Tone & Avocado variety fertilizer.
Remember that avocado trees that
have been well feed year-round are better able to deal with cold temperatures in the winter.

Water

Avocados prefer infrequent deep root waterings. Do not over water avocado trees! Over watering is often the number one factor in causing root rot to develop in the first place. It is best to allow trees to dry out before you apply water again. In most cases, avocados will not need to be watered during the winter. However it is important to water in the winter if there are prolonged periods without rain. It is a good idea to apply a 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch to avocado trees each year to help retain soil moisture and improve soil quality. Apply mulch in spring and fall spreading it out 2 to 3 feet from the trunk of the tree.

Pruning

Formative pruning during the first 2 years may be desirable to encourage lateral branching and growth. After several years of production it is desirable to cut back the tops of the trees to 10 to 15 feet (3.1 to 4.6 m). Selectively removing a few upper limbs back to their origin (crotches) each year will help prevent the loss of the lower tree canopy due to shading by the upper canopy. In addition, maintaining a smaller tree facilitates tree care and fruit harvest, makes it easier to spray the tree, and greatly reduces possible storm damage. Do not remove lower tree branches.

Pruning should be done soon after harvest for early varieties, but after danger of frost has passed for late varieties. Severe pruning is sometimes used to reduce tree height or width of very large trees. It does not injure avocado trees, but reduces fruit production for one to several seasons.


Avocados trees are classified 'A' or 'B' type. An 'A' or 'B' will produce by itself, but avocado trees produce heavier crops when an 'A' and a 'B' type are planted in close proximity.


Avocados will begin to bear fruit within 3-4yrs of age.


Tree Form: Central leader
Height: 30-65' (depending on type)
Pollination: Self-pollinating
Bears: July-Mid December (depending on type) Within 3-4 yrs of age.
Light requirements: Full sun

Soil type: Well-drained, non- low lying areas.
Fertilization: After planting, wait about a month before fertilizing. Fertilizer mixtures containing 6 to 10% nitrogen, 6 to 10% available phosphorus petnoxide, 6 to 10% potash, and 4 to 6% magnesium give satisfactory results with young trees.
Watering: Newly planted avocado trees should be watered at planting and every other day for the first week or so and then 1 to 2 times a week for the first couple of months. During prolonged dry periods (e.g., 5 or more days of little to no rainfall) newly planted and young avocado trees (first 3 years) should be well watered twice a week.
Maintenance: Easy
USDA Hardiness Zone: 8-10


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