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Interested in Growing Avocados? Check Your Soil First

In the past few years, an increasing number of homeowners have been bitten by the fruit-tree bug. Instead of roses or marigolds, people are interested in growing their own citrus, pear, apple or avocado trees.

But whether you want to start producing tree fruits with an eye toward profit, or you are simply interested in stocking your kitchen with fresh fruit that you grew yourself, it makes sense to select a species and variety that warrants a high price tag. You’ll either pocket more cash while selling your crops at the local farmer’s market or save more money at the grocery store, but you’ll help your bottom line in either case.

And if you are interested in producing a high-priced tree fruit, it is hard to find a better example than the avocado. Avocados are relatively expensive fruit in the first place, but because of climate change and other socioeconomic factors, it is likely to increase drastically over the next several decades. In fact, future harvests are expected to fall by about 40 percent, which will cause the price of avocados to skyrocket.

But you must be sure that you are equipped to care for avocado trees before you start shopping for your stock. You’ll obviously need access to a reliable (and affordable) water supply and plenty of sun exposure, but one of the most critical aspects of avocado production relates to the soil you have available.

Make sure that you address the following soil characteristics before setting out to install your new trees:

  • Soil Structure: Avocados are shallow-rooted trees, whose roots are incapable of penetrating into compacted soils, so it is always best to break up the soil in the planting hole before introducing the tree. They prefer very coarse, well-drained, loamy soils, and they will struggle to thrive in heavy clay soils. Additionally, it is imperative that avocados not be planted too deeply, as this can stress the root systems and damage the trunk. Avocado trees cannot tolerate soggy soil, particularly while the temperatures are low, so it is better to err on the shallow side when you are planting these trees. Many California-based avocado farmers grow their trees on raised mounds, to help ensure adequate drainage and prevent root rot.

 

  • pH: Avocados grow best in slightly acidic soils, with a pH of between 5 and 7. Alkaline conditions limit the ability of avocado trees to absorb iron and zinc, which will ultimately lead to their demise. You can use elemental Sulphur to help reduce the pH of the soil when necessary, but you must be sure to plan ahead and address these issues before planting your avocados, as it can take six months or longer to properly adjust the pH.

 

  • Salt: Avocado trees are very sensitive to salt. Salt spray from the ocean, salt in the local water supply and salt in the soil are all problematic, so it is important to consider the salt content of these things and your geographic location before deciding to grow avocados.

 

  • Fertilization: Avocado trees respond best to small, frequent applications of fertilizer, rather than infrequent and heavy applications. Nitrogen and potassium (particularly after the trees begin to produce fruit) are the most important nutrients to supply to young avocados, while supplemental phosphorus rarely appears necessary. By the time they are about 10 years old, most avocado trees have produced a thick layer of mulch, comprised of their shed leaves. This usually eliminates the need for supplemental nitrogen.