How to grow avocados in Perth

Growing avocados in Perth

Australian avocados have quickly become a staple for many households and it’s easy to see why when they taste so delicious and who doesn’t love smashed avo on toast. However avocados can be quiet expensive to buy from the supermarket because they are a ‘super food’ along with kale, walnuts and eggs, making avocados are a highly sought-after commodity. What a lot of people don’t realise is that you can grow your own avocados at home in Western Australia.

Avocados are grown commercially in Western Australia from Carnarvon in the north to Albany in the south. Significant production areas include Carabooda and Gingin north of Perth, with Busselton, Manjimup and Pemberton to the south. Smaller growing areas are scattered along the coast.

The main production season for commercially grown avocados in Western Australia runs from August through to February.

Hass accounts for more than 90% of production. It’s easy to know why when it is clearly the best eating avocado.

When to plant avocados:
People think of avocados as tropical trees but some varieties can grow in cold areas where temperatures reach 0C in winter.

Due to the climatic differences of the growing regions, WA avocados can be available all year round.

Avocado varieties:
One of the main questions regarding growing your own avocados is, do you need two avocado trees?

In order to answer this you must understand the strange flowering behaviour of avocados. They all produce perfect flowers, meaning both the male and female parts of the flower are found on the one flower, but the flower opens and closes twice a day. We divide avocado trees into Group A and Group B.

For the home gardener the Wurtz dwarf avocado is a good place to start, popular with home gardeners as it grows to two to two and a half metres tall (most are three to four metres high for comparison) and is self-pollinating so doesn’t require another tree.

The Hass and Fuerte varieties, which are sufficiently self fertile to produce crops without the cross pollination of another variety can be purchased from many nurseries also.

They will also cross-pollinate each other, so crops can be increased by planting two trees. Hass has smaller, thick-skinned fruit, while Fuerte has thinner-skinned fruit.

List of West Australian avocado varieties:
Hass (A)
– most grown commercial variety in Western Australia because it tastes the best. It turns black when ripe. Matures in April – August. Rich, nutty taste.

Pinkerton (A) – A smaller, dwarf Avocado tree. Fruit is similar to Hass, but with a smaller seed and a longer neck, ready to pick in winter time. Tree has a smaller spreading habit, is a consistent cropper and is also cold tolerant.

Fuerte (B) – a great cold tolerant variety which is also grown commercially as a pollinator to Hass. Fuerte is the most creamy, buttery avocado with a relatively small seed and a good amount of flesh. The tree itself grows quite tall.

Bacon (B) –  Fruit is green and thin skinned. Good pollinator for A types.  Fruit matures April -June. The tree itself is a spreading type of tree to about 4m. Gets to 10m if left unpruned.

Wurtz (A) –  A smaller, dwarf avocado tree with a spread out fruiting period – July -December.  Fruit is dark green, medium sized.

Reed (A) – a large round fruit with firm flesh, ready to pick around November – December. Really tasty variety.

How to plant an avocado tree:
The biggest enemy to avocados is heavy soil that doesn’t drain — they will certainly die so this is very important to get right when planting your avocado tree.

They must be planted in free-draining soil that has had lots of organic matter added at least three weeks before planting out.

Avocados prefer a sunny position sheltered from hot drying winds. They like soils with high organic matter content so incorporate ample organic matter when planting.

Dig the hole at least 60cm deep and 1m wide, making sure the hole is well watered before planting. Don’t fiddle with the root system because they don’t like it. Always spread a good thick layer of mulch about 15cm deep but keep it well away from the trunk.

Young trees will require staking and some shading for the first summer or two. Provide ample water at all times.

Can you grow avocado from a seed?
Yes you can, avocados are so easy to grow from seed. However, I suggest you only use these as root stock to graft a known variety on to because they can take at least 8-10 years to bear fruit and it may not be all that good.

They will probably fruit eventually but is it worth the wait?

When do avocados fruit?
Seed raised trees will begin to bear fruit at five to seven years old and grafted trees from three to five years after planting. In Perth, the avocado flowers in spring, the fruit forms in November and fruit can be harvested from June until November.

When to harvest avocados:
Avocados very conveniently stay on the tree for 3 – 4 months and don’t ripen until off the tree due to a substance in the leaves. Which means it has its own ideal storage system. Wait until the first avocado drops onto the ground, bring inside to ripen, about 1 – 2 weeks. To speed things up, place in a paper bag with a ripe banana to induce the ripening gas, ethylene. Then you can harvest as many as you need. Pick your avocados when they are almost glossy and the stem is starting to wrinkle.

If all this seems too hard, it’s not. Simply weigh it up against the joy of being able to pluck a freshly grown organic avocado at your leisure instead of paying up to $5 or more for an avocado from the supermarket.

Storing avocados:
Once ripe, uncut avocados can be stored in the refrigerator, unpeeled, for up to one or two weeks. Simply stash in your crisper drawer. The flesh of the avocado quickly begins to darken when exposed to the air, so it is important to work quickly with the flesh once the avocado has been cut.

Avocado diseases and common problems:
The two major diseases that affect avocado trees are dieback (Phytophthora cinnamomi) and anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides).

Phytophthora affects the root system of trees and gradually kills the tree. Symptoms are yellowing leaves, drooping, leaf drop, branches dying back and bark peeling off. Tree injection using phosphorous acid is recommended when the tree is actively putting on new growth and temperatures are above 25C.

Anthracnose is the major post-harvest disease, particularly in Fuerte and Wurtz avocados. Symptoms are seen on the fruit, leaves and stems with small black spots developing, becoming larger as the fruit develops. Spray trees with liquid copper sprays or copper hydroxide during warm, wet weather.

A final word about ripeness, and picking the perfect avocado, which can be tricky.  Cup the fruit in your hand and gently squeeze. If it is as soft as your cheek then it’s over ripe.  However, if the fruit gives, just like when you press the end of your nose, then it’s perfect.

Check out our other how to grow in Perth guides:

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