Garden Tips - January 2016 - from Gerrie Beck

I found this great tidbit of advice from the "Avocado Diva" website. The blogs are still on the web although her business website is no longer operational. The following is great information on how to grow avocados and it seemed like a good time to share it with you to start a fun project..

How to grow an Avocado plant

Did you always want to grow an avocado from the pit? Wish you had your own avocado tree? Me too! So the only challenge is -- its pretty easy to grow an avocado "plant" - but very hard to get it into a tree, let alone a tree that actually produces avocados. Some people do - but it is the exception rather than the rule. So today - let's just get started - this is pretty simple and fun - a great project to do with your children or grandkids!

After you eat your avocado (yum!) - take the pit and carefully stick 3 or 4 toothpicks into the giant seed. Then set it over a glass of water (see photo #1 below). Make sure the pointy side is up and the rounder side is submerged in water. That's it! Keep the glass filled with water - and with some luck you'll see roots start to grow (big, ugly, white roots). Eventually, the pit will split - and a green shoot will start growing out of the top.

Your avocado pit (after about 2 - 6 weeks) should look like photo #2 (below) - with some white roots coming out of the bottom and a strong green sprout coming out of the top.

If it didn't work - throw it out and try again. Some people say you need to peel off the bottom brown skin OR change the water more.

Another common hint is to keep it in a bright, sunny room - but not in direct sunlight.

Once you get it to this stage - (or perhaps another week or two - with lots of roots) its time to plant it into a pot. Gather the following:

  1. 6" pot with drainage hole(s) on bottom
  2. a piece of broken pottery or a sea shell
  3. 1/2 cup of stones or pebbles or marbles
  4. 3 or 4 cups of potting soil
  5. 1 or 2 cups of sand or perlite (or other recycled material that makes soil drain well - e.g. cut up egg cartons, cut up "peanuts" from a shipping package, etc.).
  6. a plate or shallow pan to go under the 6" pot

Basically - remember that avocado plants are "exotic" and from tropical or subtropical places originally. They like moist air and moist soil - but they do NOT like to sit in water. So you need to MAKE a soil that drains well.

Take the pot and put a "chard" of broken pot OR a sea shell over the drainage hole - so that water can get out (e.g. - the pot hole is not plugged by a rock or marble). Next, put in the stones (pebbles, marbles) so the bottom is covered and water can drain easily out of the pot.

In another bowl or bucket - mix the soil and sand (or perlite, recycled materials, etc.) so that you have a very light soil.

Put the soil mixture in the pot on top of the rocks - fill about half way.

"Snuggle" your pit and roots into the soil (gently!) and fill it up the rest of the way (so the roots are covered) and the pit's "head" sticks out about 1/2 inch - as well as all of the green shoot. (The top of the pit should stick out of the soil).

Over the sink (or outdoors) - water the soil & your baby plant well and let it drain. Put the plate or dish under the pot so water can continue to drain. Water your plant a lot at first - but make sure it drains well. Keep in a bright, warm place - but not in direct sunlight. Always water from the top - don't let water sit in the plate.

When your plant reaches about 12" - you can gently pinch it back - and it will grow a couple of "side branches" which will be stronger. If you want it "bushy" - keep pinching the top back. If you want a taller plant or tree -- pinch off side branches (only keep 3 to 5 on it).

Once your plant fills up it's pot with healthy roots - you should repot into larger and larger pots. It's best if you can do this in the spring (when its hormones are strong and it will have a fighting chance to keep growing). In summer, use a liquid fertilizer every 2 or 3 weeks. Cut back in the winter to every 6 weeks. Always keep its soil moist but never let it "sit" in water (avocados hate that!). Keep it's leaves moist with a spray bottle (to simulate a tropical climate). They do like bathrooms and shower areas for this reason!