A Guide on How to Plant Your Avocado or Citrus Tree

 

The biggest enemy of the home gardener  in growing the so called "hard to grow" fruit tree varieties, such as the Avocado and Citrus, is water logging.  Good soil drainage is of the upmost importance, especially in high rainfall areas, when choosing where and how to plant an avocado or citrus tree. 

 

Site Selection.

To determine if your chosen position will provide adequate drainage for your fruit tree, fill your newly dug hole with water and observe how long it takes to drain away.  If the water takes longer than one hour to soak away into already moist soil, your plant will probably drown during the next wet weather event.  If your garden contains poor draining soil, a common condition inherent to heavy clay based soils, it is strongly recommended that you build a mound of soil approximately 1.8 - 2.5 m in diameter and at least 300-400 mm higher than the natural ground level to plant your tree on. When constructing this mound, care should be taken to insure that all the materials used in construction of the mound (garden soil, composts, etc.) are thoroughly combined together with the base soil.  This will insure your new tree's root system has a gradual change of soil type/structure as it starts to grow.  

 

An alternative to building a large mound is to plant into a raised garden bed of a similar size. Once again, you need to thoroughly combine all the materials used to fill the planter box (soil/composts etc.) so that you create a free draining soil mix. 

 

Avocados and citrus can also be grown in pots.  If a gardener is planning on growing his/her avocado/citrus fruit tree long term in a container,  it would be prudent to choose one of the many dwarf varieties now available, if possible. That small tree you are about to/or just have purchase can grow very large very quickly, for instance, a fully grown dwarf avocado can reach up to 3m in height when grown in medium to large pot.   When planting trees in pots only use a quality potting mix (not garden soil) water your plant regularly and fertilise with controlled release fertiliser as per the directions on the packet.

 

Planting.

 

Dig a hole approx. 1 ½ times the diameter and approx. 50mm deeper than the plant container. Do not place any fertiliser grass, clippings, sawdust, ash or manure in the hole or mix it with the soil you are going to use to back fill the hole with as this can damaged the young tree roots as they  start to grow.  The addition of some well - rotted compost to the soil that you plan to use as backfill around your tree can be beneficial however, it should be mixed thoroughly with the soil prior to use.  Place sufficient soil in the bottom of the hole so that when your tree?s root ball is placed in the hole, the soil level of the root ball is just slightly above that of the surrounding ground level (this is to allow for the settling of the soil under the tree root ball).  Gently remove your tree from its container  and position it in the hole so that the plant is upright.  Start to back fill in around the tree gently firming the soil down with your hands as you go and  taking care not to damage the tree?s roots or to leave large air pockets around the tree's root ball.  Once completed, water the tree in well with at least 20lt of water. The addition of eco-cweed to the water will assist in minimising transplant shock and promote new root growth on the tree.

 

Protection From the Sun .

 

Avocados have a very soft bark that is prone to sunburn and therefore their  stem requires  protection from direct sunlight for the first 1 - 2 years or until the tree's foliage provides adequate  protection.  One means to provide protection for the tree is to paint the trunk and limbs below the main leaf line with a white water based house paint. This acts like sunscreen for the tree.  An alternative means of providing sun protection is to construct a tree shade guard out of stakes and hessian/shade cloth.   After planting the tree, position 3 stakes around the tree approx. 60cm apart so as to create an opened top tepee.  Wrap the hessian/shade cloth around the structure to completely shade your tree leaving a gap at the top of around 30cm in diameter.  The southern side of the shelter can be left open to provide air flow in the hotter month but should be closed during winter to provide protection from cold weather/frost for the tree.

 

Watering.

 

Normally newly planted avocado trees needed to be watered more often than established trees.  The frequency and amount of watering your trees will require is dependent on a number of factors such as rainfall, soil type, evaporation rates, plant requirements etc. and will vary from season to season and/or from site to site however, as a general rule of thumb newly planted trees will require to be watered  3-4 times a week for the first month or so.  Once established, trees planted in the ground normally only require one good deep watering a week.  Once established, trees planted in the ground  will normally only require one good deep watering a week however, under hot drying conditions your plants will consume more water and therefore may need to watered more often.  A deep watering is much more beneficial for the tree than numerous small water applications every day or so.  Potted trees, on the other hand, require much more frequent watering and in the warmer months may need to be watered every day.

 

Thinning of Fruit.

 

It is recommended that all fruit should be removed from your fruit trees for the first year after planting out into the ground.  This permits the tree to concentrate on producing a good root system for itself without the additional stress from fruit production.  Older trees may also benefit from the removal of some of their fruit load if excessive fruit set has taken place.  This practise is regularly carried out by commercial growers to promote the production of larger fuller fruit.