Yes, you can grow avocadoes in Tasmania. In fact the limited quantities of commercially-grown avocadoes from our state have a growing reputation for excellent flavour.
Not only do avocados grow in tropical and sub-tropical climates, but they can, with some fine-tuning, be grown here and indeed benefit from the long, slow ripening that the climate allows.
Like many fruit trees, avocado trees have a bi-annual cycle. One year they produce a small amount of fruit, the following year they produce a lot. A mature tree can produce something like 50 to 150 avocades per year.
The trees take 5 or 6 years to reach sexual maturity (says Paul Bidwell of Avoland) and produce any fruit, so you’ll need to be patient.
Avocado trees generally don’t need to be pruned unless your tree is becoming too tall, or too spreading, in which case you can pinch back a few terminal buds.
They’re also not that difficult to look after so follow these tips to grow your own delicious Tasmanian avocadoes.
Avocado growing tips
Good drainage – Good drainage is required. If your soil doesn’t drain well, consider planting your young avocado tree in a raised bed of well-draining soil.
A location sheltered from strong winds – Find a sheltered spot as regular strong winds will damage branches. They will dry out soils and contribute to water stress, so choose the location for your avocado tree carefully. A fair bit of sun is also good.
Regular irrigation – Avocado trees need a ready supply of water, either through rain, or irrigation. Regular watering is especially important while fruits are beginning to form on trees. Any water stress at that time will result in fruitlets dropping. The need for regular irrigation adds to the the need for good drainage.
Pruning – You can prune to allow adequate light into the canopy which in turn results in flowers and fruit throughout the canopy and a more even crop load on the entire tree and not just the top or the periphery.
Good mulching – Avocado root are shallow and dont like the competition provided by weeds under the canopy. Remove all weeds within the root zone and mulch generously. Mulching keeps soils moist and will therefore result in less water being needed for irrigation.
Fertiliser – A generous application of complete organic fertiliser or similar will contribute to a healthy avocado tree and good crop. Fertilise in late winter or early spring.
Space – If you choose to prune your avocado tree so it retains a manageable height, then inevitably this fast-growing tree will become wider. Five or six metres between trees would be the minimum; the space between trees helps in terms of ventilation.
Flowering – It’s a bit complicated, but avocado flowers can be female or male at different times of day! In general in Tasmania, there will be male and female flowers on even just one tree at the same time. In other words, you don’t need to worry too much about pollination and most flying insects will do the job for you. For more info about avocado flowering and its consequences for avocado growers click here .
Pests – Few insect pests attack the avocado. Possums may ring-bark branches but won’t eat the fruit, nor will other Tasmanian critters. Root rot kill by the Phytophtora virus will be a problem if drainage is inadequate.
Trees – Nursery-bought avocado trees are always grafted. Good grafting combines the qualities of ‘root-stock’ (vigorous root system, disease resistance) with the qualities of ‘top-stock’ (vigorous growth, good quality fruit). The mix enhances the best qualities of both plants. Growing an avocado tree out of a shop-bought pip of unknown variety will in most cases be a waste of time. The avocado variety may a tropical one, and it may never produce fruit in Tasmania.
Varieties – The best varieties for locations with occasional minor frosts (above -3 degrees) are in order of tolerance: Bacon, Zutano, Fuerte, Reed and Hass.
Picking – Picking time depends on the variety so research the one(s) that you plant. In general, mature fruits tend to be a little dull or dark, a little soft, and can develop speckles. You can test by picking one and leaving it for a week to ripen (see below). If’ it doesn’t ripen within two weeks, then it was picked immature.
Ripening – It can take up to 15 months to grow an avocado to full maturity. Avocados do not ripen on the tree. Once a fruit is mature it signals to the tree to stop sending nutrients and it can then can stay on the tree until it is picked. Once an avocado is picked it starts to ripen. Ripening an avocado can be accelerated by putting it in a closed paper bag; some say that adding banana skins also helps.
Have a look around when you are out and about. If you spot an avocado tree, go and ask the owner to see if they can give you some tips. Avocado-growing on the island is still relatively new so our understandings of best practices are still evolving.
Good luck, and may the guacamole be with you!