How To Grow Avocado

avocados (2)

Growing a good supply of avocado’s for the team has long been my dream because we eat loads of them. Its taken me 10 years, but we’ve done it – and a steady supply of beautiful buttery avocados from September through May is ours.

Is Your Garden Suitable?

Warm, super sheltered, and free draining are the main requirements here. If you can grow a Lemon you can grow an Avo.


measuring the drainage test to assess how fast the water is draining

Drainage is your make or break moment – Avo’s must have it. Do this simple drainage test.

For ease of life it’s the thing you want to sort out first, because once you’ve got plants/ fences/ structures in, it’s tricky as. Here’s my suggestions for managing too much water.


lemonade frost protection

Next job – is shelter. A threesome of shelters – wind, frost and sun.


Avocados are not edge dwellers like Taupata or Flax – they come from the middle. Cosy them in by planting up the south side to eliminate southern draughts, and as a lovely by catch you’ll hold the sun’s warmth.

Extend this shelter either side depending on what winds you need protection from. My shelter/ suntrap extends like a hug to extend from sou’east through to west. My favourite shelter tree Italian Alder (nitrogen fixing, deciduous and hurricane proof) – forms the backbone, underplanted with smaller pittosporums, manuka and olearia.

Dwarf rootstock is the way to go, this means your shelter doesn’t need to be too high. Avocados can be pruned back quite hard and kept small as they fruit on their new wood.


For the first 3 or so years they must be sheltered from frost. Make a generous sized shelter so you don’t have to rebuild it every year. They’ll need this protection until they’ve got a decent canopy at which time they can handle frost. The outside leaves may burn but the inner workings are sweet.


The branches/ trunk are easily sunburnt. Even here in Levin, young trees with exposed trunks/ branches get scorched. The posts you bang in for your frost house get used through the summer for a bit of shade cloth. This tides them over until they have a protective canopy of their own.


Plant mid/ late spring. Not in Winter – dear God no! That’s like sending your cousin from Ethiopia to live in Otago in August with only jandals for footwear.

If clay is your base, go up – with a good sized mound to get those delicate feeder roots above the heavy, cold, wet stuff. If sand is your lot, then go down. Scoop out the sand lay wet newspaper and fill with a heap of organic matter.

To increase your pollination, plant two – an A type (eg Haas), and a B type (eg Fuerte). The nursery will help you here.


avocado mulch

Avocados have shallow feeders roots. Protect and nourish them with a generous layer of mulch. A good use for chunky, difficult-to-compost stuff from the vegie patch like sunflowers and brassicas, and of course the trees own prunings.

Shallow feeder roots are vulnerable to weed competition, fluctuating temperatures and drying out –  mulch ticks all those boxes. It takes care of another important bit of Avocado care – the building of a lovely web of mychorrhiza. A fungi which colonizes the root system and improves uptake of nutrients. This conversion and uptake of nutrient is important for our Avo’s because they lack root hairs.

Mulch reminds them of home – of being in the jungle, it inspires more feeder roots, more fungi and general happiness.


No puddles. No desert. Just lovely and moist. The early years are of the utmost importance. If you wont remember to water, set up irrigation or use an Olla pot. As the tree grows and the humus builds from all your mulching, irrigation needs will ebb.


Avocado protected

The foundation for all vitality is a bed of compost, especially homemade compost. Do this mid spring, at flowering.

Trickle feed organic goodness throughout summer until March – a dollop of rotten manure, a bunch of seaweed or some fish waste dolloped beneath the mulch.

Read your tree – if it’s happy and productive keep doing what you’re doing.

Biological sprays are the cherry on top.