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Author Topic: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!  (Read 16915 times)

simon_grow

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My friend has attempted to grow an Avocado tree multiple times over the past 8 years or so without success. He would plant a grafted store bought avocado into his soil and they would all eventually get brown leaves which fall off before the trees died. I believe he killed 5 trees before giving up. He tried planting different varieties from different retailers but they all eventually died. He lives on the side of a canyon that gets windy and perhaps his soil may be high in salts, I'm not sure.

Anyways, about three years ago, I suggested to him that he plant some avocado seeds directly into the ground in the spot where he wanted his avocado tree to be. He planted a single seed, I would suggest planting at least three, and several months after the seed sprouted, I grafted it for him with Hass scion. The original seedling was extremely vigorous before I grafted it and I believe this is the main reason the graft successfully took.

One year after the graft took, the plant was growing extremely well so my friend was a little sad when I suggested he topped his tree to promote lower more lateral growth as Hass trees are extremely vigorous, not to mention his rootstock was a seedling so it has a tap root.

Now, approximately 3 years from planting the seed, his tree produced a nice crop of about 20 Avocados. We first harvested one avocado about two weeks ago and it ripened perfectly so we harvested another 10 yesterday.

I just wanted to post this success story to motivate others out there that desperately want an Avocado tree but has failed in the past. Please try one more time with this technique and I can help you along. Start by planting 3-5 seeds in spring when the soil has warmed. If you plant the seeds early enough, you can graft it the same year. We got lucky with our one seedling graft but if I were to do it again, I would have my friend plant more seeds in case the graft fails.

My friend was so excited about this success that last year he planted a Reed Avocado seed several feet away from this Hass and he grafted this Reed Seedling with an actual Reed scion and it took. The Reed scion has since pushed a lot of new growth and you can kinda see it to the left of the Hass in the picture although the Hass has grown around the Reed.

Please feel free to post here if you've had a similar experience or if you need help.

Simon






Yorgos

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2014, 01:27:57 PM »
Good story!  I, too have gone thru more avocado trees than I care to admit.  Its the cold and then the sunburn. 
Near NRG Stadium USDA zone 9a

NewGen

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2014, 01:43:07 PM »
That's a GREAT story, Simon! Thanks for sharing. Your idea of planting seeds, then grafting sounds excellent. How did your friend start the seed? Straight to the ground, or with the toothpick method?  I'm somewhat in the same boat. I've killed probably 2-3 store bought trees. Like your friend, I planted them , they put out new growth, I was happy seeing that. Then they all began to deteriorate, brown leaves, black branches, death. I tried different locations in the yard. But, I didn't give up. I selected 2 well protected spots, put in a Haas and a Fuerte. Both are doing very well, the Haas survived a winter already, so I think it'll make it, it's over 8' tall now, though nowhere as lush as green as your friend's. The Fuerte was planted during the summer, only a few months ago, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Thanks,
Trung

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2014, 02:24:42 PM »
Great success story, Simon, and thanks for sharing. I am going this route with mangos. I bought 4 grafted ones from Emily, and 3 died. Only Glenn survived. I am now planting mango seeds in the ground to graft in the future. My cousin had 2 avocados from HD that died. Mine, a Hass, is doing OK though (knock on woods) in its 3rd year with 20 some fruits still hanging.

TheWaterbug

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2014, 03:23:43 PM »
several months after the seed sprouted, I grafted it for him with Hass scion.


Very exciting! I just googled this, and according to the Infallible Internet (tm) "All commercial, fruit-bearing Hass avocado trees have been grown from grafted seedlings propagated from a single tree. . ."

Does this mean that the vast majority of commercial avocados in the U.S. constitutes a genetically identical monoculture?  :o

Quote
My friend was so excited about this success that last year he planted a Reed Avocado seed several feet away from this Hass and he grafted this Reed Seedling with an actual Reed scion and it took.


What was the motivation for grafting a Reed scion onto Reed rootstock?

Quote
Start by planting 3-5 seeds in spring when the soil has warmed. If you plant the seeds early enough, you can graft it the same year.


At what size/diameter do you normally graft?
Sunset 23/USDA 11a, Elev. 783', Frost free since 8,000 BC. Plagued by squirrels, gophers, and peafowl, but coming to terms with it!

simon_grow

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2014, 04:14:39 PM »
That's a GREAT story, Simon! Thanks for sharing. Your idea of planting seeds, then grafting sounds excellent. How did your friend start the seed? Straight to the ground, or with the toothpick method?  I'm somewhat in the same boat. I've killed probably 2-3 store bought trees. Like your friend, I planted them , they put out new growth, I was happy seeing that. Then they all began to deteriorate, brown leaves, black branches, death. I tried different locations in the yard. But, I didn't give up. I selected 2 well protected spots, put in a Haas and a Fuerte. Both are doing very well, the Haas survived a winter already, so I think it'll make it, it's over 8' tall now, though nowhere as lush as green as your friend's. The Fuerte was planted during the summer, only a few months ago, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Thanks,
Trung

Trung, he planted the seed directly into the ground. If your tree can make it to its second year, you are probably good to go.

Nch, I'm also doing the same thing with my mangos. I've had a couple mango trees die on me, I believe it was a rootstock issue. Before my trees died, I noticed that the cambium around the rootstock felt soft. I scattered many Champaigne and Kent seeds all around my yard so that I can graft my named varieties onto them. I hope that with a taproot, they will grow more vigorously, which is a good thing here in SoCal.

I've only done a few Avocado grafts but I normally graft when slightly thicker than a pencil, around the thickness of a sharpie marker. I believe a strong and vigorous rootstock that is pushing growth in warm weather is key.

The motivation was based on my belief that it is genetically favorable to graft onto rootstock from the seed of the named variety you are trying to cultivate. At the time, I was researching Lychee grafting but some researchers brought up the point of different varieties of a Lychees having different number of chromosomes, some have 2n some 3n/4n. I don't believe Avocado has this issue but I figured the graft might take easier if he used seed from the same variety he was trying to graft.

From the little knowledge I have on avocado, I believe there are different clonal rootstocks that are used based on soil condition and bioburden of the soil. Some clonal rootstocks are better adapted to salty soils, some are better for nematodes and others are better for phytopthora.
Simon

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2014, 04:59:17 PM »
Very interesting post, thanks for sharing this with us. I too, have had many failures with Avocado trees, I currently have 3 avocados plants in pots (2 out of 3 are in half whiskey barrels) from store bought about 3 years ago, and none of them produces any fruit! I thought growing avocado from seed takes many years (like 7-10?) before it starts to bear fruit, but I see your method is different.
So, I will plant those seeds in the ground (not in the pots, right? Why?) and hopefully will be ready to graft unto it next year. By the way, do you use the seeds from market bought avocados?

Thanks again, Simon!
Sam

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2014, 06:31:25 PM »
Great approach Simon. Well done!  Necessity is the mother of invention.

JeffDM

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2014, 06:40:46 PM »
I just yanked a Fuerte out of the ground and stuck it in a pot.  After 1 1/2 years in the ground it was leafless and looked almost dead - the Hass that was planted next to it is looking pretty bad too.
Strangely, a Little Cado and a Bacon planted in half whiskey barrel pots only a few feet away have thrived and produced fruit.
I never thought it would be so hard to grow avocados.

ricshaw

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2014, 06:53:43 PM »

Does this mean that the vast majority of commercial avocados in the U.S. constitutes a genetically identical monoculture?  :o


Yes.

ricshaw

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2014, 06:56:50 PM »
Here is a clue why lots of avocado trees in California turn brown and fail:

How Much Water to Grow an Avocado?

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/10/avocado-drought-chile-california
« Last Edit: October 13, 2014, 06:58:25 PM by ricshaw »

shaneatwell

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2014, 09:54:08 PM »
Nice work Simon!

Regarding grafted plants in California, my understanding (from the county farm advisor) is that most of them are on Zutano seedlings.

I've been throwing seeds around my trees for approach grafting and the differences in vigor is surprising. Some have reached the height of my planted trees while others are still 4" tall.

Regarding Mangos Simon, I had a mango seedling experiment going as well with the same thing in mind but pulled them all up this summer because not a single one had shown any growth their second season. Turns out they all had taproots going sideways about two inches below the surface. That was 6 Kents, 6 Manilla and several Haden. The Kents were definitely the most vigorous the first season, but nothing the 2nd. Meanwhile a goldenrain seedling has invaded one of the areas and is already a 3 ft bush.  :(
Shane

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2014, 11:35:04 PM »
Here is a clue why lots of avocado trees in California turn brown and fail:

How Much Water to Grow an Avocado?

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/10/avocado-drought-chile-california


Avocados do suck up a lot of water - but that wouldn't explain why a seedling directly sown in the ground would do better than a commercially propagated #5 tree.

I have been told that avocados do not take transplanting very well.

Simon's success story would certainly support that theory.

« Last Edit: October 14, 2014, 12:12:29 AM by PltdWorld »

simon_grow

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2014, 11:49:59 PM »
Very interesting post, thanks for sharing this with us. I too, have had many failures with Avocado trees, I currently have 3 avocados plants in pots (2 out of 3 are in half whiskey barrels) from store bought about 3 years ago, and none of them produces any fruit! I thought growing avocado from seed takes many years (like 7-10?) before it starts to bear fruit, but I see your method is different.
So, I will plant those seeds in the ground (not in the pots, right? Why?) and hopefully will be ready to graft unto it next year. By the way, do you use the seeds from market bought avocados?

Thanks again, Simon!

Samu, growing from seed normally does take many years but only if you don't graft. Because I grafted the tree for my friend, the scion enabled the seedling to fruit earlier. If you were to plant inside a pot, you would be defeating the purpose of my post:) By planting a seed directly into the ground will enable the seedling to grow vigorously with a taproot. I would still work the native soil to loosen it up but don't add any amendments( thanks Mark in Texas). My friend used a store bought Hass seed for the Hass scion I grafted and he used a Reed seed for the Reed scion he grafted.

Thanks Zands!

JeffDM, it can be pretty difficult but try this approach to see if you get better luck.

Ricshaw, I heard somewhere that CA will stop watering many of the avocado trees, in essence killing them due to mandatory water restrictions. Avocados do use quite a bit of water.

Hey Shane, did your mango seedlings taproots go sideways after two inches because you have hard impenetrable clay and rocky soil? If this was the cause, perhaps you can till the soil first to loosen it up? I wonder if your mango seedling would have eventually taken off? I have some mango seedlings that stall a bit before pushing.

Simon

simon_grow

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2014, 12:39:00 AM »
Here is a clue why lots of avocado trees in California turn brown and fail:

How Much Water to Grow an Avocado?

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/10/avocado-drought-chile-california


Avocados do suck up a lot of water - but that wouldn't explain why a seedling directly sown in the ground would do better than a commercially propagated #5 tree.

I have been told that avocados do not take transplanting very well.

Simon's success story would certainly support that theory.


Pltworld, that's the other part of the equation. Avocados don't like their roots disturbed and commercially available pre grafted Avocado trees can be pot bound with encircling roots so what does one do? Some may be severely pot bound requiring some root pruning thus disturbing the roots. This can put your tree into a state of shock. If this is the situation, it may be a good idea to put up some sort of shade to protect from direct sunlight and also minimize dessication.

Simon

simon_grow

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2014, 12:45:42 AM »
For those of you that are going to try this technique, after your graft has taken and has pushed, you may want to consider adding additional grafts of different flower types to your tree so that you can increase production.
Simon

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2014, 01:07:17 AM »
Simon,
I will need to learn from you how to graft avocados. I've never done any grafting. Can you describe your technique? Do you have a video?
Thanks,
Trung

simon_grow

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2014, 08:43:55 AM »
Hello Trung, I used a cleft graft for the Hass and my friend used a veneer graft for the Reed. I use the same technique I use for mango. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ICVwHs4Nero  my best advice for grafting Avocado is to use very vigorous rootstock that is pushing new growth in warm weather. The preparation of the avocado scion is also very important. I like to collect my scion from an upper branch in full sunlight. Someone posted a thread regarding the different stages of Avocado scions, I'll see if I can find it later. Make sure you have a really tight bind when you perform your graft and i don't like to put more than about two layers of film when wrapping my scions because it can make it difficult for the new growth to push through.

Simon

Mark in Texas

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2014, 09:13:45 AM »
Nice job Simon, and kudos on using common sense.  Also, glad you accepted my advice and didn't amend the soil.  Those cados look incredible, I'm jealous!

What many don't understand is how different the structure is of an avocado root system compared to other trees - no root hairs like an oak, sponge like epidermal tissue, etc.  I've hand planted literally thousands of trees and the best albeit slowest is mimicking what mama nature does - planting an acorn directly in the ground for example.  Not many of us have that time including myself so we improvise. 

Just got a box of Reeds in from a mail order guy out of Fallbrook.  Probably my favorite avocado and one I'm growing in the greenhouse, grafted onto a Florida pit and now 8' H.  I expect it to bloom heavy this spring.
 
Good luck

Mark in Texas

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2014, 09:17:49 AM »
Oh, and you're right about the matching chromosomal thingie between scion and rootstock.  Sometimes it's just not meant to be.  For 2  years in a row I tried grafting 6 different varieties to a Brogdon - every time they failed.  I cut the Brogdon back below the graft and now have a VERY vigorous Waldin to use a rootstock this spring.

davidgarcia899

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #20 on: October 14, 2014, 10:11:41 AM »
If I could I would plant all my seeds directly into the ground.

When you grow something in a pot the all the roots including the tap root are clusters in the pot. But anyone who has ever pulled a seedling out of the ground can attest to the fact that naturally small trees send their roots out far both vertically and horizontally.
- David Antonio Garcia

zands

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #21 on: October 14, 2014, 10:47:21 AM »
I think Simon point about avocadoes really needing that tap root development is crucial

  • My theory is other trees (mango etc) are better at making a tap root even if planted pot bound.....but not before you cut encircling and bound up roots
  • What Simon did can be replicated in a pot by lining a pot with old nylon window screening.
  • Use a too large piece of nylon window screening so it hangs over outside the pot so you can grab onto it later and use as handles
  • grow the avocado seed in a 3 gallon pot that is spacious so that it will develop a tap root
  • graft it
  • plant within a year from seed sprouting
  • when you plant you place the window screening with the contents of the pot in your planting hole then
  • pull out the nylon window screening
  • my theorizing

simon_grow

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #22 on: October 14, 2014, 12:54:38 PM »
Thanks Mark, I've put what I learned from you to good use. All my new trees are being planted in native soil, unfortunately, many of my trees that I planted several years ago were planted in amended holes but luckily they were all planted on mounds.

I've dug up several plants from holes that were heavily amended and it were as if they were growing in a burried pot.

Reed is one of the creamiest of all the different Avocado varieties I've tried. The tree is also small, columnar and the fruit does not turn brown or discolor for a long time.

I hope the Waldin rootstock works better for you. I wonder if there are chromosomal differences between the different races of avocado? Also, I wonder if you would have more success if you grafted onto a seedling grown in the ground be a pot? It's worth a shot!

David, I've seen first hand what you are talking about. It may take a while for seedlings planted in poor hard soils to find a soft spot but when they do, they quickly take off.

I believe that when seeds sprout, the plant sends down a tap root that continues to grow down and laterally until it finds a soft spot in the ground where it can go down as far as possible to reach the water table. Sometimes, like what Shane experienced, seedlings planted in poor, hard soils cannot send down the tap root very far because of rocks and an impervious hard layer, this may cause a delay in the seedlings growth because I believe the seedling is using much of its energy in extending its tap root laterally, looking for that soft spot to go down.

It would not make much sense for a seedling that was Not able to send down its tap root to expend lots of energy into its canopy because it's roots are on the surface of the soil and is thus more likely to dry out. If it spent a lot of energy on making lots of leaves, it will be in trouble on a hot day as it is not able to wick up water from deeper in the ground.

Zands, that would be cool to see if it works, I guess we can also plant in a fabric pot? I would still recommend transplanting into the ground as soon as possible in order to prevent common pot grown fruit tree problems such as over/under watering, not stepping up the pot properly, and over/under fertilization of plants in pots.

I realized a while back how often I have to water plants in pots on hot days and wondered why my plants weren't doing so well. I thought and I thought and i finally realized that due to my frequent watering, I was flushing much of the nutrients from my soil. Not only that, my frequent waterings were gradually shifting the pH of my soil so even though I start off with a potting mix around pH 6.8, my frequent watering shifted it to 8.0. 

When I realized this, I fertilized more frequently but then half a year later, my plants weren't doing good again and I discovered that due to my now more frequent fertilization schedule, my soil was nutrient locked. I like to conserve water so I don't like to see much runoff when I water potted plants and this caused my nutrient lock. Now I realize I have to flush my potted plants every once in a while if there are no rains.

Simon


Mark in Texas

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #23 on: October 14, 2014, 02:54:35 PM »
I've dug up several plants from holes that were heavily amended and it were as if they were growing in a burried pot.

Yep, I told you so.  Almost had to put on my flame suit around here before warning folks.  Old habits are hard to give up.

Quote
Reed is one of the creamiest of all the different Avocado varieties I've tried. The tree is also small, columnar and the fruit does not turn brown or discolor for a long time.

I hope the Waldin rootstock works better for you. I wonder if there are chromosomal differences between the different races of avocado? Also, I wonder if you would have more success if you grafted onto a seedling grown in the ground be a pot? It's worth a shot!

It would take a crane to get this Waldin out the ground.  All the other ones were cleft or veneer grafted to Florida pits in a 3 gal. pot.  One of them is Gwen which is Will Brokaw's fave.  I have a Sharwil that is holding one fruit with a heavy bloom next spring, hopefully.

Quote
David, I've seen first hand what you are talking about. It may take a while for seedlings planted in poor hard soils to find a soft spot but when they do, they quickly take off.

One of my businesses is field planted Xmas trees and you make a great point.  I can plant a thousand liners, 9" tall seedlings or clones, and they will sit there for a year looking pretty sad and then explode in growth.  First year a newly planted tree needs to set a root system.  Another hard lesson learned on shade, fruit or nut trees is one must let the trunk go "trashy" for at least 2 years, then shape (prune) them up.  You'll get a healthier more vigorous tree with much larger girth than if you start taking the shears to it quickly.

If you have to water often I highly recommend an encapsulated plant food.  I use it on everything when first planting in the field or in pots. Polyon 12 month 18-4-9 with micros. Continuous feed is the only way to go.

Mark

zands

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Re: Success planting an Avocado after 8 years of failures and 5 dead trees!
« Reply #24 on: October 14, 2014, 06:38:29 PM »
For Simon, Mark or anyone.....

If you have a hard clay soil what do you think would happen if you dug down 24" with a post hole digger. Then put that soil back in the hole, making sure to put the top soil back on top.

Then planted your avocado seedling in this? Or any fruit tree? This would make for easier tap root growth.

****** Simon. Just looked at your photo and your friends avocado trees look so green and healthy
« Last Edit: October 14, 2014, 06:44:06 PM by zands »

 

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