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Grow your own 'powerhouse'

Courtesy of Yates.

Avocados are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, fibre and healthy monounsaturated fats, so they’re a powerhouse of nutritional goodness. If you’re keen on creating home-grown avocado guacamole, salsa and salads, then consider planting some avocado trees in your garden . . .

Avocados are mainly grown in warm areas of the north island of New Zealand, however, they can also be grown in a warm frost-protected spot in slightly cooler areas.

Here are a few important tips when it comes to growing avocados at home:

• Avocados need moist but well-drained soil. Poorly drained soil can quickly lead to root rot and plant death.

• Choose a sunny, sheltered site that is protected from frost and wind.

• Avocado flowers contain both male and female organs which open twice over 2 days. When the flower first opens it’s female, when it re-opens on the second day it’s male. The timing of this flowering classifies avocados into either A or B types.

• Although there can be some self-pollination in warm areas, planting 2 different varieties (from an A and B type) will help improve pollination and fruit set.

• ‘A’ varieties that are great for growing in medium sized backyards include Haas and Reed. ‘B’ varieties include Bacon and Fuerte. Grafted plants will fruit earlier than seedling trees.

• Avocados will not ripen on the tree. Pop a too-firm avocado in a paper bag with a banana for a few days to help it soften.

Avocados perform best when planted into soil that’s been enriched first with a concentrated source of organic matter like Yates Dynamic Lifter Organic Plant Food. Yates Dynamic Lifter will help improve the quality of the soil, encourage earthworms and beneficial soil micro-organisms and provide the tree with gentle nutrients as it establishes.

Reapplying Dynamic Lifter every six weeks from spring to autumn will help ensure the trees have enough nutrients to promote healthy foliage and a great harvest.

Mulching around the root zone with an organic mulch, such as bark chips, will help reduce moisture loss and add further organic matter to the soil as it breaks down.

Protection from insects & diseases

Deliciously sweet and fragrant feijoas can be susceptible to a few insect pests and diseases during spring:

• Scale — sap-sucking insects that appear as small grey, brown, pink or black coloured ‘bumps’ along stems and leaves which deplete plants of sugars and nutrients and can cause patches of leaf yellowing.

• Mealy bug — small white fuzzy sap- sucking insects that feed on plant juices.

• Caterpillars — chewing insects that can eat through leaves and also curl leaves up with webbing (leaf roller caterpillars).

• Sooty mould — a fungal disease that appears like a dark grey or black ash-like film that covers stems and leaves. It grows on the sweet honeydew excreted by sucking insects like scale and mealy bug. Control these insect pests and the sooty mould will disappear.

Both sap-sucking insects and caterpillars can be controlled by spraying feijoas each week with Yates Natures Way Organic Citrus, Vegie Ornamental Spray Ready to Use.

— Courtesy of Yates

Avocados cuke seedless, Persea americana, on the tree, before they are ripe and ready for harvesting.