Avocados were first brought to Florida in 1833 by Henry Perrine. Since that time, the Florida avocado crop has expanded to include over 56 varieties. Most of the commercial avocados grown in Florida are grown in Miami-Dade County and Collier County, but home growers all over Florida are successful with the fruit.
Avocados in the Landscape
Avocado plants are considered to be evergreen, although it is normal for some varieties to lose their leaves for a short time just before flowering. Trees grow to be 30 to 65 feet in height and require a large portion of the home landscape, at least 25 to 30 feet of space between other trees or buildings.
The trees can be either self-pollinating and cross-pollinating. One tree in the landscape may sufficiently pollinate, but planting two trees is recommended in areas where there are no other avocado trees nearby.
Avocado plants are best suited to the southern tropical climate and the coastal areas of Florida. Some varieties can tolerate colder temperatures, but avocado trees need protection from freezing temperatures. Avocado trees also need shelter from strong winds and are easily broken by heavy crops.
Avocado trees will grow in most soil types but require a well-drained location. Areas with poor drainage can be improved by planting avocado in a raised bed or on a mound of soil at least 2 to 4 feet high and 4 to 6 feet in diameter. The best site for avocado will receive full sun.
When planting an avocado tree, a 2- to 4-foot-tall tree in a 3-gallon container is desirable. Larger trees may be root bound and may not grow well. Trees grown from avocado seed may not grow true to variety, so commercially propagated trees are recommended for fruit production.
The area beneath the tree needs to be free from grass and weeds for best results. Mulching helps with weed control and water conservation. Mature trees require fertilizer three to four times a year and extra water when dry conditions exist.
Only about one out of every 100 flowers on the avocado tree will yield a mature fruit. Some varieties will not set fruit. Other varieties will set many fruits that will drop in early summer, leaving only a few to reach maturity.
Both of these situations are normal for the tree and should not be seen as a sign of a problem. Additionally, some trees will produce every other year.
Avocados do not ripen on the tree. They are harvested green and ripen during storage. The fruit is harvested at any time after reaching maturity and allowed to ripen at a cool room temperature of 60 to 75 degrees F. In about three to eight days the avocados soften and yield when gently pressed, indicating they are ready to eat. Ripe fruit can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
Most avocados remain green when ripe, but may be marked by brown spots that do not affect quality. Some varieties have red or purple skins.
Because of their natural fat content, avocados have taken a bad rap nutritionally. Researchers at Ohio State University have set the record straight in a recent article in the Journal of Nutrition. The report reveals that the fats found in avocados dramatically increase the absorption of nutrients from other vegetables.
In addition, avocados are rich in Vitamin A and potassium. One-quarter cup of Florida avocado contains only 69 calories and 6 grams of fat, less than other varieties. It supplies 1.3 grams of protein, 5 grams of carbohydrate, and 3 grams of fiber.