Saturday, June 16, 2007

Avocado Confessions

It is probably best to start my blog off with a confession. The confession is that yes, I AM trying to grow avocados in Canberra. It is a medium scale obsession that creates much mirth amongst my friends, and the Avocado Man at the Canberra Farmers Market thinks it is hilARIOUS.

Now I wouldn’t want any of you to think I had gone down this path of fancy sans research and preparation. I have read EVERYTHING I can get my hands on about growing the things in extreme climactic conditions. You may, for instance, be interested to know that according to Louise Glowinski, the latitudinal range of avocados is between 40 degrees north and 40 degrees south. That 40 Degree southern latitude is right through the Bass Strait, and that my friends is WAY south of ONC*.

Yes, I know, there is that whole mountainous 600 meters above sea level thing....and the relentless frosts.....the -8 frosts that is...the odd snowfall.........and the heat......the 40 degree days......and that particularly parching west/north-westerly wind in summer.....I could go on listing all the things Avocadoes hate and that Duck Herders have in abundance....but I wont.
Instead, we will talk about variety selection and micro-climates.

The varieties I selected are Bacon and Gwen. There are two of each. The Bacons are generally recognised as being very cold hardy (up to -4 once established). In a temperate climate, the protogynous diurnally synchronous dichogomyness is knocked around a bit so they are also self fertile.

The Gwen is a new variety which is also meant to be cold hardy, but needs an appropriate pollinator friend (such as Bacon). All my little avocado friends came from Sunraysia Nursury. Here is a little picture of Bacon #2 on the left, and Gwen #1 on the right.

You might notice the swathes of shadecloth, the polystyrene panels, the 2.4m star pickets and mountains of mulch. You may not notice the shadecloth roof. Combined, all these bits and pieces constitute what is known locally as "The Avocado Shanty".

Here is a view from a distance. The Avocado Shanty faces almost north, is sheltered from the west wind by our house, and the east wind by a huge box alder. The curtain along the front of the Avocado Shanty can be adjusted or dropped down so they are totally enclosed. The avocadoes are protected from cold air coming off the metal fence behind by panels of polystyrene (free from car battery outlets).

The water tanks to the right will hopefully function as a heat sink. The house behind hopefully radiates additional warmth in the winter. The row of lomandras stops cold air and frosts from getting into the shanty as well. You can't see if from the photo, but there is a path behind the lomandras. Eventually, I hope my avocados form a wonderful, abundant, productive, thick hedge between us and the neighbours. They have been in there for almost 9 months, have grown well and already survived a very hot summer and some -3 frosts. I have sprayed them with a product called "green with envy" to provide additional frost protection - and it certainly hasn’t done them any harm. Oh, and our ducki friends are Amelia and Miriam.

Well, that’s it really. If I can just keep them alive for another 2 summers and 2 winters, we should be right. There might even be avocados one day.

*"our nation's capital"


Sherd said...


(welcome to the strange and somewhat addictive world of blogging)

The Duck Herder said...

Hee hee! you found me! Luckily MY blog will be soo uncool that you will always be able to see regular Nefley updates!

love you Sherd!

rhonda jean said...

Hello, I found you through scarecrow's blog.

Jackie French grows avocados successfully in a frost patch in Victoria. She told me she built up slowly by planting protective bushes and trees all around. You've got that same protection with your excellent tent. I think you'll be successful.

We have two avo bushes here, planted 12 months ago after our old tree died.

They are a wondeful food. Good luck.

The Duck Herder said...

Hi Rhonda Jean
thanks for visiting! alas, we have had two -4 nights in a row, and the 'cados are looking a little worse for wear! The Bacons are definitely tougher than the Gwens as this stage. Hopefully they will pull through.....!

rhonda jean said...

can you protect your bacons with something - maybe a sheet thrown over the top or some shadecloth? I hope they survive. Fingers crossed!

Natedog said...

Hello! I am very interested to know how your Canberra avocados are going, being Canberran myself!

Anonymous said...

Any news on the longevity of the avocadoes? I'm a Canberra local who's thinking of putting in a couple myself - probably a Pinkerton and a Bacon (I hadn't heard of Gwens).

Unknown said...

So having been a few years since you posted this I am interested to know how your avocados are going?
I also live in Canberra and have been growing one in a pot for the last 2 years, bringing it inside during the summer and winter extremes.
It is smaller then I was expecting but still going strong.
Hope all went well and you are producing fruit now.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Rixon said...

Not sure how this works. Hope you receive my message. I live in Conder ACT and would like to grow an advado tree or two.

Can i buy a plant or two from you or could you advise me where to look.Any advice you may provide is address is


myf said...

please give us an update. super keen to know if your efforts paid off :-D