Avocados are easily one of the most versatile fruits of summer and are not only used for eating but can also be used as an ingredient in a lot of natural beauty remedies. Avocados are full of nutritional value and taste delicious.
Learning how to grow an avocado tree from seed is also a great project for kids. Not only is it educational for when they begin to learn about plants and how they develop and grow but it’s also an easy and enjoyable project for them to try out.
How do you start the process? It's as simple as enjoying a delicious avo, maybe make a guacamole, some avocado toast - whatever you fancy! Just hold onto that pith in the middle because that’s where it all begins.
History of the avocado
According to Australian Avocados, our beloved avos arrived in 1840 in seed form and were then planted in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens! The industry was in full swing by the 1960s.
Today, you can find avocados all over Australia and we have them in abundance between March and November. The two main varieties of avocados are Hass and Shepard.
The Hass avocado has more of a creamy taste with a brown to purple pebble texture on its skin. The Shepard however, stays green even when ripe and has a more nutty, buttery taste. Some have a preference; others can't tell the difference between them. When planting your avocado tree, you may want to consider which avocado variety you want to have growing and (hopefully) producing fruit!
Clean the Pit
Start by giving the pit a good clean, and ensure it is not going to get cracked whilst you’re removing it. Once you have a clean pit, you may be tempted to remove the brown cover - don’t! This is the cover which protects the seed. If you are having trouble removing the avocado off the seed, try soaking it in water for a few minutes until it has loosened up.
Locate the top of your Avocado seed
Avocado seeds come in all shapes and sizes. However, all of them have a top end (where the roots will emerge from) and a bottom end. Typically, the pointy end is the top. Why do we need to locate this? Because we don’t want to obstruct the seed from growing. The bottom end will sit in water. Note the image above, the top of the seed is facing upward.
Pierce with toothpicks
Find some toothpicks and pierce three of them around the avocado seed, ensuring they are evenly spaced. Make sure that the toothpicks are firmly placed as they will essentially act as a supporting frame for your seed whilst it is half submerged in water.
Place in a glass of water
Using a glass or jar of water, place your avocado seed half-submerged in the water. Ensure that the toothpicks are still firmly pierced into the seed as they will be sitting on top of the cup edge to ensure the seed doesn’t fall into the glass of water. We recommend a clear glass or cup as it makes it much easier to see when the water needs changing and when the seed starts sprouting.
Choose a spot for your avocado seed & wait it out
Many people choose to keep their avocado seed on the windowsill or somewhere with sunlight. This is a great place as it also serves as a good reminder to change the water!
Now the hard part, practicing patience. An avocado seed can sprout anywhere from 2 weeks or up to 8 weeks later. You will see cracks start to form in the seed and then a taproot will emerge at the base of the seed. It is crucial that this root is never out of water in order to prevent it from dying.
Plant your seed in soil
Once your avocados' seed stem has reached 15 centimetres in height, trim it down to roughly half the size. Then, wait for it to grow back before planting in soil. It is recommended you plant your avocado in the right humus soil. This soil is mature and full of organic matter, compost and fertiliser. You will need a pot with a diameter of approximately 25 centimetres. Once planted, place the pot in full sun. At this stage, the windowsill is still an ideal spot for your avocado plant, or you can decide to keep it outdoors. The more sun the better.
If you hadn't already observed from the sprouting process, avocados love water. Be sure to give them a good soak every once in a while but take care to avoid over watering. You want to keep the soil moist but not saturated and consider setting a reminder to water your avocado tree at least once a week.
Avocado trees are surprisingly hardy, but if temperatures do get cold in your area, particularly in Winter or at night, bring them inside to avoid any frost or other temperature related damage. Other than the cold, they thrive in tropical climates, making Australia the ideal location to grow and produce avocados.
It is also a good idea to bring them inside if you can when there is a lot of wind. Whilst this is a rare occasion, it is still better to be cautious, particularly whilst the plant is still young.
Whilst fertiliser isn't an essential for avocado trees, when they are maturing it can be helpful for their overall health. A plant health fertiliser works perfectly well in moderation, approximately every two to two and a half months.
Keep a keen eye out for fruit flies on your avocado trees. If this is a problem for you, there are several solutions both natural and chemical which can help to control this. Avocado trees can also be susceptible to fungal diseases. These can be more difficult to identify, so you may want to conduct some research before you try to diagnose the problem. Many of the fungal diseases are due to over-watering or something that can be controlled. Remember, gardening is very trial and error, everything is a learning process!
Any dead looking leaves or branches should be pruned as soon as you notice them. This will encourage new growth and stop the tree from wasting its resources trying to repair the leaves in poor health.
As avocado trees love water, consider using mulch to help to retain moisture in the soil. Mulch can be used in abundance to decrease the number of times you need to water as well as prevent erosion.
When will it grow avocados?
We’re sorry to say but it may take up to 10-15 years to see avocados form on your tree! You are absolutely playing a long game when you decide to grow one from seed. But you will ultimately end up with a nice-looking plant with large leaves to enjoy for many years to come. You may also be surprised by the beauty and size of avocado trees; they are a sight to see!
N.B. This article has been written for Australian gardens. If you are reading from somewhere else in the world, we hope this has been a useful stepping stone in your research.