Fruit trees hiding at the San Diego Zoo

Fruit trees hiding at the San Diego Zoo

Last week, I took my boys to the San Diego Zoo and we headed toward a less crowded area where the giant Galapagos tortoises reside. As often happens, on our walk I pointed out the plants as much as the animals. “Cass, do you see this avocado tree over here?”

Then I noticed fruit. Looked mighty Fuerte-like to me. And the leaves, they looked exactly like Fuerte leaves: large, flat, deep green. “Guys, I think it’s a Fuerte!”

I’d been noticing this hidden little avocado tree for years, but never noticed fruit on it. Maybe this was it’s first year bearing. I think of the tree as “hidden” only because many plants at the Zoo have labels with their common names and botanical names and places of origin — which I’ve always appreciated — but this tree calls no such attention to itself. There are many more like it, if you occasionally turn your gaze from the animals to the surrounding forests.

Not like any Zoo visitor doesn’t notice the plants. The beauty of the Zoo’s botanical collection is obvious the minute you go from the parking lot to the Zoo’s entrance. I’ve heard that, in fact, the value of the plants on the San Diego Zoo’s 100 acres is higher than the value of its animals although I can’t now seem to find where I heard that in order to confirm it. But the fact that there are fruit trees nestled among the colorful coral trees, soaring palms, and hibiscus flowers that are as big as your head is not always obvious.

Here is a guava we saw near the Fuerte avocado:

Here is a tiny cherimoya that was tucked into surrounding ornamental plants:

In just that same remote corner of the Zoo we saw loquats and blackberries too. In other areas there are more guavas, passion fruit vines, dragon fruit, pineapple guavas, figs, and coffee bushes.

And there are lots and lots of bananas. According to the Zoo’s website, they grow 24 types of bananas. “The leaves and stalks are harvested and given to our primates and elephants as browse. The fruit sometimes supplements the commercial bananas purchased to feed a variety of animals in the collection.” These banana plantings are sometimes conspicuous, such as in the grove at the Zoo’s northeast corner, but there are smaller plantings sprinkled in almost every other part of the property.

Here are some bananas by the snakes:

I’ve watched some fruit trees disappear, unfortunately. There used to be a small avocado tree down by the hippos, and then one day it was gone. And I continue to notice plants for the first time, even after visiting the Zoo so often for many years now. From 2009 to 2013, my wife and I lived two blocks away from the Zoo; while falling asleep at night, we often heard the Transvaal lion roar; while gardening in the morning, the monkeys hollered so loudly that I expected them to peek out from behind a tree in our yard. We often took after-dinner strolls through the Zoo on summer nights, sometimes staying well after dark. (It was spooky walking by the tigers, within a dense canopy of trees, in darkness — even as you knew they were behind a secure barrier.)

I’ve seen new plantings go in that are clearly labelled, which is fun. They had a bunch of vegetables and herbs one year by the Zoo’s eastern fence near the parking lot although they’re gone now. And they put in a little orchard with peaches and apricots and blueberries down by the lagoons where the herons hang out at the Zoo’s low-elevation southwest corner. There are tables with umbrellas, which make it a nice place to eat lunch.

I bet there are a hundred fruit trees I’ve yet to notice at the Zoo, too. Have you ever noticed this mango tree? I won’t tell you which part of the Zoo it’s in, just in case you haven’t. Treasure hunt.

 

Growing avocados in Southern California

Growing avocados in Southern California

Avocados are California. They are our heritage fruit. My great great grandfather grew a huge seedling avocado tree at his house near Los Angeles. When my mother was a child, she climbed in her neighbor’s Fuerte avocado tree. I have planted avocado trees over the placentas of each of my children.

This is a post about how I grow avocado trees in my yard and how you might want to. Or not. Avocado trees can survive and produce fruit without some of the exact conditions or care that I describe below. I’ve seen pretty happy looking trees with grass or concrete under them instead of the wood-chip mulch that I place under mine, for example. But I’ve seen many more happy looking avocado trees that get treated the way I treat my trees.

 

Climate

Almost every yard in Southern California between the mountains and the ocean can grow an avocado tree. Think Sunset zones 18 through 24 (find your Sunset zone here). You only have to decide which micro-climate in your yard is best for an avocado. Micro-climates with these characteristics are ideal: wind-sheltered, as sunny as possible, warm in winter. 

 

Varieties

I currently grow nine varieties. Someday, if my wife allows, it might get up to twenty. There are just so many worthwhile avocado varieties to grow.

Yet, almost every avocado found in grocery stores is a variety called Hass. Hass (rhymes with “pass”) originated in Southern California and can be grown in almost every part of this region. And if you have desire and yard space for just one avocado tree, you’ll likely be most satisfied with a Hass tree. Hass tastes great (better from your yard than the store, by the way), is very productive, and the fruit hangs on the tree ready to be picked longer than most other varieties, for at least six months (approximately January to July).

(Do not grow a Hass seed thinking that you’ll get a Hass avocado tree from it, however. Avocado seeds grow up to be different from their parents, just like people do. Buy a grafted Hass avocado tree from a nursery if you want a tree that produces Hass fruit.)

If you have desire and room for two avocado trees, I’d recommend Reed to go with your Hass. Reed also tastes great, is usually even more productive than Hass, and while the fruit doesn’t hang on the tree for quite as long as Hass, it is ready at a different time (approximately May to September).

Reed and Lamb Hass avocados size comparison

You know what a Hass avocado looks like, but here is a Reed on the left. On the right is another nice avocado variety for Southern California that ripens in the summer called Lamb.

 

Pollination

A maximum amount of fruit on an avocado tree comes when one tree is close to a tree of a different variety, especially a variety with opposite flowering behavior (called A or B). That is why, for example, I planted a Hass next to a Fuerte in my yard. (See my post, “Cross pollination of avocados, or why I planted a Hass next to a Fuerte.”)

However, do not think that you need to plant two different avocado trees in order to get fruit. The assertion that, in general, you need two avocado trees to get fruit is nonsense. You can get plenty of fruit from a single Hass or Reed avocado tree in your yard. (See my post, “Do you need two avocado trees to get fruit?”)

 

Soil

Avocados can be grown in sandy or clayey soil. If your soil is sandy, you’ll have to water more frequently. If your soil is clayey, you’ll have to water less frequently. It’s not that you can water less frequently with clayey soil, you must. Avocado roots have a great need for air and can’t be in saturated soil for long without suffocating, so a spot in your yard that often puddles and doesn’t drain away within a few hours after a rain in winter is not appropriate for an avocado tree.

 

Planting

A yard space of about ten feet by ten feet is the minimum for an avocado tree to be productive. Of course, they can get over forty feet tall, but pruning can keep them much smaller while maintaining fruitfulness. (See my post, “Can you grow an avocado tree in a small yard space?”)

This is my Reed avocado tree. At about 12 feet wide and tall, it has around 75 avocados on it for next summer.

You can successfully plant avocado trees at any time of year in Southern California, not just the spring, as some people recommend. In fact, I find it easiest to plant in the late summer or fall. The weather quickly becomes mild and rainy, when you no longer have to pay the young tree so much attention as it gets settled in.

Plant an avocado tree at the same level as the surrounding soil if your soil is sandy. If it is clayey, the tree would appreciate being up on a slight mound — anywhere from a few inches to a foot up is good, with a mound width of 3-5 feet. Do not plant an avocado tree in a basin, below the level of the surrounding soil, ever. That will cause water to pool around the base of the trunk, which is not where the tree wants to grow its roots, and which can lead to rotting diseases on the trunk.

Dig a hole that is just a few inches wider than the container the tree is in. Be very gentle when you remove the rootball from the container as avocado roots are brittle. Check the sides and bottom of the root ball for circling roots. If found, gently pull them loose to straighten them out. To splay the roots out you may need to widen the planting hole.

Fill in the hole around the root ball with the dirt you removed when you dug it. There’s no need to add anything else to the planting hole, such as compost or fertilizer.

Don’t leave the tree tied to the original stake that came in the container for more than about a month. The trunk will never strengthen if you do. It needs to be able to sway in order to strengthen. Rather, place a stake on either side of the trunk and tie it to each.

Do not place landscape fabric around the base of the tree. Landscape fabric prohibits the tree from growing roots up to the surface of the soil, as it is naturally inclined to do. But do place mulch around the base of the tree, and let whatever leaves fall lie in place.

 

Mulch

A coarse mulch of wood chips and twigs and leaves (tree trimmings) is ideal for avocado trees. Put down a layer about five inches deep at first, spreading about two feet out from all sides of the trunk.

Such a mulch covering the soil is loved by all avocado trees, but for those growing in loam or clay soils it may mean the difference between life and death because it allows the roots to proliferate just under the mulch where there is much air and where there are disease-suppressing enzymes and micro-organisms. Read about a study done by the University of California on the effects of mulch on avocados here.

Within two years after planting, if your tree is in tip-top shape, you should be able to scoop the mulch layer away in a spot under the tree and find many white or cream-colored roots sticking into the mulch above the actual soil.

 

Watering

Watering is the most important thing to get right for an avocado tree. Again, by far — after an avocado tree has been planted correctly — watering is the most important thing to get right. Get the watering right. Ok, you heard me.

Immediately upon planting, water as much as necessary such that the soil out to about three feet from the tree’s trunk is wet down to two feet deep. If the soil is dry at planting time, this might even take up to 30 gallons. This is not a time to be stingy or hasty.

Avocados can be watered with drip emitters but they do better with sprinklers. Any kind of sprinkler that waters most of the ground under the tree’s canopy is acceptable. I use a micro-sprinkler in its sprayer mode on my newly planted avocado trees. Details about how to water a newly planted avocado tree can be found here, but the main take-away is that you need to water newly planted trees very often, every day or every other day for the first couple weeks in the summer. They’re very sensitive to drying out at first.

DIG micro-sprinkler in 90-degree spray mode

I switch to using a micro-sprinkler in its spinner mode on my avocado trees after their canopies are at least four feet wide in diameter, which is usually the case in the second or third year after planting a tree from a five-gallon container.

micro sprinkler under avocado tree

Antelco micro-sprinkler in spinner mode

How much and how often to water? You must regularly scrape the mulch away and observe and feel the soil. Sorry, but there is no substitute for getting your hands dirty. The soil at the surface should never be allowed to become totally dry. At the same time, if the soil at the top is wet (still feels like it does a few hours after watering), then it should not be watered again yet. This goes for new and old trees alike. You’ll find that new trees dry out much faster than old trees, and so new trees must be watered more often than old trees.

Give all trees enough water each time such that the soil is wet as deep as the tree has roots. This varies from yard to yard, and even within yards, but for reference I have never found roots under my avocado trees deeper than 2 feet. The only way to know how deep you’re watering — and where your tree’s roots are — is to dig and discover. You won’t significantly hurt the tree by doing this. 

In the fall and winter, it’s common to see brown tips on avocado leaves. This comes from the build up of chloride that has entered the tree through irrigation water. If a tree’s leaves show about thirty percent tip burn or less, it’s no big deal, the tree will still produce fine. More than that and it’s a concern. The main solution is to water with more volume each time you water so that some of the chloride is leached below the level of the roots in the soil.

Are avocados worth all of the water required? See my post, “The water economics of homegrown avocados.”

 

Fertilization

Keep a layer at least two inches thick of wood chips under the tree at all times. This protects and feeds the worms and microbial creatures in the soil below, which in turn protect and feed the tree’s roots. With this mulch, you should not need any additional fertilizer.

I have friends who buy and apply fertilizers to their avocado trees, and some of their trees look great and are very productive. But I’ve never applied fertilizers to any of my trees because they’ve never told me they’ve needed anything more than the deep mulch of wood chips that I provide.

Just wood chips works for this Hass tree. It’s 17 feet tall and carrying over 100 avocados.

 

Pruning

There are only a few good reasons to prune an avocado tree. One is to remove branches that are very low and interfere with sprinklers from distributing water out to near the tree’s canopy edge. Another is to keep a tree down to size.

Pruning of small branches can be done at any time of year, but it’s safest to prune thick branches — thicker than your finger — in February or March so that foliage quickly grows during spring to shade and protect any branches that get newly exposed to the sun by such pruning. Avocado bark sunburns easily. Paint any bark that is exposed during summer. (See this post about how to paint avocado branches to protect them: “Avocado trees get sunburned — what to do?”)

 

Pests, diseases, stresses

Kill gophers in the area or they will kill a new avocado tree and harm an older avocado tree. Gophers killed one of my young trees last year and have attacked almost all of my other avocado trees at one time or another. It’s a constant battle, but the best weapon I’ve found is the Cinch trap. (My post, “The best gopher trap: it’s a Cinch”)

Light winter frosts might do damage to a few leaves or twigs and summer heat waves may scorch a few leaves, but if an avocado tree is in prime health it can come through most extremes in Southern California weather with zero practical harm.

 

Harvesting

If you pick an avocado from a tree when it’s not ready, you might think you don’t like that variety when it’s really your fault for picking it at the wrong time. Use a reference chart to get an idea of when a particular variety might be ready to harvest. I have some reference charts in my post called, “When to pick avocados.” 

Also, get to know how an avocado tree makes its fruit: it grows flowers in the winter and spring, and then some of those flowers become fruit; some avocado varieties (such as Fuerte) grow their fruit rapidly and the fruit is ready to pick that winter, but others (such as Holiday) mature their fruit slowly and are not ready to be picked until the second summer.

And when will you begin to eat avocados from a tree you plant today? Probably three to four years. (See my post “How long until an avocado tree fruits?”)

I can’t imagine a yard in Southern California without an avocado tree. They’re evergreen and beautiful, the fruit is unparalleled — it’s like being able to grow butter — and let’s not forget that the bark is smooth so the branches are perfect for climbing.

LINKS

Would you like some deeper reading about growing avocados in California? Though it’s written for commercial farmers, it’s definitely deep: see Gary Bender’s “Avocado Production in California”. Here is “Book 1” and here is “Book 2.”

Also, be sure to check out the website Avocadosource.com.

 

 

I go to Whole Foods Market once a year — to buy California-grown mangos

I go to Whole Foods Market once a year — to buy California-grown mangos

We don’t normally shop at Whole Foods Market, but once each year I make a visit in order to buy these California-grown mangos. Last year, I bought some in October; this year I decided I’d stop by in September just to check and . . . I bought these three.

Should I choke at the price: 3 for $10? You can get Mexican mangos for $1 a piece, right? Yeah, well, these California mangos are bigger, for one thing. This year they’re actually not as big as those I bought last year. This is my son with one of last year’s (2016):

My sons go wild for mangos. They attack them like buzzards on a carcass. And due to the lack of fiber on these California Keitts, they were able to gnaw so much flesh off the seed the other day that it was this clean when they were finished:

The Keitt variety originated in Florida, but these mangos were grown in the desert of Southern California — an area called the Coachella Valley — not far from Palm Springs. I appreciate the Keitt variety in particular because they are delicious sweet or tart. I like my mangos sweet, so I let them soften and sweeten up before I eat them, but my wife likes her mangos tart, so she cuts the Keitts up while still firm. Either way, Keitt mangos almost always have a mostly green skin color. Whether soft or firm, sweet or tart, they rarely get as orange, pink, red, or yellow as some other mango varieties.

If you can’t get to the Whole Foods Market in Del Mar where I bought mine, where can you get some of these California Keitts? In the past, I’ve bought them at other Whole Foods Markets, as well as at Trader Joe’s. I do hear that they’re also available at the Santa Monica farmers market although I’ve never been. (Update: Sprouts has been stocking them in mid and late October, 2017, and for as low a price as $1.50 each.) The thing to keep in mind is that the season for these California Keitt mangos is now, so don’t bother looking for them much outside of September and October.

But wait, we can grow mangos in California? Indeed, they seem like an exotic fruit, but people in Southern California have been growing them for a very long time. A guy named L.L. Bucklew was trialling dozens of mango varieties in Encinitas back in the 1930s, for example.

It’s only commercial farming of mangos in Southern California that is relatively new. The first large planting in the Coachella Valley was made in the 1980s. Here is an article about some of the mango farms (there are more than one) in the Southern California desert.

Little mango and big mango. Hillcrest, San Diego, California.

But I’ve seen beautiful and fruit-laden mango trees of at least twenty feet in height (which suggests they’re decades old) in many parts of Southern California. The one in the photo above was in the yard of my neighbor in the Hillcrest part of San Diego. I’ve seen a beautiful mango tree in Tustin, Orange County. Some friends in Vista, North San Diego County, have multiple verdant and well-maintained old mango trees on their property and, I have to add, they’ve been kind enough to share a lot of delicious fruit with us over the years.

Once you get an eye for what a mango tree looks like, you might find yourself spotting them in yards in your neighborhood. I grew up in Los Angeles County, where this mango tree was growing in the side yard of a house across the street from my junior high school:

Only I had never “seen” it until this year. Today, I knocked on the door of the house to ask if I could take this picture. An elderly woman came to the door. “Sure, take a picture. Usually it has a lot of fruit. Big red ones — they’re really good — but this year it didn’t have many. We’ve already eaten them all.”

“Can I ask what variety it is, if you know. Or did you plant a seed?”

“We brought a mango back from Hawaii a long time ago and planted the seed.”

If you live in Southern California and you like eating mangos, then why not plant one in your yard too? I’ve got a couple of baby mango trees going in mine. Until they start bearing fruit, though, I’ll continue looking forward to this time of year when the Keitts from the California desert arrive in stores. I might also have to knock on that door by my junior high again next year, around August instead of September.

The Home Orchard: a book review

The Home Orchard: a book review

Chuck Ingels is one of the main authors and technical editors of The Home Orchard, the best book available on growing deciduous fruit and nut trees for home gardeners in California, and at last week’s Master Gardener conference in Long Beach I attended a presentation Ingels gave on training and pruning fruit trees. The presentation reminded me of why I like The Home Orchard so much. The presentation was — and The Home Orchard is — detailed, supported with excellent photographs, and full of clear explanations that can get a new grower off to a great start as well as keep a seasoned orchardist engaged.

The Home Orchard: Growing Your Own Deciduous Fruit and Nut Trees, edited by Chuck Ingels, Pamela Geisel, and Maxwell Norton is a comprehensive guide. As the book’s introduction says, “You will learn how trees grow, which species grow best in particular regions and soils, what varieties are avaliable (and how to select the right one), and how to prepare the soil, plant the trees, water and fertilize, prune and graft, thin the fruit, diagnose problems, control pests, and harvest the fruits of your labors.”

Many of the book’s photographs were taken by Chuck Ingels himself, some of them in his own backyard. And this is one of my favorite things about Ingels: he talks (and writes) about what he knows, first hand. Ingels works for the University of California Cooperative Extension, but he doesn’t just visit commercial orchards and then report what works on those farms. Ingels continually plants and trains and prunes and experiments with peach and apple and persimmon trees in his own yard as well, and he documents it and can report it to us on whether it might work in our yards. Yards are different from farms.

While I have read other books on growing fruit trees, The Home Orchard is my favorite one in large part because it’s written from and for California. A comparative book that I own is called The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips. The Holistic Orchard is useful in many ways but is irrelevant and even misleading on some topics for me because of its author’s far-off perspective: Phillips lives in the mountainous woods of northern New Hampshire. That’s another world. Phillips may know how to save fruit trees from being killed by arctic winters, but we barely get frost in my yard; he has no idea how to guide me in irrigating through a dry Southern California summer.

Some of the chapters of The Home Orchard that I find most useful include the one on irrigation, and also the one on grafting. That chapter helped me successfully create a couple of trees in my yard that have multiple varieties on them. I have a Dapple Dandy pluot that I grafted a Burgundy plum and a Flavor Grenade pluot onto. I also have a Snow Queen nectarine that I grafted a Red Baron peach and a Frank peach onto, all with the indirect help of Ingels and The Home Orchard.

Perhaps my favorite line from the book is about fertilizing: “Although deciduous fruit trees require many nutrients for tree growth and fruit production, those grown in backyard settings in typical sandy loam to clay loam soil with proper irrigation rarely need to be fertilized.” The emphasis is mine.

One of my pet peeves is how much home gardeners feel pressured to fertilize their fruit trees. As a general practice, I don’t fertilize any of my deciduous fruit trees, and The Home Orchard agrees with this attitude, suggesting that one should only look out for symptoms of a nutrient deficiency that needs to be specifically rectified. (Maxwell Norton wrote the chapter on fertilizing.) Despite not regularly fertilizing, I’ve always had so much fruit on my trees that they need to be thinned — and this is in different locations, in different yards, in different soils. I’ve also had to prune frequently to keep them down to size. Why do some recommend fertilizing as a regular practice when trees grow like this without any fertilization?

During his conference presentation, Ingels mentioned that The Home Orchard is in the process of being revised. At the moment, the manuscript is at the peer-review stage (since it’s a University of California publication). The second edition should be available to us in a year or two. Ingels also said that one training technique that will get more coverage in the new edition is espaliering (growing trees along a two-dimensional plane). Apparently, this is the most popular way to grow apples up in Washington nowadays.

I hope that in addition to more pages on the espalier technique there are also more mentions of a couple Southern California-specific items. For example, in the last ten years or so, many growers here have found success with apple varieties that were thought to only do well in locations with colder winters like Washington. And there is no mention in The Home Orchard of pecan varieties suitable for us even though I know people who are successfully growing pecans in Southern California.

And I have a single, soft point of contention with the book’s advice about pruning newly planted bare-root trees. It is suggested to cut them off at knee height or at least cut back lateral branches by a third or half their original length. I used to do that, and often it worked out well, but sometimes trees didn’t develop branches below the cut or they flushed so many that it was difficult to keep up with removing all but a few to be used as scaffold branches. For the past few winters, I’ve simply planted new bare-root trees unmolested, untouched entirely, no pruning at all. Every one of these trees has grown out wonderfully. I now prefer beginning any pruning and training in the trees’ second year. I call this a soft point of contention though, because I’m not about to say that one way or the other is the correct one.

All in all, The Home Orchard is a reliable and broad guide to growing deciduous fruit and nut trees in California, and one that I’ve been reading and re-reading ever since I discovered it. I know of no better book on the topic . . . except maybe I will in a year or two.

See The Home Orchard on Amazon here, and see it at the University of California’s website here

Watch Chuck Ingels teach a group of Master Gardeners about growing fruit trees here.

 

You might also like to read:

What kind of fruit tree should you plant?

My best advice on pruning deciduous fruit trees: keep them small

Oh the mistakes I’ve made: Not thinning enough fruit from a plum tree

Oh the mistakes I’ve made: Not thinning enough fruit from a plum tree

This one is embarrassing. I should know better. In fact, I do know better. It’s just that from afar this small branch of Burgundy plum didn’t look like it had an overwhelming amount of fruit on it. Only once I looked closely did I see that the branch had broken:

broken plum branch

And then I lifted it up only to discover that the branch was three times as long as I’d thought and was carrying five times as much fruit as I had seen from afar. The branch had been weighed down by all of the fruit that I hadn’t seen and was hiding it behind and under another branch. This is what I saw every time I walked by:

Burgundy plum grafted branch

“Oh, that little Burgundy branch has a lot of fruit, but it’s a short branch so I’ll leave them.”

I immediately stripped all of the fruit off the branch in the hope that it wouldn’t die. Turns out that this little branch of a finger nail’s diameter was carrying these 59 plums:

Burgundy plum is prolific

It’s a wonder the branch hadn’t snapped off entirely.

This is a special, singular branch. The tree from a few steps back actually looks like this:

Dapple Dandy pluot tree

It’s a Dapple Dandy pluot tree that I’d grafted that one little branch from my mom’s Burgundy plum onto. It’s the only branch of Burgundy plum I have, and Burgundy plums are not only wonderful tasting fruit, but the Burgundy’s blossoms are needed to pollenize the Dapple Dandy. Maybe the branch will survive and bloom next year to do its pollenization work, and this winter I’ll try to graft a new Burgundy branch onto the tree elsewhere.

 

The lesson

The lesson in this for me is not that I should thin my fruit — I already knew that. And I had already done a round of thinning fruit on this tree. The lesson is to get into trees and lift branches and make sure you really know what each branch is carrying so you can thin the fruit properly.

Stage two: Well, I better get in there and lift branches on the rest of the Dapple Dandy pluot tree. Maybe some of those are hiding fruit I haven’t noticed.

My goodness, were they ever! Here’s how many I removed from the Dapple Dandy branches:

thinned Dapple Dandy pluot fruit

Better late than never? No pluot branches had broken. That’s the good news today.

 

Thinning fruit generally

How much fruit should you thin? It depends on the type of tree and your preference for fruit size. For large fruits that often grow on thin branches, like peaches, it’s good to thin more. For small fruits that often grow on thick branches, like apricots, it’s not as necessary to thin as much. My guiding principles is: Remove enough fruit such that a branch will not break or bend down from the weight of the fruit so much that the fruit or branch will get sunburned. I personally don’t thin fruit aiming to get the fruit on the tree to grow as large as possible — a goal for some people. For one, I’ve never noticed that such a practice actually works. But also, I don’t like giant peaches or apples or any other kind of fruit. I prefer small fruit, because if I want more I’ll pick another one.

Here is a good and short video from Tom Spellman at Dave Wilson Nursery showing him thinning a Burgundy plum and talking about a few thinning principles. Skip to about 2:45 into the video to see the Burgundy plum.

And when you do your thinning, make sure to stick your head inside the tree and lift branches and find out for sure how much each branch is carrying, Greg!

Avocado trees get sunburned — what to do?

Avocado trees get sunburned — what to do?

Believe it or not, avocado bark is like our skin and gets sunburned. If left unprotected, a branch that is exposed, especially to the south or west sun, will burn.

The branch in the photo above is on a young Pinkerton avocado tree that grew out a long limb which drooped enough to expose some of its young skin to the overhead afternoon (west) sun. It got scorched during a recent heat wave.

What to do? Put on sunscreen. For avocados, Coppertone will not do. But white latex paint will. It doesn’t need to be full strength: diluting the paint 50/50 with water will make a sufficiently opaque coating.

white latex paint for avocado sunburn prevention

And then paint it on.

white latex paint on avocado branch to prevent sunburn

With the white latex sunscreen, the branch is protected and won’t get burned further. If left unprotected, the branch would get burned so badly that the bark would begin cracking and the branch’s health would decline.

So this summer if you see a section of a branch on your avocado tree that doesn’t have leaf cover to protect it, give it protection in the form of white latex paint sunscreen. It will return the favor with a long life and many fruit.