I heard a Master Gardener say she was hesitant to recommend that people plant avocado trees in their Southern California yards because avocados need a lot of water. Sounds sensible at first. We should be careful about our water use. But let’s think further.
Unless you’re also going to stop eating avocados, then you haven’t automatically saved water just by not growing avocados in your own yard. You have merely paid an avocado farmer to use the required water to grow your avocados.
Moreover, these avocados might be grown in a grove within walking distance of your yard. There are avocado groves all over the place, from San Diego County up through Santa Barbara County and even farther north. Your neighborhood avocado grove might even be using water from the same source as your yard (the local water district, for example). In this case, there’s absolutely no water saved; the only difference is who is using the water.
How much water does an avocado tree need?
So what if you decided to plant an avocado tree in your yard and grow your own avocados instead of paying a farmer to grow your avocados? How much water does an avocado tree actually need? And how many avocados would a tree give you for that amount of water?
My experience in my Southern California yard as well as through observing many other trees in the region is that an avocado tree needs about as much water as a patch of grass that takes up the same amount of ground space.
In other words, the water needed to keep a 100-square-foot patch of grass green in the summer could also keep a similarly sized avocado tree healthy and fruitful.
Well, how much water is that? I created this table showing approximately how much water avocado trees need, per month, in most of Southern California:
(Details about this table are in my post, “How much and how often to water an avocado tree in California.”)
Let’s use a tree with a 14-foot canopy as an example since I have one of those in the common Hass variety. In an average year, I’ve found that there is little to no irrigation needed from the month of December through March. But as you can see in the table, avocado trees need a lot of water through the summer.
To be specific, I gave my 14-foot Hass avocado tree approximately 3,000 gallons over the course of the year 2017, which was not far from average in precipitation.
The cost of water in my district of Southern California is $6.71 per hundred cubic feet, which equals $6.71 per 748 gallons. So I spent about four HCF, or almost $27 in water on that Hass avocado tree in 2017.
How many avocados will a tree give you?
In 2017, that Hass avocado tree gave us 156 avocados. But the year before it gave us only 73. The crop is always different, but an average of the last two years is about the overall average, I’d guess. That would be 115, but just to be cautious let’s round down to 100. Average production: 100 avocados per year.
At a water cost of $27 for a yield of 100 avocados, that’s 27 cents per avocado.
Of course, there are some other costs involved in growing an avocado tree in your yard, but at least for my trees in my yard, after the original purchase of the tree, they’re almost zero compared to the cost of water. And in terms of the cost of water, growing your own avocado tree seems like the obvious right choice for anyone with a yard in a suitable climate, such as here in Southern California.
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