23 May 2013


On the 5th of May young Declan, born year of the monkey, true to his Chinese birth animal scaled the avocado tree from the food forest and harvested 60 divine fruit. Barefoot and fearless he climbed to the crown, with Cal catching the bounty, a modest haul was retrieved...

The interesting aspect of this story is that the avocado tree (Persea americana) was grown from seed. Six years ago, a young Uni volunteer propagated it, (from a Friday Wollongong market stall avocado), on her west facing balcony in North Wollongong. It was pot raised, in a blend of the Garden compost and coarse river sand, for 3 months and then gifted to the Garden before she returned to her Chinese home land. 

We selected a spot on the southern side of the Garden in the food forest, between two acacias and adjacent to a macadamia nut, for its home.  The avocado was selected as a climax fruit tree for a South American "plant guild" of back sapote, strawberry guava and custard apple (African Pride). A small flock of  chickens regularly pulse through this side of the garden to scratch around the deep carbon rich soils built from years of heavy mulching with woodchips .

It was planted on a slight mound to provide drainage for its sensitive root system. (The Garden however, grows on an existing flood plain of free draining mineral rich "Bulli black" sandy loam.) The years of  soil building has built a 40 - 50cm thick humus layer supporting good moisture holding ability. 
We initially fed it with a generous combination of dolomite lime, lucerne hay, molasses and water, comfrey, blood and bone, chook manure, cow manure, leaves and straw. This was continued seasonally for the first 3 years. It then received a heavy seasonal feeding of carbon rich banna grass, wood chip (acacia and eucalypt) and large (12cm diameter) logs placed around the drip line to protect the sensitive roots from the chickens. 
It has and continues to be rain watered only.

It now stands at 6.5m high with a drip line of 5m in diameter. In its second year we pruned it giving it twin leaders at 1m. 
It bore fruit in its fourth year. Now in its third year of fruiting, it produced around 80 healthy fruit this season. 
It suffered both leaf and fruit burn on the 42 degree January 18th scorcher, but it held its fruit and promptly put on a new flush of leaf growth. It is unaffected by the prevailing south to westerly winds now that its established.

Seed avocados are easy to propagate, as many folk know, but the taste and quality of the fruit it what is of interest. The fruit is small, 10-12cm long and 7-9cm at the widest point, and has a large seed. The seed size is of no consequence, as it is the taste of the flesh that is superb. It recalls childhood memories of the wild avocados in SE Queensland, with its nutty aromatic flavour and smooth flesh. A friend called them a "quality single serve fruit", which is accurate as the flesh is a modest portion but so rich and smooth and hence a perfect meal for one.

Community resilience and food sovereignty is more relevant now than ever, so the planting of seed avocados in public spaces is a practical solution to getting this mineral rich fruit to the wider public. By planting seed avocados in "woody weed" infested riparian (creek and rivulet) zones high on the bank is an ethical "slow and small" solution to shade lantana and other weeds, provide habitat for native fauna and produce a "low maintenance" long term food crop.

The tasty bounty coming to a local creek line near you

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