Growing avocados is simple

Published 7:57 am Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Few people know that the Portuguese originally introduced the avocado to Sri Lanka eventually becoming known in the United States as the Alligator Pear.

It is used in various delicious ways from chilled avocado soup to salads, dips, and casseroles.

Years ago the avocado became popular as a do-it- yourself house plant and was a familiar sight in many kitchens the seed, propped up with toothpicks in a cup of water.

With summer chores dwindling and the delicious fall chill creeping in, starting indoor pots is a must. There are several methods for obtaining a delightful plant and I will give you three simple steps to do just that.

Germinating and growing avocado is a simple procedure. Simply cut a slightly soft avocado in half, wash the seed to remove any pulp and cut off a thin slice of the top and bottom. This will speed up the germination process.

Wrap in a very damp paper towel and place it in a covered dish in a dark place for two to four weeks. Check on it now and then to see if anything is happening.

The tap root is generally the first growth to merge from the seed.

When the root is three inches long, plant your avocado. Put the seed in soil with the white taproot down, leaving the top “red sprout” and 1/3 of the upper seed exposed. Position in the center of the pot, using gravel in the bottom for drainage.

Another more popular planting method is to sprout the seed by inserting several toothpicks into sides of the seed about halfway up the pit. Suspend the seed in a glass of water with the bottom 1/4 to 1/2 resting in the water. Sprouting should occur in about three weeks.

Add water to maintain the initial water level when needed. Replace occasionally with fresh water.

The third method is to place the pit in soil from the beginning. Peel off the brown seed coat and plant the seed in a six inch container (with a drainage hole) filled with a rich, well draining potting soil.

Leave about 1/3 of the top protruding from the soil. Keep moist, but not soggy. Do not let the soil dry out. It probably will take a month or longer for the avocado to sprout using this method.

Bright indirect light is best with the temperature 60 to 80 degrees. Your plant might grow 4 to 5 feet tall rather quickly. Pruning can be done in the spring and if you want a bushier plant, pinch two inches off the top when it is 1 foot tall. Repeat when it has grown to 2 to 3 feet.

Be sure to use a pot that has drainage holes and do not ever let the plant be soggy or root rot will occur. Light porous soil mix is important, fertilizing once or twice a month during the spring and summer, resting during the winter.

Now is a great time to enjoy the tasty avocado and capture the seed for planting. You will be glad you did.

Gwen holt is a master gardener from Isle of Wight. Her e-mail address is Virginia Master Gardeners are volunteer educators who work within their communities to encourage and promote environmentally sound horticulture practices through sustainable landscape management education and training. As an educational program of Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Master Gardeners bring the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth.