So remember how a reader asked me how to feel more like a farmer in the city, and I answered her and said now this meant I had an advice column and you would all be justified in having fear feelings about this?
Yeah, well anyhow, remember how after that I answered a question about my potting mix recipe for tomatoes in containers and raised beds?
Are you starting to get the feeling that this advice thingy might be for real, and not just some passing fancy I entertained after 3 gin gimlets and a handful of tookies? By which I mean, cookies? By which I mean, tookies?
Good! ‘Cause the questions keep coming, my adorable little misfits, and Bad Mama Genny ain’t one for leaving you in the homesteading dust, ‘kay?
Or any other kind of dust for that matter. Who leaves people in dust?
So lest we all forget what this post was supposed to be about, (oh, honey biscuits, THAT SHIP HAS SAILED), I received a question from a Chicago reader named Mary yesterday, and it’s a query that I just know you city farmers are itching to hear all about:
“I keep reading that avocado trees are easy to grow. I’ve heard that you can take them in the house in the winter and they’ll keep growing. Do you agree? What kind of tree is it that you said you have in your apt.? Oh I would so love to have an avocado tree!” -Mary
Well, look, it’s out of the question for me to turn my back on a fellow guac-lover.
That’s just about the cruelest thing you can do to a person. Deny them guac, I mean. That, or rip a run in their fishnets. That’s pretty evil, too.
So here’s my answer for Mary:
Dwarf Avocados are entirely possible to maintain in containers in our Arctic corner of the Midwest, though they have a reputation for being finicky and many people can never get them to produce fruit. If you’d like to do it, remember that quality plants can also be expensive. If you’re looking for shade, starting a tree from a storebought avocado pit via that god-awfully tedious process with the toothpicks that we all learned in kindergarten (Shoot me. Shoot me now.) is fine, though the growth habit may get out of control. This is not the way to go if you want fruit. That’s because most storebought avocados come from hybrid stock that doesn’t produce true-to-seed: in other words, you won’t get the same avocado you got the pit from. You may get a rock-hard, low-fruit avocado, or you may get none at all.
For fruit, contact a reputable nursery and get a quality plant, preferably one that has a year or two under its belt. Little Cado and Holiday are a few of the varieties I’ve heard recommended; Don Gillogly is a variety that seems to a problem for just about everyone, so I’d steer clear. A 5 gallon pot is usually sufficient for these guys, and they cap off at about 8 to 10 feet. Thankfully, I capped off at about 5 1/2 feet, but then again, I don’t make avocados. Dammit.
I don’t recommend investing in one of these unless you have a very sunny spot INDOORS. These guys, like dwarf citrus trees (I have a dwarf Cara Cara orange tree), will happily go outdoors in the summer, but will need to be in a sunny, preferably southern-exposure spot in the house during the winter, or whenever nighttime temps are going to drop below 55. At this point, the plant will be in dormancy and its water needs will be less–its feeding needs will be around zero. In the spring, you’d start to fertilize here and there and increase watering to break the dormant period (but only if you have the sunlight to support new growth). You’ll notice it taking off shortly after it’s moved outside. Speaking of moving it outside, do this gradually–a few hours to start–and increase the outside time over the course of a week.
If space is limited and you just want to grow something tropical that makes you feel like a rockstar, I’d recommend Mayer Lemons or another dwarf citrus variety–they produce more reliably in containers than avocados. But if you’re up for a challenge and an adventure, go for it! Just remember that my advice here entitles me to a one third share in all resulting guacamole. Sorry. I don’t make the rules.
Well, whaddya say, misfits? Have any of you successfully grown avocado trees in containers indoors? If so, don’t be shy with the details–we wanna know how you did it and what varieties you grew!
Also, whether the resulting guac was mildly kick-ass, appropriately kick-ass, generous with the ass-kickage, mind-blowing ass-kicking, or leg-pulling mind-blowing skirt-flipping ass-kicking.