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Gardening


Avocado image

Mexican avocados are a highlight in the 2007 Master Gardener’s plant sale. The avocados pictured were grown in the Friendswood area. Master Gardeners will also offer a wide selection of other fruit and citrus trees at their February 3 plant sale.

Photo by Herman Auer.

Edible fruits for the adventurous gardener

By Dr. William M. Johnson
Galveston County Extension Agent - Horticulture

January 24, 2007

Square Foot Gardening Seminars and
Fruit Tree Sale & Seminar

SATURDAY, JANUARY 27: A Home Gardener’s Guide for Square Foot Gardening. 9:00-11:30 a.m. at the Galveston County Extension Office. Topics include basic designs, soil preparation, plant selection and establishment, insect pest & disease control, and general care. Class size limited to 32. No fee but reservation required (281-534-3413, ext. 1-2 or GALV3@wt.net).

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 3: Master Gardeners Fruit Tree Sale & Seminar. Carbide Park’s Wayne Johnson Community Center, 4102 FM 519 in La Marque. Seminar at 8:00 a.m. Sale from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Open to the general public. No reservation required.

Whether you plan to add to your existing collection of fruit trees in the landscape or you are just starting out, be sure to make a notation on your gardening calendar to attend the Galveston County Master Gardeners Fruit Tree Seminar & Sale on Saturday, February 3, 2007. There will be an offering of the "normal stuff" such as a wide assortment of apples, citrus, Asian and European pears, plums, peaches, figs, grapes, blackberries, and pecans.

There will also be a selection of fruit trees for the adventurous. Some gardeners will be delighted by some very different, hard-to-find-them-anywhere fruits that may do well in our yards.

Mexican Avocados are a highlight in this year Master Gardener’s plant sale. Yes, we offered them at last year’s sale. And yes, we did not have many to offer on the day of the sale. We have made an extra effort to better ensure that we will have a larger supply on hand (at this time we anticipate 75 plants).

Mexican Avocados offer their own distinctive flavors and textures and merit consideration.

There are three distinct horticultural races of avocado (West Indian, Guatemalan and Mexican) plus hybrids between them. Mexican Avocados are the most cold tolerant of the three.

Mexican Avocados offered at the plant sale are grafted and will sustain temperature drops to at least 15 degrees F two years after planting since cold-hardiness increases as the tree matures.

Mexican Avocado fruit ripens in the summer and has good flavor. The fruit is rarely larger than 8 to 12 ounces, is green to purple or black, and has very thin skin. The crushed leaves of Mexican Avocados have a distinct odor of anise (licorice), which is lacking in the other races of avocado.

Avocado trees are adapted to most soil types found in our growing region, provided the soil has good internal drainage. The tree will not perform well in poorly drained soils, nor will it tolerate flooding. The planting site should be chosen with cold protection in mind, especially during the first two years’ of growth. Generally, the south or southeast side of the house is the warmest location in a residential site. Because it can become a large tree, it should be planted no closer than 8 to 10 feet from the house.

Trees generally mature to 20-25 feet in our area, and no training is required. Avocados flower at an early age, and you may pick a couple of fruit by the second year. Blooms appear January-February, and the fruit begins to ripen in September, depending on the variety. Harvest avocados before they're too soft, and allow them to further soften indoors.

Grafted varieties will produce a few fruit two years after establishment (which is defined as the tree having made significant growth after planting). Mature trees can produce two to three or more bushels of avocados with good management, depending upon variety. If you’re waiting on that grocery-store seedling, be aware that avocados do not come true from seed and seedlings may take up to 10 to 15 years to fruit.

Square Foot Gardening

For many gardeners, intensive gardening is the best way to utilize limited garden space. Square foot gardening is probably the best known type of intensive gardening. Square foot gardening also allows us to create aesthetically pleasing and even artful gardens.

Even if space is not a limitation, a small-sized garden is often preferable to a larger one. Smaller gardens require less labor and expense than larger gardens. Decreasing garden size provides more yard space for other activities.

The gardener can concentrate soil improvement efforts in a smaller area, and with careful management, small gardens can produce sufficient vegetables for fresh eating during the growing season, and perhaps extra produce for preserving.

For most of us, square foot gardening is the best way to use our limited garden space. Your vegetable garden should be fun and attractive. This will entice you to stay there to weed, water, and enjoy yourself. So, start dreaming, make some plans and be ready for spring planting.

To provide assistance toward that effort, Master Gardener John Jons will provide a PowerPoint-based program entitled "Home Gardener’s Guide for Square Foot Gardening." The presentation will be conducted at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 27, at the Galveston County Extension Office.

John Jons has practiced square footing gardening for several years and will provide guidelines based on his many years of experience. He will discuss basic designs, soil preparation, plant selection and establishment, insect pest & disease control, and general care. Class size is limited to 32 participants. There is no fee but reservations are required (281-534-3413, ext. 1-2 or GALV3@wt.net).

Dr. Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County
Extension Office of Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A&M University. Visit his web site at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/index.htm


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