Home & Garden

How to grow healthy citrus and avocado trees in SLO County

Individual avocado flowers are about 3/8-inch (1 cm) wide. Each flower has both male and female parts, which mature and open at separate times.
Individual avocado flowers are about 3/8-inch (1 cm) wide. Each flower has both male and female parts, which mature and open at separate times. David Rosen

So you’re thinking of adding a citrus or avocado tree to your garden repertoire. Great idea! Who wouldn’t want healthy, fruit-laden trees to provide delicious citrus and avocados?

With the idea firmly seeded in your mind, what’s the next step? What should you know before you start? What do these trees need to grow? With just some basic knowledge in hand, you too can successfully grow your own citrus and avocados.

Citrus and avocado trees are not drought-tolerant plants. They like their food (nitrogen) and water. They are also particular about their living environment, preferring well-drained soils rather than heavy clay soils.

Avocado trees don’t appreciate excess water and are susceptible to root rot. Citrus trees love the heat, but they are susceptible to the dastardly Asian citrus psyllid, a pest that is a carrier of the devastating disease known as HLB or huanglongbing.

Both citrus and avocado are not fond of severe freezing conditions either. Remember the devastating frost of 2007? Avocado orchards in Cambria, Morro Bay, Arroyo Grande and the Nipomo Mesa suffered greatly. By mid-January of that year, about 50 to 60 percent of SLO County’s avocado crops worth an estimated $11.5 million was lost. The citrus crop also took a 50 percent hit with an estimated loss of $2 million.

Fear not! Help is on the horizon. Fortunately for all of us, the UCCE Master Gardener Program of San Luis Obispo County offers free Advice to Grow by Workshops in their demonstration garden. And, guess what their next topic is? Citrus and avocados!

The UCCE Master Gardener Program is a public service and outreach program whose mission is to extend research based knowledge and information to the public on home horticulture, pest management and sustainable landscape practices to the residents of California. How cool is that?

The Citrus and Avocado Workshop will be held from 10 a.m. to noon July 16 at Garden of the Seven Sisters, 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Afterwards, docents will be available until 1 p.m. if you have any gardening questions. It’s going to be a warm one so bring your hat, sunscreen and a water bottle!

Jackie Woods is a UCCE Master Gardener.

Got a gardening question?

In San Luis Obispo call 781-5939, Arroyo Grande, 473-7190 and Templeton, 434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.edu/sites/mgslo/Demonstration_Garden/or email us at anrmgslo@ucanr.edu. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 781-5939.