If you have an avocado tree in your back yard, you are probably wondering if it’s time to pick those beautiful avocados. After all, they’re getting so big! But wait: avocados need to be mature enough to ripen after they are picked. Please don’t pick your new crop of avocados yet! Today I’m going to share about how avocados mature and ripen here on our avocado ranch in Southern California.
October in the Avocado Groves
While much of the United States is cooling off and enjoying fall colors, Southern California is experiencing some of the warmest weather of the year. September and October can be our hottest months, and the avocado trees need plenty of water to stay healthy until the weather cools off again.
Who Wants Hard Avocados?
The baby avocados that set last April and May are so big now that it’s tempting to start picking. I hope none of my readers are picking their new crop of avocados yet…they aren’t mature enough and won’t soften! Avocados need plenty of time to develop the natural oil in the fruit. Oil content is what gives avocados their wonderful flavor, and it’s the oil content that allows the fruit to soften up after it is picked from the tree.
If we pick the avocados now, they will be hard and rubbery, and won’t soften up. Water, fertilizer, and the tender loving care it takes to grow those gorgeous avocados will be wasted! We want avocados that will be perfectly ripe and ready to eat, so we need to wait until they are mature and have the correct oil content in the flesh. After December, the avocados will soften beautifully. During the following months the full flavor of the avocados will develop, and around April or May that amazing flavor will approach its peak. As the oil content increases over the season, the avocado becomes more buttery.
Give the Trees More Water When It’s Hot
When the trees don’t get enough water during a heat spell, the roots begin to pull salts from the soil up into the tree, and the tips of the leaves turn brown. It’s not the end of the world when this happens, but it’s much better to make sure the tree gets enough water. When the weather gets hot, the trees need to be watered more often. In this photo you can see the rich green healthy leaves that have grown since the older leaves became “tip-burned”.
As the avocados grow bigger and heavier, the branches of the trees can sometimes break off. It’s a tragedy when this happens before the avocados are mature enough to eat. Since the oil content in the avocados is not high enough, none of the avocados will soften so they are wasted. There isn’t anything to do with a hard, immature avocado. They just aren’t edible yet.
Avocado Trees Need A Little Support
During years when the trees are loaded with large fruit, it’s a good idea to place wooden supports under the branches to help them with that heavy load. The new avocados will begin to have enough oil content in mid-December, so we want them to hang on the trees for several more months at least. The State of California will determine the dates when various sizes and varieties of avocados will be officially ready to harvest. The dates will be decided after avocados are tested to make sure that the oil content is high enough for the fruit to ripen and be edible.
Once the avocados are mature enough to be picked, we can prune back the trees. During this time of year it’s fun to take walks through the grove because there are plenty of beautiful avocado hanging from the trees. That’s not all that’s hanging in the trees either! In October we have lots and lots of spiders! They build their enormous web between the trees, and ‘hang out’ to catch insects. Most of these spiders are not poisonous, but they can bite. During October it’s a good idea to carry a long stick to catch the spider webs before you walk into one because they’re a difficult to see if you aren’t really looking for them. We’re glad to have the spiders, because they help to keep nature in balance in the avocado groves.
Chinese Flame Tree
As a native Vermonter I really miss the changing seasons, especially during October. One of the trees that helps with my homesickness a little is the Chinese Flame Tree. During October the the bright gold colored blossoms begin to appear, and over the next month or so they tree will become bright orange as the seed pods develop.
We have one large Chines Flame Tree that was given to us by a friend who has since died. It was just a baby tree in a pot when he brought it to us, but has grown to a magnificent size. The yellow flowers are beginning to fall onto the ground, and soon those pink/red seed pods will appear. The shade of this huge Chinese Flame tree blocks the sun from avocado trees near it, but I won’t let The Farmer cut it down. I love this gorgeous tree. It’s not the same as Vermont maple trees, but it’s something for me to watch and enjoy during the fall months here on the ranch.
Let’s Plan a Moon Party!
Speaking of shade, did you see the eclipse of the moon last weekend? The Farmer and I sat outside for 2 hours watching the whole show! It was a warm, balmy night here on the ranch, and an unforgettable experience. If I had known just how beautiful it would be I might have invited a few friends over to enjoy a Moon Party! When it the next eclipse of the moon? For sure we should plan a party!
October is the month when the last of the 2015 avocados are being harvested and the new crop for 2016 is beginning to size up. We just have to keep the irrigation going during these hot months, and wait for the new avocados to have enough oil content to be mature enough for harvest. I’ll be going out for another walk now; wearing a big hat and trying to walk in the shade where it’s cooler!
If you have any questions about avocados, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or question here!