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lemons in the greenhouse

January 15, 2021 - Best Year Yet for Avocados!

Holiday Avocado, weighing 1 lbs, with younger fruit in the background - January 2021

It's amazing how long an avocado fruit takes to mature. I had three varieties producing this past year and I'm happy to say that between the three of them I have fruit maturing almost every month of the year.

The Bacon and Little Cado varieties started maturing in May and carried on till late summer when their seeds were sprouting noticeably within the fruit. Even then the avocados didn't fall off the tree and required a few days after picking for the flesh to soften.

The Holiday variety is another story. Right now it's mid-January and the fruit is still as hard as a rock.

These avocados have been hanging on the tree for almost 2 years! The average weight is one pound, almost half a kilo. I pick one or two a week, since September, and they still take a couple of weeks to ripen on the counter, a bit faster if I put them in a paper bag with a banana. The flavour is consistently exquisite, and the texture as buttery as one could hope for.

This crop was pollinated in the spring of 2019, my best crop yet.

Avocados in the Wintery Light - January 15, 2021

Unfortunately the 2020 fruit set is leaner, and I'm taking this seriously. I suspect the problem isn't related to pollinators as there was a constant buzz around the flowers. I suspect it has to do with plant nutrition. The trees have been in the greenhouse for six years now. Initial soil tests indicated that I had a bank of mineral nutrients in the soil, enhanced by 25 years of occasional hydroponic nutrient leaks. Up to now the only amendments I've applied are in the form of compost.

As a hydroponic grower for so many years, I understood and was comfortable mixing hydroponic solutions with macro and micro-nutrients at target parts per million (ppm) specific to crop needs. That's a lot of control, and with good results!

In contrast, soil represents an almost unspeakable complexity. Having a soil analysis in your hand does not guarantee an understanding of the factors influencing a plant's disorder. Much is at play. The role of soil biology is pivotal, and often vastly underrated. Learning about soils, applying what I learn and watching the trees respond is just about the most hopeful and exciting way for me to carry on through these crazy times.

One of the books that has inspired a lot of thought and action is 'For the Love of Soil' by Nicole Masters. She's an agro-ecologist with an amazing depth of knowledge and experience in regenerative agriculture.

Next time I write I'll get into what I'm doing in the greenhouse to boost the health of the trees. Hopefully this spring the trees will be ready for successful pollination and a heavy fruit set.


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