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Planting avocado trees

Young avocado trees can be planted out from February to August. Keep the plants well watered until they are established. Their soil should be well drained with plenty of well rotted compost, mixed in with an equal amount oftopsoil. A thick mulch of spoiled hay or straw should be maintained beneath the tree to conserve soil moisture and keep weeds in check. Mulching is an effective control for phytophthora cinnamomi (a fungus disease of the root system).

You must also protect your young avocado trees against strong winds and intense dry heat. As the trees grow, you may give them additional food by applying small amounts of bone meal during spring and summer. Do not remove the lower branches because they protect the trunk from sunburn. No pruning is required except to keep the tree in shape: well balanced and symmetrical in growth. Don't cultivate near the roots because they dislike being disturbed.

Add generous amounts of compost twice each year. Lift the mulch and spread the compost around the tree out to the dripline. Allow a clear area of 15 cm around the trunk.

Anthracnose (a fungus disease) can be a problem with avocadoes. You can control it in the following manner. Clip the fruit from the tree, and handle it carefully to avoid damage. Store it in a cool, well ventilated area. Prune out any dead twigs and spray the tree with copper oxychloride (50 percent) at a rate of four g per litre of water. Begin this program at flowering time and continue monthly until you harvest. If the weather is wet and showery, more frequent spraying may be necessary.

Avocadoes may be eaten in a great variety of ways. Use it in a savoury dip or as a sandwich spread. Sliced or cubed in fresh leafy salads it's absolutely delicious. Blend it with other foods for a wonderfully tempting breakfast.

Bananas

Banana plants are actually rapid growing herbs. Their stalk or trunk is succulent and is actually composed of compressed layers or sheaths. After bearing once, the banana stalks die back to the plant's true stem which is an underground rhizome. Bananas grow best in districts with 125 to 250 cm annual rainfall. They need regular, deep watering in rich, deep soil with excellent drainage and a warm sunny position, sheltered from wind.

They are grown from 'bits' or 'suckers'. Suckers are the young shoots growing alongside the old stem but only the most vigorous should be selected for planting material. 'Bits' are from the base of the parent stem which has been cut to ground level and split into pieces, each with one eye. Before planting them check with your local council about the variety and number permitted on your property. Planting material should be obtained from a registered source to ensure that you have disease-free plants.

The best time for planting is when the weather is warm and the young plants will have uninterrupted growth throughout the summer. Prepare a hole 60 cm by 70 cm and 45 cm deep for planting.

Avocado Weevil

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Ladyfinger banana plants may be planted three metres apart, others should stand no closer than four metres. Plant the 'sucker' or 'bit' 30 cm deep and fill the hole with a mixture of topsoil and compost or rotted manure.

While the plant is young remove all but one sucker which should be allowed to bear its fruit and then be cut back before another sucker is permitted to grow. Older plants may be allowed to develop one new sucker every three months.

A plant will grow and bear well for four to six years, after which it should be dug out, the soil enriched and new suckers or bits planted. After the first fruit has ripened, the plant may be allowed to grow three to five suckers at a time depending upon its vigour. All other plants should be cut out.

An average plant grows 30 to 40 leaves before the fruit sets. Rowers are arranged spirally around the central stalk with the female flowers at the basal end. Bunches set from twelve to 18 months after planting. Bananas are gross feeders and because of their heavy growth, need large amounts of fertiliser with plenty of moisture. Fertilise them frequently with well-made compost or rotted poultry or bird manure. Do not mulch — this will encourage the banana weevil borer which is a major pest of bananas.

Bananas require about 100 days to mature after the young flower buds appear. Bunches can be cut seven to 14 days before ripening and hung in a cool, shady place to develop their flavour and sugar. Their nutritional value will be the same as tree ripened fruit. After the bunch is cut down from the plant, the ends of the stalk are trimmed and the bananas should be left to ripen slowly at room temperature.

Unwanted suckers are generally removed with a special tool but an adequate alternative is to cut the sucker at ground level, scoop a small depression into the centre and pour in half a teaspoon of kerosene. Take care not to use more kerosene than necessary, because the parent plant could be injured. Young suckers should not be allowed to grow too large because they will rob the parent plant of vigour.

Banana bunches should be covered with a hessian bag once the fruit is formed. This will protect the fruit from pests and result in larger fruit. Some Aboriginal people call the banana "the tree that walks" because the new suckers will usually grow on the highest side of the main stem. I think of bananas as the "poor man's palm" — they are very decorative, and give a lush, tropical atmosphere to any garden.

Blueberries

The blueberry, with its pique and unique taste, is becoming increasingly popular as a fresh fruit and in pies or muffins. Blueberries originated as a wild plant so they are suited to organic growing. They are highly ornamental with ball-shaped flowers which develop into green berries which gradually turn blue. The leaves change into vibrant autumn shades before falling so the blueberry is a very attractive addition to the garden. It will grow up to two metres high.

Blueberries require moist, cool conditions and should be planted in a sheltered position receiving morning sun and afternoon shade. A row of native trees or shrubs could be grown on the western side to provide the shade. They prefer acid soil and good drainage although they do enjoy moist conditions. Soil should be prepared before planting with the addition of organic matter and humus.

Avocado Seed Germination Process

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