Archive for January, 2008

Growing Avocados Using Hydroponics

Hi! My name’s Brock. Yeah, sounds like Barack, except without the first “a.” Huh, you say? Barack, you know, that black guy running for President, the one that Ted Kennedy just endorsed…

Anyway, I spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley but four years ago the corporation I work for opened a branch office in a suburb of Bangor, Maine. California sunshine to Atlantic coast snow storms! Why do I still work for them? It’s a long story, but I’m one of those people who actually enjoy the work he does.

But I’ve started this blog not to talk about my work, but rather to chronicle my attempts to transplant a little bit of California culture to the frozen ground of New England.

In California, I got used to going out each morning to an avocado tree in my backyard and picking a fruit to eat for breakfast. Nothing like the taste of freshly picked, organically grown avocado, left on the branches until perfectly ripe.

I’m not too big on seafood, so Maine’s cuisine didn’t appeal to me. When I won a bit of money on the State lottery shortly after the moved here, I decided to spend it on building a tropical greenhouse in my backyard. Luckily, my house is located on several acres of fairly level terrain.

The external structure of the greenhouse consists of tempered glass held together by stainless steel tubing. I looked into polyethylene greenhouses, but the harsh winter weather of Maine called for something more substantial. So my glass house was finished, what else did I have to do?

I had to do research in hydroponic gardening. Did I mention that I decided to grow avocado trees using hydroponics? The hydroponic system I chose is a modular bucket ebb and flow (or flood and drain) system.

This allowed me to place the buckets far enough from each other to allow for the spreading canopy of the mature trees, while providing enough support considering the size of the modules and the grow medium (baked clay pebbles) so my trees would not topple over.

I had to specify that the roof of the greenhouse had to be at least 15 feet, since the species of dwarf avocado that I decided to grow has been known to reach that height. I hoped to keep the trees at 12 feet, by frequent pruning. This has to be done very carefully, because a severely pruned avocadoi tree has been known to stop producing fruit for three or four years, until it restores its branches.

It has taken four years for the trees to become mature enough to produce fruit. I had to put up with store bought avocados from Florida and California while I was waiting.

When you consider the carbon emissions caused by transporting produce that great a distance, growing your own close to home makes more and more sense.

Avocados like a lot of organic matter when grown in soil, so I am using a 100% organic fertilizer to nourish my trees. I tested different brands (more on that later) of general hydroponics fertilizers, until I discovered Advanced Nutrients Iguana Juice, Grow and Bloom.

Since the vegetative growth of my trees took such a long time, I was advised to mix some Bloom into the Grow formula, to make it more of an all around fertilizer. Actually, Advanced Nutrients suggest using its synthetic 3-part (Micro, Grow, and Bloom) by mixing all three ingredients throughout both grow and bloom cycles.

I hope you continue reading this blog for further details of how my four-year labor of love managed to produce enough fruit to keep me happy for many more breakfasts to come.

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