The grove is beautiful this time of year with the trees exploding in dark green growth, walnut-size baby avocados peeping out here and there, the buzz of bees everywhere, and a blissful breeze flowing from the west. We recently visited the grove to check out the redevelopment, the first phase of which was completed in early May. As we pulled up the drive, we couldn’t contain the excitement at seeing the transformation from a dying and barren grove to perfect rows of hundreds of baby avocado trees. Our manager, Gary Dicks and his crew, did an amazing job. Here’s what went into it.
The grove was prepped and cleaned of debris. Gary engineered the new layout on high-density 15′ X 15′ spacing plan. Each spot is flagged on the center. Using a small front-end loader, tiller and hand labor, crews tilled an approximate 4′ X 4′ area to mix native soil, compost and organic gypsum. They hauled a large mound of chip material (using the old wood chips from the avocado trees we removed in the fall), placing it next to each planting site to be used for top dressing mulch after planting. A total of 262 spots were prepped.
Irrigation Design and Installation
Our 5-acre grove is split into 5 main blocks, allowing water to be controlled differently in each block. A sub-line water main runs through the property with “block” ball valves to control the water flow to each block. Then there are secondary “hose-bib” ball valves to control the irrigation lines to the trees themselves. This gives us a good amount of control to vary the irrigation to meet the trees’ needs.
Crews dug new sub-main line trenches by hand. They installed a new 1 1/2″ SCH 40 PVC sub-main water line along with new 1 1/2″ block ball valves with pressure gauges and 3/4 ” hose bib valves with pressure regulators for lateral irrigation lines. A whopping 4500 feet of 1/2″ above ground poly hose lateral irrigation lines were laid. We had permanent, in-ground irrigation previously. I believe the above-ground irrigation is used because trees may be removed in the future to reduce the density as they grow. So this will allow the irrigation to me moved and changed easily. At each planting spot, they installed poly hose bases with 8″ risers and 20 gph half-circle micro jet sprinklers. All old block ball valves were replaced throughout the grove, not just in new planting areas. Each location of a block ball valve was staked and painted yellow while each hose bib valve was staked and painted red. The crews backfilled and compacted all trenches. They then pressure tested the entire irrigation system, cleaned sprinkler heads and checked for leaks.
Before planting the trees, the crews irrigated each mound with 200 gallons of water. We planted 260 certified Hass avocado and 2 Reed avocado trees on Clonal Dusa (Merensky 2) root stock purchased from Brokaw Nursery in Ventura, CA. This root stock was chosen for its resistance to root rot. Each tree was planted in a hole large enough for the pot and then soil was mounded up 1-2 feet at the base. After planting, they spread the reserved chip material over each mound. Each tree received 8 ounces of 11-7-14+18S+Zn+Fe and was irrigated again with 40 gallons of water.
Using backpack sprayers, the crews sprayed foliage and soil with 0-28-25, 0-60-0, growmore 20-20-20 and super thrive phsphorus acid nutrient mix. This will be the first of several applications this year for the baby trees. Each tree was also sprayed with white paint to keep them from getting sunburned.
So now all we can do is wait for approximately three years before we can get our first harvest!
Meanwhile, we still have two blocks in the grove with old trees to be redeveloped. We turned off the irrigation on one block because the trees in this area are dead and cannot be salvaged by stumping. The’ll be removed. The last block of trees will be stumped later in the summer or fall. Gary determined that 6 of the trees that we previously stumped last fall are unrecoverable because they have not sprouted new growth. He cut these trees to the ground and chipped the wood. Finally, 9 trees near the top of the pad (that had previously provided us glorious shade when we visited!) were also stumped to 7′ and painted with white latex paint to protect for sunburn.
So all in all, our grove is now a hodgepodge of 262 baby trees, 62 6-month old stumped trees, 9 newly stumped trees, approximately 100 dead trees to be removed, and another 97 or so 30+ year-old tall trees to be stumped! Plus, we have a few empty spaces from the 6 trees that did not survive stumping. We got a little of everything, but this way the redevelopment (i.e. costs) will be staggered.