Are avocado trees suitable for Chiang Mai?
In an earlier blog I concluded that in Chiang Mai avocado makes blossom already at age three. Then how come that Tops supermarket and Rimping here in Chiang Mai import avocado from Australia and sell them at a cost of 45-50 Baht each? It is hard to explain, especially since I picked up gorgeous avocado in Mae Sai recently. I paid 100 Baht for 3 kg, and since they were huge I ‘only’ got eight avocado fruits for that price. The locals do sell them immature and very hard, but if you keep them at room temperature (not in the fridge or they will spoil) they will soon mature which you can see by the darkening of the rind.
So why don’t we see more avocado in the Chiang Mai gardens? There are at least four reasons.
1. Avocado must have a well drained soil. A few hours of standing water and the roots drown. Yes, plant roots breathe oxygen like you and me. Different plant species have different tolerance, and some like mangrove or lotus grow totally submerged. Avocado is sensitive. When the roots die the leaves lose their turgor and they hang down like rags. The paradox is that the leaves dry out due to flooding! Due to this year’s flooding I guess many Thai avocado trees were killed. Luckily Dokmai Garden was not too badly affected and so three of four specimens survived.Planting it in a slope is good, and so many avocado trees grow in the mountains.
2. Avocado can not stand a prolonged drought. Make sure you can water it during the dry season November-April.
3. One avocado tree is usually not enough. Many avocado cultivars demand cross-pollination between different individuals. If your garden is small (an avocado can reach 20 meters), maybe ask a neighbour if they wish to plant an avocado too, and then both of you benefit.
4. Finally, to the Thais avocado is still something of a novelty. Good cultivars can be a bit hard to find, but if you are not picky simply plant a seed. Yesterday I made a basic guacamole (two huge avocados, three large cloves of garlic, three chili peppers, the juice from one lime fruit and a pinch of salt, all mixed with a mixer). The Thais were a bit reluctant even to try it, but to my great satisfaction they liked it very much. Guacamole is much more healthy than cream-based dips.
I do think avocado should be planted in the Chiang Mai gardens since it is an evergreen, fast-growing and beautiful tree with gorgeous fruits. As long as you meet its requirements you should be successful. Do you rather prefer trees with colourful blossom? Then let a colourful creeper trail up in your avocado. The New Guinea Creeper (Mucuna bennettii) is most suitable.