Avocado Root Rot Plaguing NY Metro?
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Avocado trees growing in Metro NY?! No, that’s not what I mean. It’s challenging enough growing avocados in So. California. So, let me explain.

As you know, I live in California’s avocado country with 300 avocado trees. But I hale from Brooklyn, NY. I guess you could say, Metro NY holds some of my deepest roots. As any farmer (or urban dweller familiar with houseplants) knows, all living things languish when their roots are neglected.  The same goes for people. Hence, my recent and periodic odysseys to my birthplace, Metro NY.

A plane ride from Metro NY to So. California gives a person time to reflect upon some unspoken questions. One, phrased by my mother-in-law, seems to embody them all: “So, do you think you might move back to NY someday?” I know why she asked this particular question: family is very important to her. As a very fortunate 86 year-old, she is secure in the fact that she’s surrounded by those who love her.

My instantaneous answer was “no.” As I sit with my laptop resting on the ‘ole airliner seatback tray, I’m pondering just why I’m not giving Metro NY a thumbs up. Root Rot sums it up nicely, thank you! Huh?!

I don’t mean the kind (phytophthora cinnamomi) that I—and most other avocado farmers—constantly contend with. Rather, I’m referring to the condition of the ground into which most Metro NY’ers have sunken their roots. Here’s what I mean:

  • Metro NY has too many people. As with avocado trees and any living thing, spacing is important.
  • Too much cement in Metro NY. Ever see a healthy tree grow from a hole in the middle of a parking lot?
  • The pace of Metro NY is frenetic; the noise is great. Even a stressed avocado tree will produce less fruit and have fewer resources to fend-off disease.
  • Weather extremes can make Metro NY a nightmare to endure. The oppressive heat and humidity, though good for avocado trees, takes its toll on humans. So does the damp cold, wet snow, ice storms and sleet. Consistently stress a Metro NY’er—or an avocado tree—and see what you get.

So, I think you get the rub. I can’t plant my avocado trees too closely, I’ve gotta love the soil silly (water, fertilizers, mulches), and traffic control is paramount in the grove for top-feeding avocado trees. And, I’ve got to do the same for me. The main portion of my roots needs to spread deep and wide in fertile and healthy soil. And for me, the soil in Metro NY is sub-standard.

And, like avocado trees planted in soil prone to root rot, the health of NY Metro inhabitants appears to be languishing. The majority of my dear friends and relatives suffer from one or more of the common “diseases of affluence”: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar (diabetes), arthritis or obesity.

No, I think I’ll stay here, in avocado country, where I’ll sink my roots further down into the soil so that I can provide the same for my family, trees and friends.

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Waiting for Avocado Trees
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In early 2012, I cut back most of my avocado trees. It’s a common practice–an extreme form of pruning–when avocado trees get tall and lanky and/or unduly stressed. Mine had been subject to both states. My poor avocados suffered neglect by previous owners and had not been watered for an entire summer season. Poor babies!

This process is called “stumping.” You basically cut down the tree, leaving just a stump or maybe a few branches. When you are done, the tree is no taller than a human. Then you paint the stumps white to protect the bark from the direct rays of the sun. Looks ghostly!

Stumped Avocado Trees

Early growth in stumped avocado trees

Fast-forward to today (i.e. the header photo on top of the page) and you now have avocado trees shaped like balls as growth spreads out in all directions. The current task is to shape this growth so that each tree has 4-7 main branches and don’t grow so tall as to make future picking dangerous and expensive. Left to their own devices, avocados will have a mind of their own, reaching heights of over 40 feet. I aim to keep mine below 20. I prune-away so that I can do my own avocado picking well into my 70′s and beyond.

No worry about picking avocados in 2012 because of the stumping. My first large crop looks to arrive in 2013. I can’t wait! But wait I must…….

And pruning avocado trees is a story unto itself, tales to tell in future blogs.

Do you have experience with avocado or other tree pruning? Or maybe some questions? Fire away below!

Sincerely, Michael

 

 

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What does a farmer do on a rainy weekend?
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When I heard that there was rain in the forecast for this weekend (March 17 & 18), I was actually glad. The 2012 Winter has been very dry, resulting in a very high water bill. In addition, I needed a good excuse to grant me some legitimate “indoor time.” You, the reader, are now witness to the results.

Yes, Cosmos’ Acres needs a website. And you cannot construct a website while working the grove. Since there is so much to do in the grove during the Spring (and probably every other season), sunny days always find me outside. So, indoors I am, and happy for it.

This website is just one major step towards my realizing the following goals:

  • Sustainable food production
  • Sustainable food distribution
  • Improving the local economy
  • Preserving the area’s agricultural tradition
  • Having a lot of fun while doing it

If you have any questions or comments about what I’m doing, hey-that’s what this blog’s for. I’d sure like to hear from you.  If anything, come back and watch as I construct my page. I have plenty of photos to show and tales to tell.

Michael

 

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