I am new to permaculture, have 5 acres North of Houston, TX, and am looking to plant one opal and one fantastic avocado. I would like to plant them in a guild, but I don't know how to pick plants to go with them without doing an indane amount of research. Does anyone have a sinilar set up that I could borrow ideas from? I know what types of plants (deep roots, insect attractors, N fixers, etc), I just don't know specifically what to pick for here. I am also wondering whether the avocados are the upper canopy or lower canopy, and whether they need to be plants on the south side of a building to help shelter them from cold. Thanks for your input!
Avocados need good drainage, yet can be thirsty and you need to regularly give them a good drink in the hottest part of the growing season. I've got my trees growing on a hillside that doesn't need a lot of careful tending, so the stuff that grows around them gets tall and leggy. My guild has emerged over time --- more by what naturally grows well in that location, not because of careful research. But my trees are thriving and we have more avocados than we know what to do with from our four trees. Everyone loves coming over to our house from October through June, because they go home with a bag of avocados.
In the winter, I plant a cool season cover crop around them: bell beans, kidney beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, a couple of other peas (whose names escape me), hairy vetch, purple vetch, common vetch, cayuse oats, a couple of different lentils, diakon radish, and whatever else I've got laying around. I inoculate them with a bacterial inoculant so that they fix nitrogen. That all gets planted in early November or so. In another month (May), I'll harvest the seeds, and then knock everything down with a scythe. I know that for nitrogen fixation, you should chop and drop before things go to seed, but I want the bio mass to get as big as possible because its a south facing hillside and it gets baked by the summer sun. I need a foot or so of mulch going into the hot summer months.
For year-round nitrogen fixation, pigeon peas have worked well for me. There are also 30 or 40 Russian comfrey plants back there that I chop and drop and lay around the base of the avocados. There are a couple of African blue basel plants back that are are constantly covered with bees. That's a tough plant and the beesfeed on it year round. I planted a million chive plants back there a few years ago and the ones that have found a good location seem to be doing really well. They get buried by other plants, but when I clear things back twice a year, they are still there, doing their part in the guild. There are daffodil and freesia bulbs scattered all over as well --- they come up every spring. Finally, I've got some ginger growing on the north (shady) side of a couple of those trees. It's done well.
In the summer, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, gourds, (vining things that don't need regular attention), fennel, nasturtium and usually volunteer cherry tomatoes cover the hillside. I don't plant any of them: they come up volunteer through the layer of winter cover-crop mulch every year. Fennel can be a bit invasive and very hard to pull out, but it sends a deep tap root down and that's needed on my hillside, and it's great for ladybugs and other pollen loving insects. Nasturtium is pretty, attracts and feeds bees and humming birds, and creates a lot of bio mass. Gourds want to climb --- you've got to go Tarzan on them with a machete every so often.
I live in Los Angeles country, if that gives you any sense for our weather. Not as humid as Houston, nor, I would imagine, as hot in the summer or wet in the winter.
Avocados get pretty tall --- about 20 feet or more. (We've got 2 Haas and 2 Fuerte). But when they are young, they like a bit of shade --- so I don't quite know how to answer if they are upper canopy or lower. If you plant them on the south side of the building, they may need a little shade-cloth tent over them for the first summer or so until they get well established. Mulch heavily, and give them 3 or 4 days between deep waterings. If you can, try to avoid watering directly on the trunk right up next to the tree. Water out near the drip line.
I hope all that helps. Best of luck.
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