Two days before Thanksgiving, not last year, but the year before, a sandwich was made and a seed was started. The sandwich was a smashed collaboration of avocado and sauteed kale, ricotta cheese and caramelized onions which turned out great and became a repeat recipe for awhile, but the real star of the show was the seed. On that day, November 22nd, 2016 a little life began.
Reminiscent of elementary school science classes, the avocado pit (actually called a berry) from the sandwich-making endeavor got cleaned up and pierced with toothpicks. Resting on the rim of a glass while partially submerged in water, it sat there half-hovering for days and then weeks and then months. Absolutely nothing happened. The holiday season came and went. We celebrated New Year’s and middle month birthdays and our first snow in the ending week of January. But in the land of the avocado, nothing was changing except regular refills of water in the glass. It was such uneventful gardening I didn’t even take photographs.
Heading into the first week of February (week 9), I thought perhaps my avocado seed was a dud and was ready to abandon the project altogether. But magically, almost as if the little seed had read my thoughts, a crack in the pit opened up one morning. Something was happening, at long last! Days later a tap root started reaching out like a diver heading towards the bottom of the sea. And then things really escalated. Every day, it grew longer and longer until little root tentacles started filling the bottom of the glass. Satisfied with itself, it turned its attention skyward and from the center of the pit, a long slender green shoot started reaching for the stars.
Drinking about a 1/4 cup of water a day, it grew almost a 1/2″ inch every morning. When it passed 12 inches” in height and grew its first set of leaves, I named this little guy growing with such gusto, Avi, and welcomed him into the family. For most of the Spring, Avi enjoyed his glass of water while taking in the river view from his perch in the window.
As the days grew longer and the temperatures warmed, I introduced to him to the outdoors for a little bit each day. When the hot, humid temperatures of summer in the South took over, he was transferred to a new garden pot filled with potting soil and joined the summer flowers on the balcony. You might remember seeing him from last summer’s post about how to make a mini-compost bin.
In the lazy summer sun, Avi grew and grew and grew. Towering over the other plants, he looked like a king ruling over his court.
All summer he played a long-standing game with the nasturtiums to see who could climb the furthest.
Avi was the winner! When the seasons changed and the cool rains of Autumn scattered leaves on the balcony garden, Avi welcomed the wet weather.
But when we moved in mid-Fall trouble began. His first few nights went okay. He and Indie liked to watch the city lights come on from his new spot on the new balcony…
but during the day, when the sun was warm and bright, and the birds were floating overhead, Avi started doing peculiar things. Instead of carrying on with his growth spurt, he got limpy and lethargic. A week into his new surroundings, he developed brown spots and then white spots and then crinkly skin. Thinking he was not getting enough water, I doubled up. But soon after, he looked more like a loose umbrella than a young tree. His leaves turned from a colorful shade of lime to a dull blackish green. Tragedy was looming, we both knew it. A week before his first birthday I feared Avi might be on his last legs.
I brought him inside for a few days, consulted the internet and determined that he either had too much salt built up in his roots, ( a common side-effect of using regular tap water for daily watering) or he was getting too much sun on the new patio. I rinsed his roots in distilled water and gave him a new home in a bigger pot with fresh potting soil. Then he got a new vantage point – a sunny windowsill on top of a low bookshelf.
But for two weeks he still looked terrible. So he moved again, this time to a bright corner between two big windows – a spot that gets no direct sunlight but reflects light because of the white wall paint. It also happens to be right next to the kitchen, where I could keep a close eye on him. To my happiness, Avi flourished once again! Day by day, his leaves moved higher and higher until they went from vertical back to horizontal. And he started growing again.
Now he’s taller than dear Hudson and happy as a clam. As it turns out, all Avi ever wanted was to be close to the kitchen and out of the sun. Who can blame him?
Today he measures 3′ feet 2″ inches tall and he’s just achieved his longest set of leaves at 12.5″ inches in length. Some gardening experts say that Avi will never produce avocados to eat, but that doesn’t matter, I like him just for the handsome plant that he is. And it’s fun to watch him grow. I hope to see him reach a height of 8-9 feet (maybe taller!), a little indoor arboretum in the making.
If you’d like to grow your own Avi, it’s really simple. Find step by step instructions here. You just need an extra dose of patience in the beginning until the berry cracks open and growing gets underway. Other than regular watering every couple days and eventual transplanting as it grows, avocado plants are easy to care for. Many garden sites say that avocados LOVE sun, but as we learned with Avi’s growing pains, too much sun is indeed, too much, so watch closely as your plant’s personality develops and see what he or she likes best.
On November 22nd, when Avi celebrates his second birthday, we’ll check back in to see how much he has grown in the nine months between now and then. Maybe he’ll be up to the ceiling!
In the meantime, cheers to Avi and his ability to weather the rigors of adolescence. And cheers to indoor gardening – an activity that’s in-season all year round!