Avocado Tree

Growing avocados (in containers)

Several weeks ago, we moved to a new place (and my excuse for missing Severe ME Day is that I did not have the internet access due to the move). I was a bit worried that our new place might pose a problem due to accessibility since it’s an old place with a narrow hallway and two short steps leading to the unit, but I immediately fell in love with our new home.

Last year, we had to hurriedly move out of our student housing, because a 420-square-feet one bedroom apartment simply did not offer enough space for caring for someone who could not even sit up for a minute. We had to make it to one appointment out of that apartment, and it was a circus trying to fit the wheelchair in through the narrow door and transporting me while I could not support my weight at all. We were in such a hurry to move to an accessible housing. In our next apartment, I was confined to my bed as I tried to recover from the mega-crash. By winter, I could venture out to the living room occasionally to watch football games and play video games, but after a trip to LA for a few days (spent in the hotel room except for going to the Rose Bowl game), I was back to spending all my days on the bed again.

Then this spring, something remarkable happened. With some changes to my treatment, I had a significant recovery to my functioning. I first tried going to a store to grab a quick snack. And then I could go out for an entire meal, first on my reclining wheelchair, and then, later, regular seats during the meal. My brother came out to see me during summer, and it was a real treat to be able to go out with him to try a new sushi place. With my power wheelchair, I could go out for a stroll to hop on the Pokemon Go hype train to catch Pokemons. I was (still am) limited in frequency and duration of outings, but when my world consisted of my bedroom and my bedroom and my bedroom for a whole year, this change was almost revolutionary. When your health declines rapidly or you are stuck in one room during your entire stay, it is hard to build fondness to the place. With our move coinciding with my newly found stamina, our home of one month already feels more like a home than old places past two years.

We have a small yard in our new place. I always thought I’d rather live in a condo than a house because of the hassle of gardening. But the moment I step in our barren back yard (it needs re-landscaping), I am flooded with so many ideas I want to try. Lightly fragrant Korean perilla (my favorite green) in the corner, and tomatoes and salad greens. Habaneros for my spicy-holic husband. Small pomegranate and fig trees in one corner.  I guess I do take after my grand parents after all, who took me to a small farm they were working with a few friends every weekends when I was little. Then, I have to remind myself I have M.E. and I need to moderate my activity, and gardening right now is beyond reasonable (and we are renting, so I would need to part with this house eventually). I do take a mental note that I do want to buy a house with a nice back yard to set up a small orchard (which probably would not happen unless the housing market crashes or we win the lottery, but one can dream).

So I settled with three trees to be grown in containers. Two avocado and one lime trees. With my recent avocado craving, growing my own avocados to make a smoothie everyday sounded just too good. We grabbed trees from local nurseries, thankful that I was well enough to go out to pick the trees myself, and transplanted them into big pots.

In high school, my father and I planted an Asian pear and a peach tree in the backyard. We dug holes, dropped the tree in that we bought from Lowe’s, not a local nursery, and put some red colored mulches around it because that was what we saw around neighbors’ trees. The pear tree settled down well, but the peach tree died, although suckers later showed up and my parents kept the root suckers as the new peach tree. I now know growing a tree is more involved than simply covering the roots in soil, and wanted to grow my new trees with more deliberation to avoid what happened to our old peach tree.

My little avocado trees proved to be tricky to keep happy. Avocado trees are prone to root rot, so I need to be careful not to overwater, but keeping the soil too dry would stress the tree. The soil pH has to be right, and the same for water – I add a bit of vinegar to make our water more acidic. Not all fertilizers have complete nutrients, even if they are labeled for avocados. They need the sun, but too much and they get sunburned.

Two young avocado trees.

My avocado trees seen from my bedroom window. We planted two dwarf avocado trees in containers. It has been tricky to maintain these young avocado trees!

One avocado pot’s soil is still too moist a whole week after watering, and I start to get worried. I curse my ME that I could not make my own potting mix that would have more superb drainage than the nursery-bought potting soil. I wonder if I should consider repotting to remove soil from nursery that seems to hold too much water (I feel reluctant since avocado trees supposedly do not like roots getting disturbed).

Instead of growing in a tropical forest in the natural habitat under the shade of the mother tree, where they would be allowed to be 40-foot-tall evergreen trees producing hundreds of avocados every year, my trees are bound to a cubic foot of soil, drinking the city water that is too basic, with their branches being cut off to prevent them growing too tall. My trees are asked to grow up and thrive in a non-ideal condition. No wonder it is so difficult to keep them happy.

Trying to grow avocado trees in containers somehow reminds me of my life. I am trying to live with a body that refuses to produce enough energy to perform basic functions. It’s been a long game figuring out just the right combination of medications and supplements, and balancing activities with rests. ME is a tricky bastard.

My trees are now getting three different fertilizers and dechlorinated, pH-adjusted water. I am crossing my fingers that they grow up healthy and maybe, even produce delicious avocados!