The avocado harvest is finished in our grove, though there are still other groves, with later varieties, producing. When the harvest is done, there is one final duty before the trees are ‘put to rest’ until they bloom again in January – topping and hedging.
Trimming the trees allows us to keep them small enough to reach the branches without much more than a picking pole. If we let the trees grow untrammeled, we’d need special picking equipment (so-called ‘cherry pickers’, just like the ‘buckets’ you see utility crews using to get to the high wires). No need for that – the trees bear PLENTY – even better, I think, keeping them no taller than 12′. Another very important benefit of trimming the trees is that it helps hurricane-proof them against all but the aboslute worst tornado-like winds. So, every year, we have this ritual. The guy from the tree-topping service arrives with his machine and goes up and down the rows, first hedging, then topping the trees. But before he can begin, we must move all the chicken tractors out of the way, to a safe location. This means WAAY out of the way – when that big machine goes by, nothing is safe. A small twig thinner than your little finger can be thrown by the blades with such force that it will easily break a car window. We know – it happened one year. WWOOFer Stephanie had her van parked in what we thought was a safe spot, about 50 feet away from the driveway hedge, and a tiny twig of buttonwood smashed into her side window. That taught us proper respect for those machines, which always remind me of a cross between The Chain Saw Massacre and Edward Scissorhands!
After the topping and hedging is complete, then next thing is to clean up the mess. This is best done by driving through the entire grove with the bush hog (that’s the BIG mower attachment), grinding up all the cut branches. It needs several passes, and the really big branches need to be taken out of the way. We also need to go up and down each row, pulling out branches that are hung up on the tree or that fell below where the bush hog can’t reach. It’s quite a project, and generally takes 3 or 4 people a good chunk of the day to finish.
Reference:H & H Caretaking Services Steve Hoveland 465 NW 18th St Homestead, FL 33030 305-247-2975 We’ve used these folks for topping our grove since the trees were old enough to get their first trim. They have a small machine which can easily handle tight corners, and an awesome operator who good-naturedly accommodates all our crazy requests (can you go around the papaya? can you leave these two trees a little taller?…)