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How do you pick avocados from tall trees? With ingenuity and pole pickers?

How do you pick avocados from tall trees? With ingenuity and pole pickers

Harvesting avocados from tall trees calls for a steady hand, a strong ladder, and-- especially--the right tool.

When we asked Sunset readers to share their avocado-growing experiences (see pages 118 through 123 of the March 1985 Sunset), most respondents agreed that harvesting the fruit can be a twofold challenge: first, to reach the fruit ("a helicopter would come in handy,' one reader wrote), and second, to find ways to use bumper crops (see box below).

Avocado trees don't often give up their bounty gracefully; fruits can dangle from limbs 40 feet in the air, they drop only when they become overripe, their stems are tough and hard to break. While some readers improvise ("I take a running leap and knock them down with a rake--they bounce on the lawn') and others scramble up the tree or onto a nearby roof to reach the fruit, many use a pole picker of some sort. The four pictured at right are our readers' favorites.

Commercial growers use pole pickers with rope-operated clippers and bags attached to catch the avocados; bags cushion the fruits to keep them from bruising. (One reader replaced the solid nylon bag with one made from see-through cotton mesh; this allowed her to look up through the bag to position the clippers more accurately.)

Extension poles are available for some pole pickers in various lengths up to 12 feet; coupled with sturdy ladders, they make it easy to reach most fruits. (Watch out for power lines.) Pulling fruits from stems can leave holes in skin tops, making fruits vulnerable to rot. Cut stems instead; commercial growers snip them a few inches above the fruits with pole pickers, then again close to fruit tops with hand clippers, leaving stem buttons attached.

Where to buy pole pickers

The bag-equipped picker, pole pruner, and wire basket are sold at nurseries and some hardware stores. For the homemade picker, building supply stores sell wood poles up to 16 feet long (called full rounds or closet poles) for 55 to 65 cents a foot. Or shop around to find a bamboo pole; thick-walled, smooth-skinned kinds ($4 to $5 for a 12-footer) hold up best.

Photo: Claw-tipped wire basket

Foam pad in bottom cushions fruit. Some have plastic-coated prongs to prevent fruit damage. Pulling avocados can separate them from stems-- no problem if you're able to eat the fruits right away; otherwise, they could rot. Basket only: $7 to $11; $17 to $22 with 5- to 10-foot poles

Photo: Homemade picker

It's a coffee can screwed through washers to a bamboo pole. A V-shaped notch was cut in its side; upward pressure against the V severs stem, so fruit drops into can. Fat avocados can be a tight fit in a 1-pound-size can

Photo: Pole picker with bag

Rope-operated blade cuts stems; avocado drops into nylon bag on wire hoop. Pole is easier to maneuver when bag is emptied often (a nearly full bag can weigh 6 pounds or more). Blade and bag alone: $29. Pole costs extra

Photo: Pole pruner

Rope-operated blade snaps stems. Primarily for tree pruning; does not catch falling avocados, which could bruise or split on pavement or hard earth. With 6- to 12-foot poles: $40 to $80. Net bag (below right), held by nimble assistant, can catch fruits cut up high with pole pruner
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Apr 1, 1986
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