Protecting my Avocados

My avocado tree has avocados for the first time this year. It’s something like 8 years old and it started from a seed sprouting in my compost heap. I’ve watched and hoped and waited and worried and now it looks like something’s really going to happen.

Then on Saturday I went to a class about managing backyard pests (which was pretty much about doing very little except making an environment for pest eating bugs). In this class the instructor mentioned that he protected his avocados from possums with exclusion bags, he even had a sample to show the class. (Similar bags help against fruit flies, but I’m focussing on the possums for now.) Of course my real worries are just starting. Those darned possums will obviously steal my fruit!

A light bulb went off in my head. I have rags, I have a sewing machine, I have twine, I could make my very own possum-excluder-avocado-protection-bags.

Sewing a hem for the draw string

Sew up the side and bottom of the bag

Thread a draw string through the top of the bag

So I went home, lugged my old Singer (I love this antique but it does weigh a tonne) out of the closet, rummaged through the rag bag and started making my excluder bags. It’s an incredibly simple process:

Step 1: Find a suitable rag or cut one from any lightweight cloth (you want good airflow and for it to dry quickly after a rain). Make sure when folded in half it can hold a mature avocado with room to spare.

Step 2: Sew a long hem for the draw string.

Step 3: Sew up the bottom of the bag.

Step 4: Sew up the side the bag (make sure you don’t close the draw string entrance/exit).

Step 5: Turn the bag inside out (or actually, right side out).

Step 6: Thread bag with a draw string of some sort (I used garden twine) leaving it long enough so the bag can tie to the branch and hang over the fruit.

Repeat for as many avocados as you want to save.

All that’s left to do is find the fruit you want to protect and cover it in your little bag. You shouldn’t have to open the bag until the avocado is ready to harvest. This is a bit of a problem for rookies like me who don’t really know how to tell when an avocado is ready to harvest but one step at a time.

Here’s one of my vulnerable avocados.

Unprotected baby avocado

Here’s the same avocado with its own little protective bags.

Baby avocado safe in its excluder bag

And here’s the whole tree with 11 excluder bags protecting 14 pieces of fruit. One bag holds 3 pieces and one holds 2, the others each hold only 1. I’d protect more fruit if I could get a ladder up to them but if the possums focus on the unprotected fruit (the biggest and best looking right now) and I get the others, I’ll be a happy woman. And if it does work, next year I’ll make more and I might try it on my mango tree as well.

Avocado tree with some of its fruit protected from possums

I have been warned. I understand possums have been known to rip down bags and eat the fruit out from inside – but it’s worth a try.


About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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21 Responses to Protecting my Avocados

  1. It’s great reading about sunnier climes, when all we have is rain, rain and more rain here and floods. I love your little bags for your avocados. I hope they work

    • Your weather is making the news here all too often this year. So much rain. It used to be a joke – rain in the UK, not it’s a real worry.

      I suspect bags like this wouldn’t work in your climate – they’d hang there soggy all the time rotting the fruit inside.

      I’m lucky and I know it.

  2. I can’t imagine a. growing avocados, b. protecting anything from a possom! Wonderful!
    We have the same sewing machine! It belonged to the mother of a friend.
    Your tree with its bags reminded me of the Clootie Tree on the Black Isle in Inverness, Scotland
    The Black Isle was one of our favourite haunts when we lived in Aberdeen. The Clootie Tree seemed such an anomaly. When we first came upon it I was more reminded of religious sites and sanctuaries in the Middle East.

    • It is wonderful – unless the possum actually eats (or destroys by biting then dropping) all my avocados. I have a real love-hate relationship with my possums (several families of 2 different breeds frequent my back yard).

      I love the Clootie Tree concept and I’ll look up at my bags and think of the good wishes and prayers for a yummy harvest they carry 🙂

      This old Singer was super popular the world over. I’ve only had it a couple of months and so I did some research on it. Apparently it was the machine of choice for literally decades. A real work horse that still has a reputation of being the best Singer ever made. I got it for free off of from a fellow freecycler and feel very privileged to have it.

  3. How wonderful and amazing! Love that the avocado has fruited for the first time.

  4. Coop Poop says:

    OK. Are you quite certain you don’t live in sunny Southern California? Oranges? Avocado’s?, Bees? Every day I read your blog, my impression of Australia is radically altered. Where are the snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, dusty deserts, aggressive ‘roos jumping around, wreaking havoc in the yards, chicken-snatching crocs, rugged cowboyish men inebriously slurring “no worries, mate??”…it seems that your location is perfectly civilized — in fact, perfectly perfect!!

    • You absolutely have an accurate picture of Australia, just not all at the same time and place. I’ve seen everything you’ve listed there, but it’s spread over thousands of kilometres. I have a pretty big back yard but not THAT big 🙂

      BTW, I just have to add a funny aside about chicken-snatching crocs. I heard an interview with a director of some horror flick where a croc had a group of sweet young things (humans) trapped and was nibbling them one-by-one. The director said they needed a lot of crocs for filming because after one frozen chicken, a croc stopped snapping at anything and digested happily in the sun for the rest of the day. Moral of the tale – whenever you go bush in the northern part of Australia, always carry 1 frozen chicken 🙂

  5. Coop Poop says:

    Fair enough, but don’t you have snakes and/or poisonous spiders, and/or scorpions in your yard? Any of those little creatures would be enough to put me off gardening and animal keeping – especially anything to do with coops, sheds, old buildings and such…

    • There are poisonous spiders in my yard (in everyone’s yard in Sydney) but I haven’t seen snakes (just lizards). I’m sure there are some in the bush, less sure whether they make it to my garden (though that’s perfectly possible). No scorpions here – too wet for them.

      One of the most dangerous activities in Sydney is hanging out your clothes to dry. For whatever reason, funnel web spiders (the local poisonous ones) hang out around clothes lines. That and putting on shoes that stay outside if you haven’t worn them for a while. Neither of those involves gardening or animal keeping. Really, I just don’t worry about it. You have to be very unlucky to step or put your hand on a poisonous animal because very few Australian animals (crocs and sharks being the notable exception and they don’t live anywhere near my back yard) are actually predators. I feel perfectly safe – and we have a great local hospital with a good stock of anti-venom just in case :-O

        • Oh yes, I’m very brave – or just good at pretending the world is as I want it to be. Lots of vicious animals, all of whom eat each other, will do everything in their power to steer clear of the big scary human.

          Bravery, oblivion and Universal Healthcare (that anti-venom is free, of course) keep me trundling into my garden several times a day.

          • Coop Poop says:

            Ah, but the anti-venom is not free. Your society pays for it with taxes…Coming from a true, blue libertarian.

            • Oh oh – we’ve strayed well away from gardening. Where else can a true, blue libertarian and a left leaning lefty (it really is hard to lean further left than I do) meet up?

              Absolutely this society pays for our wonderful (but flawed) medical system with taxes. I grew up in the US and IMHO the Aussie system is MILES better. We have higher taxes, lower poverty rates, longer life spans and we totally missed the GFC. Taxes ain’t all bad, it’s more about how you use them that makes them work for society or drag it down.

              In the end, if I ever need that anti-venom I will be pleased that no one asks me for a health insurance card. That said, I’ll still try not to get bitten 🙂

              • Coop Poop says:

                I believe in a social safety net. I do. I think you nailed it with the judicious and fair use of OPM.

                Because the USA is now a sorta corporo-fascist pseudo-capitalist, fiat-money run country, it’s futile for me to argue FOR the current system, which is despicable.

                In a nutshell, I’m a “don’t tread on me” kinda girl and that is usually optimized with much smaller government footprint on EVERY level – to get the hell outta the way and give people a bit of breathing room.

                p.s. some of my closest friends are liberals…

  6. Oh what a clever idea – I hope Mr possum leaves them all for you! Growing up in Africa we had a huge avocado tree in the backyard and there is nothing better than an avo off your own tree. If you pick them too soon they will still ripen in a brown paper bag – or your special covers….

  7. Pingback: My Poor Avocado Tree | Laura Rittenhouse's Gardening Journal

  8. KintiQ says:

    Hi Laura
    Thanks for starting the thread. I live in Sydney-Australia and have a similar Avocado from seed after treating it with some citrus fruit boosting chemicals, it seems something is in the card and was thinking how to protect the possible fruits from pests.
    Possums/Bush Rats are troubling me with my lemon tree, finally I have stopped these by cordoning the trunk with steel mesh (Stopped climbing from ground) and protective net between the fence and the branches (Stopped travelling over the fence).
    I will try your protective bags if the fruits are finally seems coming in live.

    • KintiQ, Good luck saving your avocadoes (and lemons) – it’s a never ending battle, but a fun one. I love “sharing” my bounty with local fauna. Of course I like it even more when they are generous enough to “share” some of it with me. It can be rather dispiriting to have no harvest to enjoy, but it’s hard to begrudge the natives.

      • KintiQ says:

        Thanks for your quick and kind response. Yes I do experiment with such issues and try to resolve such issues and if positive post some where with the intention to share the knowledge. Keep it up.

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