While some trees have fruit and others have berries, the almond tree has seeds. And these edible seeds are covered in a hard shell that is not easy to crack. But apart from the seeds or drupes, the tree itself is very decorative.
With brightly colored branches that change color from green to purple to gray, and dense, lush green leaves, the tree offers shade and decoration in a spacious landscape. And like any other tree, once established, the almond tree becomes very self-sufficient. You don’t have to worry about spending a lot of time caring for this sturdy tree. Read on to learn how to grow, care for and harvest almonds.
All About Almond
The almond tree (Prunus dulcis), born in Iran and Asia Minor, grows in many parts of the world. The almond, a distant cousin of the peach tree, is a deciduous tree that does not grow over 32 feet . This makes it easier for you to prune, care for and harvest the almonds without the need for a professional.
The slender trunk of the tree does not get thicker than 12 inches, which gives the tree a graceful and elegant look. In the spring the new shoots appear and they are usually green. But the sunlight turns them purple and they shimmer in the sunlight.
Shortly after the lush canopy of leaves turns green and purple, tiny white flowers open timidly in rows over the small twigs and branches. Sometimes the flowers have shades of pink, depending on the variety. But, on average, the flower doesn’t grow about 2 inches in diameter.
Although the almond tree grows in zones 7 to 9, it goes to sleep after shedding its leaves and needs between 200 and 700 hours of cooling in the winter months.
After the flowers are pollinated , the small drupes develop from the depths of the female flowers. It takes three years for the tree to bloom and bear fruit. And the fruits themselves take up to 7 to 8 months to reach full ripeness and become ready for harvest.
The average almond stone fruit is about 2.5 inches long and sometimes contains two pips. The kernels of the almond are rich in vitamins and proteins.
Almonds come in different varieties and over the years only the high-yielding varieties and types have been adopted by commercial breeders in California and elsewhere. Here are some of the most popular almonds for your garden.
- Carmel: A small tree, but with good quality nuts and a decent yield. Commercially, this variety is not very popular due to the tree’s susceptibility to blossom brown rot, which affects almost every other branch. Bud failure is another problem to deal with with this variety.
- Nonpareil: A relatively new variety that was first developed in the late 19th century . It was soon adopted by the burgeoning California almond industry and soon became the most widely used variety. Although it doesn’t start to bloom until late spring or early summer, it is one of the earliest strains to harvest.
- Sonora: If you prefer a variety that blooms early, has good quality almonds and a good harvest, this is the variety for you.However, you need to have other almond varieties nearby in order to pollinate the Sonora and get a high yield.
- Monterey: This variety is often paired with a late bloomer Nonpareil to improve pollination. It is also a popular choice if you plan to grow almonds commercially as it is a very productive tree. The only problem is that the stone fruits often have double kernels, which reduce their quality.
- Fritz: Fritz is often a good companion for Nonpareil in an almond plantation. It blooms a few days later so that they can cross-pollinate without any problems. The reason it is not very popular is that the tree is often infected with anthracnose in the spring.But not the kind of seeds you buy in the supermarket. These seeds are roasted and do not germinate. You can order the seeds online or buy them at your local nursery. Remove any damaged seeds.
- Use a nutcracker to break the pods open just enough for moisture to penetrate.
- Prepare small pots for the seeds. Fill the pots with an all-purpose flower mix.
- Plant a seed about an inch deep in each pot and cover it with potting soil. Make sure the cracked side of the peel is facing up.
- Water the pots to dampen the potting soil, and hold until the seeds germinate.
- spots Keep the pots indoors, where they will get plenty of direct sunlight.
- When the last frost has passed, prepare a sunny spot in the garden. Fill in the top 12 “of the soil.
- Build a small mound about 5 cm high and the same diameter for each seedling.
- Leave the seedling out of the pot and plant.” Put it in the middle of the hill where the earth almost reaches the lower leaves.
- Place the saplings at least 6 feet apart and make sure they have enough space to get out of any structures or other large trees to grow remotely in the area.
Although the almond tree is a sturdy type that is self-sufficient once it establishes and matures, the first three to four years of its life are Tree is usually the most important for its success. During this time, the tree is dependent on your care and receives most of its water and nutrients from the soil surface. Pruning, watering and feeding are the three tasks that you need to do regularly.
The almond tree needs loose, well-drained and rich soil. If you have either clay or loam soil, you’ll need to top it up with perlite to improve its texture. Before planting the seedling in the garden, till the top one foot of the soil and add about 50 percent perlite to give it the right texture. Check the acidity of the soil and add lime to make it slightly acidic. This can have a huge impact on the productivity and taste of the almond. While neutral soil can be good, having some acidity tends to improve the tree’s growth rate and flowering ratio.
Once you’ve made sure the soil is sandy and good – you can drain start watering the seedling as soon as you plant it. The almond tree needs a lot of water on a regular basis. Although the roots are sensitive to soaked soil, they cannot handle dry soil either. So water abundantly and flood the soil every time. To make sure you don’t forget to water the tree, you can use a drip system that will keep the roots well hydrated. During the rainy season, turn off the drip irrigation system and let the rain water the tree. Reduce watering when the tree sheds its leaves in autumn and goes into dormant phase in winter.
The faster the almond tree establishes itself the better. And in order for it to ripen and begin to bloom and produce almonds, you need to fertilize it. Start early in spring when the first growth shows up. Apply the fertilizer around the drip line and pour immediately. Avoid spreading the granules of the balanced fertilizer near the base of the trunk in order to protect the roots. On the side, dress regularly with compost and aged manure. Apply the organic compost once a month from spring to midsummer. In the fall and winter the tree shows little sign of growth, so feeding is not required.
If you see an almond tree growing in the wild, you have probably noticed that the canopy is off anything but uniform. The branches grow in any other direction with no apparent structure. But what is good in the wild is not so good in the garden. You want the tree to look at its best and add to the landscape. And for that you need your secateurs and a ladder. Because the tree is compact, it can be easily pruned without professional help.
Start pruning in early winter after all the leaves have fallen.Look for stubborn branches and those that protrude, intersect, or cover other branches.
Line paths for sunlight and airflow to reach the inner depths of the tree. The more sunlight the branches get, the more flowers and fruit the tree will produce each year.
You should prune lightly all year round to remove any diseased or damaged branches or to keep the tree in good condition. Regular pruning improves the productivity of the tree, so don’t neglect this most important of all tasks.
Pests and diseases
Verticillium wilt, crown gall, and blossom blight are the three main diseases that affect the almond tree. Some strains like Fritz are also prone to anthracnose so avoid planting this strain if the disease spreads in your area.
The other three diseases are mainly due to overwatering or damp conditions around the tree To combat verticillium wilt, graft the almond tree onto a sturdy peach or bitter almond rootstock.
Regular pruning improves air circulation around and in the tree canopy. Also, avoid cutting the trunk of the tree with a garden tool, as this will lead to crown galls.
After 3 to 4 years this is Almond tree is finally ready to bloom and bear almonds. Don’t expect a big harvest in the first year. But next year the tree will have a decent annual harvest. Most varieties of sweet almond take between 6 and 8 months to mature and ready to be picked.
Depending on the variety you planted, you can start harvesting between July and October. Watch for signs of maturity that include dry and cracked skin. When you’re ready to harvest the almonds, place a large leaf under the tree, then grab the slender trunk and shake it vigorously.
The ripe almonds will begin to fall on their own. Collect them and put them in a plastic bag, then store them in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. This will eliminate all pests that are on the pods.