How Grow Almond Trees
How to Grow Almond Trees
Almond trees are native to south Asia and the Middle East. Almond trees are in the same genus as peaches and plums, making them closely related but distinctly different from those popular fruits. The almond itself is a drupe, with an outer shell over a hard seed coat that contains the almond. If the pit of a peach is cracked, the peach seed resembles an almond. Many native almond trees in Asia are bitter due to a high level of cyanide in the seed. The sweet almond we enjoy today is the results of centuries of selection. Some recent research suggests that a chance mutation created a non-bitter almond that was propagated and bred by early farmers.
Almond trees are grafted onto peach rootstocks, such as Nemaguard. They grow to 15-25’ in height on standard rootstocks. Almonds require pollination between varieties to yield nuts. In California, where virtually all of America’s almonds are produced, millions of honeybees are transported to almond groves each spring to allow for pollination between varieties. Texas has a few of commercial orchards – Legg Creek Farm has been one of the tree providers for an almond orchard in the Rio Grande Valley.
Almonds ripen in a fuzzy, almost peach-type green hull. As the almond matures, the cases split open, revealing the shell-encased almond.
To successfully grow almonds, do the following:
1) Select the proper variety. Almond trees need warm, preferably dry weather. They bloom later than most peach trees, so they need a growing season that lasts long enough to be able to produce a crop. Almost all varieties need another variety for pollination. Texas Mission (our most popular almond), for example, needs Hall’s Hardy or Nonpariel for pollination.
2) Select the proper soil and site for planting. Almond trees need well-drained sandy or loam soil in full sun. They have deep roots, so they don’t usually do well in clay soil. Almond trees perform better in areas with neutral to alkaline soils. This is important to customers in the southeastern United States, where many of the soils are naturally acidic. The addition of wood ash or lime to soil will raise the pH level of the soil, thereby making the soil more alkaline. A soil test is really the only way to ensure the soil is suitable for growing almond trees.
3) Plant the tree! Dig a hole big enough to spread the roots out in. Prune off any broken roots and never let the roots dry out before the tree is planted. Place soil around the roots with the graft union above the soil surface. Pack soil lightly with a tool or pat it with a hand. Water the tree thoroughly and add more soil to the areas that have settled after watering.
4) Keep the tree watered and as disease-free as possible. Rake and remove fallen leaves in winter to break the disease cycle of a number of fungal disease. Almond trees in humid areas (like the Southeast!) are prone to fungal diseases – keep a close watch on almond diseases (http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/selectnewpest.almonds.html)
5) In 3-5 years, the almond trees will begin production. In 12 years, almond trees the almonds will reach full production.
6) Harvest almonds in the fall, when the husks break open.
-Don’t over-water almond trees. They require 1 inch of water per week from irrigation or rain before fruit set; after fruit set, increase water to 2 inches per week until the fruit is ripe.
-Don’t plant almonds in wet soil; this can lead to disease problems right after planting
-Prune the almond tree in winter. Remove dead branches and prune according to the specifications here: http://westernfarmpress.com/almond-pruning-steps-fairly-rigid ; almonds may also be pruned with an opencenter, like peaches.
-Squirrels and other animals love almonds; outside of the major almond producing regions of California and the limited production regions in other states, animal predation is a major issue for most home gardeners. Nets, scarecrows, clanking pie tins, and other inventive ideas have been used with varying effect to scare animals away from almond trees.
While challenging to grow, almonds themselves are rich in protein and vitamins and make an excellent addition to the home orchard. The flavor of home-grown, fresh almonds is hard to beat!
Do you have any other almond growing tips? Let us know in the comments section!