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Growing Pistachios in the Rocky Mountains at 4500' elevation Without Irrigation

 
pollinator
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Steve Mendez wrote:Interestingly, even though the cuttings were immediately put in water, the leaves had turned crispy dry by the time we got back home to Idaho about 4 hours later.



Mine did the same, but by the next morning some had started to rehydrate. I took all the leaves off so they wouldn't try to focus on the leaves instead of roots.
 
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When will you have cuttings of the pistacheo trees that you have in Utah? My email is dk55oak@yahoo.com
 
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I've had a similar experience - here in Boise, tried to grow Pistachios from fresh seed twice, and failed twice. Mail ordered for cuttings, tried them twice, they died twice. I need properly rooted seedlings. OGW had Uzbecks, but lost their supplier over a year ago and they're not sure if they'll ever get them back. Nobody else that I know of - and believe me, I've searched - sells real, heirloom P's. Just standard, meh, commercial varieties bred to be pampered in Cali orchards. I think they'll grow well in our very sandy soil on a hot, minimally irrigated south slope here in Boise, is I can find them! If the orghard in Utah is anbandoned, would anybody be willing to take and root cuttings from there for sale to the permies community?
 
Lauren Ritz
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I got about a dozen starts from 5 trees (two male, three female). The smaller cuttings rotted almost immediately. I have two left, one male and one female, as well as the hardwood cuttings that I'll leave over the winter. I'm not sure if they're still alive. It appears (from this one test) that the cuttings need humidity in the air but not much water in the soil. As soon as I took the male out of the humidity tent the new leaves dried up. If these don't take I'll try again next year with new wood.
 
Lauren Ritz
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I just looked at my pistachios and one pot (male starts) has half an inch of root sticking out the bottom! No new top growth yet.

I need to be careful and not jump the gun, so it won't get transplanted until at least next spring. My question is for people who have transplanted trees. So far I've mostly worked with 1) Already mature trees 2) Trees that can be easily replaced or 3) Trees that I start in the ground in their planned locaiton. I need some advice, since this is none of the three. Should I keep it inside, put it in the greenhouse (which I'm leaning toward) or leave it outside for the winter?

And would it be mature enough by next spring to survive? Or should I keep it in the pot for another year, JIC?
IMG_20200920_190603345.jpg
Male #1
Male #1, still with hints of green
IMG_20200920_190608984_HDR.jpg
Male #2 (same pot)
Male #2 (same pot. See the green?)
IMG_20200920_190841192.jpg
The only female still showing signs of life
The only female still showing signs of life
IMG_20200920_190730636.jpg
A root!
A root!
 
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Location: Logan, Utah
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It is difficult to tell where these are located from the video. I live on the island and would like to see if I could grow some pistachios down in the valley. I was also wondering if your Rocky Mountain Permaculture group is still active. I have seen some permaculture events help via USU, but not through any local groups. But then, I'm not on FB.
 
Vern Schafer
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Location: Logan, Utah
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I have solved the mystery of their location. Once I had my coworker view the video, she immediately recognized the spot. I'm not sure when pistachios are ready for harvest, but I am going to go check out the trees after work.
 
Lauren Ritz
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I bought some seeds, and every single one rotted within 2 weeks. Those I put in the refrigerator took 2 weeks, the others started to rot immediately.

I was given some more seeds (Thank you, Joseph!) and split them into groups--took the smallest and those that appeared damaged (8 seeds) and put them in a plastic bag in the sun. One of the 8 sprouted!

Those that looked the ripest went in the ground where I want them to grow. The largest of those remaining went out in the greenhouse in pots. The 2nd largest went out in pots just outside the greenhouse.
IMG_20201216_100923890.jpg
It's alive!
It's alive!
 
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Looking for seedlings of these col Hardy pistachios... anyone know of a source?
 
steward
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Craig: There are a couple of  pistachio orchards near Hurricane Utah, USDA Zone 8a. I recommend that you contact them to inquire about acquiring raw seeds for planting.

https://www.utahfarmbureau.org/Article/A-Tough-Nut-to-Crack-Southern-Utahs-Farmers-Make-Pistachios-a-Family-Affair
 
Craig Roberts
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There are some good pistachio orchards in hurricane utah but we live in a colder place with temperatures sometimes plunging to around 0 degrees F.  So we will need a cold Hardy cultivar.  Thank you for your assistance!
 
Lauren Ritz
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Probably the simplest would be to get a bunch of seeds, plant them, and keep those that survive. Most of the named varieties are bred for warmer climates. The Uzbek is cold hardy, as I understand it, but I don't know what the limits are.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I think that Craig may be 1/2 to 1 USDA climate zone colder than Hurricane. I expect that there is enough genetic diversity in the Hurricane pistachios to easily bridge that gap. With the wilder Iranian pistachios from Logan, we are only able to trial dozens of seeds per year. Someone could aspire to plant thousands of the Hurricane pistachios in a short row, and let them self-select for vigor and winter hardiness.

The Hurricane pistachios have another thing going for them, which is that they are more domesticated, and likely to yield larger nuts that split easier. For my personal use, I don't mind at all if I have to split pistachios.

I am collaborating with people in Grand Junction Colorado to increase the diversity of pistachios grown there. We know of three mature trees. They are miles apart so are not getting pollinated, and no viable nuts are being produced. We are growing seedlings, and aspiring to graft male branches onto the female trees.

We started several trials this year at high elevations across southern Colorado.

 
Lauren Ritz
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Does anyone know what baby pistachio seedlings need? It looks happy so far...
IMG_20210108_194834163_HDR.jpg
Baby pistachio seedling
Baby pistachio seedling
 
Lauren Ritz
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I'm testing something new with the seeds. All the guidance says to soak and then cold stratify with a wet paper towel, but on one batch I soaked and then put them in the bag dry. They seemed to be shriveling so I put more water in after a few weeks, and they sprouted almost immediately!

I have two more that I'm doing the same process. They were soaked 24 hours (to simulate fall rains) then dry in the bag 4 weeks, now I'm soaking them again (spring rains). If it works I'll let you know.
 
Lauren Ritz
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And...it worked! Two days before they both sprouted. Not proven yet, but a definite possibility.

I've pulled the next set out of the refrigerator and they're soaking.

Also looks like one sprouting in soil in the greenhouse.
 
Lauren Ritz
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Joseph, a question if you would.

You said that you're grafting male pistachio branches onto female pistachio trees in Colorado. When you do that, are the male and female branches more likely to bloom at the same time? Or does the timing not change?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Lauren: We don't have good data about flowering times. I figure that barely matching flowering times is better than no pollen production at all.
 
Lauren Ritz
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Thanks, I figured that was the case but thought no harm in asking. I was curious what kind of effect that might have, since the male trees flower at different times. And of course, I wasn't able to find anything about that kind of research online. :)
 
Lauren Ritz
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Only five pistachios up, but I think I'm figuring out why the others didn't survive after being put in the soil. In every one that has emerged, the root end of the seed was UP and the seed stayed in the ground. The root wraps around the seed to dig into the ground, and leaves emerge on the root end, so planting the seed with the root end down (as I'm used to doing) would not allow the leaves to emerge properly.

And in answer to my earlier question, it appears that pistachio seedlings need bright light and a little water. Four of the five are very happy--the other was attacked by something that snipped off its top leaves and I'm not sure yet whether it will survive.
 
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I'll be in Cache Valley next week. Would this time of year be suitable for taking a few cuttings from the trees to try and root?
The five that I started from cuttings last summer all died after about four weeks. I kept their soil damp, their air humid, they looked good at first, they put out some tiny beginner leaves from buds but then they wilted and shriveled and died, no apparent root growth when I checked.
 
Lauren Ritz
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Steve Mendez wrote:I'll be in Cache Valley next week. Would this time of year be suitable for taking a few cuttings from the trees to try and root?
The five that I started from cuttings last summer all died after about four weeks. I kept their soil damp, their air humid, they looked good at first, they put out some tiny beginner leaves from buds but then they wilted and shriveled and died, no apparent root growth when I checked.

Two of those I did last year are firmly anchored and still firm. I don't know whether they're alive or not. One male, one female. The rest have rotted.

My information says to take cuttings mid summer, but I don't see why you couldn't try winter cuttings.
 
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I live at 4700 ft in northwest Nevada and would like to try growing a few trees.  Is it p I ssible to to buy 4 or 5 females and a male?   My email is Mrkabrooks01@gmail.com.  thank you
 
Lauren Ritz
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I'm getting about a 75% sprouting rate, but most of them die once put in the soil. I'm not sure why. I currently have six seedlings, and two more just starting to root. One of those sprouted out in the greenhouse.

Maybe a dozen more seeds to work with, but I think part of the problem is that they lose viability quickly. Don't pull off the flap on the side of the seed--some of the rot seems to be getting in at that point. I'm going to let these two go in the bag until they have leaves on them, rather than putting them in the soil as soon as the root shows itself.
 
Lauren Ritz
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Update. I currently have 8 seedlings, and 4 more seeds that I put in a bag yesterday. I'm doing something new with this batch. There seems to be a fine line between too much water (resulting in rot) and too little. So this time I soaked for 12 hours and put them in a bag WITH a wet paper towel but not ON the wet paper towel. I'm hoping the additional humidity will be sufficient to keep them viable and help them sprout but not so much that they rot. I'm also putting a cover over the pots when they are transplanted to hopefully keep the humidity higher. It worked with the last two.

One of the seedlings has barely grown since it sprouted, it's still less than 3 inches tall while the others (it was the first) are all 5 inches +. It got some good leaves on it, then all the new leaves are all crunched up in a bundle.

I have yet to lose one that got leaves on it.

12 hours soaking seems to be sufficient. 24 and they have too much water.
With or without a wet paper towel really doesn't seem to make a difference in germination rate, but without they need to be resoaked after a week or two. With the wet paper towel they tend to sprout faster.
With or without cold stratification doesn't seem to make a difference.
Soil needs to stay damp once the seeds germinate.

It may take as much as two months for the germinated seeds to get leaves on them, but I think that's because I wasn't watering them enough.
 
Lauren Ritz
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I have one seedling that isn't acting like the others. It was the first to emerge and looked healthy at the time.

Since then it's developed this odd thing where the emerging leaves are tiny and colorless, with a red edge almost like a rosette. There seem to be no internodes, the leaves all emerging from the same spot.

I've looked up a couple of papers on nutrient deficiency in pistachio seedlings but none of them have quite this same effect. The closest I can come is iron/magnesium/nitrogen. I can't send the trees to be tested because the amounts required are too high.

None of the other trees are showing the same problem, although many of the leaves and stems are shading red (which is magnesium deficiency).

I hope the picture is sufficient. It's surprising that there are nutrient deficiencies, since the seeds were planted in my garden soil. Mostly sand, yes, and highly alkaline.
IMG_20210503_143033544.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20210503_143033544.jpg]
 
Steve Mendez
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We visited the trees yesterday (7/24/21).

They looked good especially considering the very hot very dry summer.
Pioneer-Day-Pistachio-Picture.jpg
[Thumbnail for Pioneer-Day-Pistachio-Picture.jpg]
Pioneer-Day-Pistachio-Close-up.jpg
[Thumbnail for Pioneer-Day-Pistachio-Close-up.jpg]
 
Lauren Ritz
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I still have 6 seedlings. Germination/survival seems to go down sharply after about 6 months, which I think (?) means that they germinate with the fall rains and hibernate through the winter. The last of the seeds was a batch of 20, with 3 possible survivors. Most rotted immediately, one got a good sized root on it but still hasn't sprouted. Two others are just sitting there and I suspect they will die.

One of the stunted plants appears to have died. The pot fell over and I accidentally pulled it up partially, not realizing how shallow the root system was. I'm not seeing any roots near the bottom of the pots.

The nutrient deficiencies cleared up when I got them out in the sun and the heat. The last one I suspect will take off and outstrip all the others because I got it out in the sun immediately after it sprouted.

In order from left to right in the picture:

5 months old (two in a pot, same batch), 5 months, 6 months , 7 months, 1 month
IMG_20210725_085943137_HDR.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20210725_085943137_HDR.jpg]
 
pollinator
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I’d love to try some of those seeds here in the northwest. Onegreenworld was selling them for a bit but they appear to not be getting them back in stock. If anyone collects seeds in the fall I’d pay for  some
 
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Eve, I'm also in the Boise area and hoping to get some of these Logan seeds as well as some other hardier varieties a try in the treasure valley. Have you had any luck since then?
 
Eve Gardener
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No joy, unfortunately! Have you contacted the people who visited the trees in Logan? I'd try germinating some Logan seeds. I'm also wondering if it would be a decent plan to get a ommercial tree and graft some branches from the Logan trees onto it, if somebody local knew how to do that and was willing to help us?
 
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