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All about growing almond trees

 
R Ranson
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I gave a search, and I couldn't find any threads on this yet. Please forgive me (and point me in the right direction) if there is one already.


Almonds, a tasty nut tree, relative of the plum, and the newest love of my life.

I've gone absolutely nutty about eating almonds this last year, buying them by the $200 box. I toast them, blanch them, fry them, make almond milk, almond paste, almond tagine, and anything else I can think of tossing almonds into. They are suppose to be high in calcium and I find a very good source of energy for a mid-afternoon snack. Almonds are awesome. It's time I start growing my own.

Almonds start producing nuts at about five years old, and really get into the swing of things at about 10 years. One single, healthy and happy tree, can produce 30 to 50 pounds of nuts per year! For 50 years! That's... let's see... 1500 to 25 hundred pounds of nuts for the life of one tree. Depending on where in the world you are, that's about one tonne! At that rate, I only need four trees to keep me happy.

I first thought about growing almonds when I saw the local transition movement was planting them all over town. I thought maybe I could get some of their super-awesome trees, put them in my farm, then share the crop with others... but alas, no one responds when I contact that group, so I'm on my own.

But talking to a local nursery I discovered that almonds do indeed thrive here. It gets better and better.


How to make baby almond trees?

I know we can grow them from seed, so long as the nut is fresh and untreated. There are a few tricks like carefully shelling them and making them feel like they had a proper winter. We could even use grocery store almonds, apparently. Can anyone tell us what we are looking for when buying almonds for seeds?

Can we start almonds by cuttings? This seems less common, but I can't see why not. The strike rate is pretty low with stone fruit (which almonds are related to), so seed may be the better option.

However, with seed, the almonds may not come true, they may even be inedible, so we can graft or bud good almond tree onto bitter almond rootstock.

I usually bud my stone fruit, but the interweb seems more interested in grafting almonds. The nursery also grafts theirs. Which do you think is best? What time of year for budding or grafting almonds?


What growing conditions do almonds want? Are there different kinds of almonds suited to different parts of the world? Do almonds need a friend to exchange pollan with or are they self fertile? If they need a friend, can that friend be a clone - or are there defences that prevent incestual nut procration?



And the most important question of all: Since I know I can bud a plum tree onto an almond rootstock, can I bud an almond onto a plum rootstock?

 
Blake Wheeler
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I can't answer many of your questions, but if you're only wanting 4 trees why not just buy them outright? Quicker than grafting and growing from seed, you know the quality you're getting, and they're not expensive, I can't see a downside to not buying them outright.

I planted an almond tree myself last fall. To be fair I hate almonds, but I wanted a nut tree I wouldn't have to wait 10 years to produc. Mine was a All-in-one Almond I bought from stark brothers. Think it may have ran $25, so $100 total for you, not bad seeing you already buy $200 worth of almonds. They have a few cultivars of almond and they were all self-fertile varieties (another reason I chose them, only had room for one more tree). I want to think fully grown they were in the range of 15-18 feet high and wide. Of course with all self fertile things you don't need a pollinator but yields will be higher with one.

I'm zone 6a and although the winter (which was colder than average) killed most of the above ground tree it's sprouting up from the ground at the base. Waiting to see how it pans out as it hasn't had a full grow season yet, but thus far seems to be doing well given the set back.
 
R Ranson
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Thanks for the reply.

I can't answer many of your questions, but if you're only wanting 4 trees why not just buy them outright?


Other than the fact that making babies is fun? ...um, baby trees that is.

Good question. Locally they start at $75 a tree, and go well beyond $200 for a adequate size one for my needs, it's well beyond my budget to buy them all. Also, I have a 1/4 acre pasture that I'm thinking of filling with almond trees in a year or two.... so minimum 4 trees, more likely 40.

The other problem with buying trees is that I don't know the quality I'm getting. I don't know what conditions these trees are use to, but I suspect they are cultivated to thrive in high quality potting soil with high inputs of water, chemical fertilizer and pesticides. My growing conditions are quite different, as we are still in the process of building our soil. When I grow my own trees from seed, I allow natural selection to have a heavy hand in the process. If it can survive our soil, 6 months of drought, nothing but organic inputs, then I know when I plant it out in the final location, that it is very likely to thrive... the babies commercial trees... they almost always die on me. If this style works with fruit trees, it might just work with almonds.

I'm zone 6a and although the winter (which was colder than average) killed most of the above ground tree it's sprouting up from the ground at the base. Waiting to see how it pans out as it hasn't had a full grow season yet, but thus far seems to be doing well given the set back.


Glad to hear it made it through the cold winter alright.

 
John Wolfram
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R Ranson wrote:Good question. Locally they start at $75 a tree, and go well beyond $200 for a adequate size one for my needs, it's well beyond my budget to buy them all. Also, I have a 1/4 acre pasture that I'm thinking of filling with almond trees in a year or two.... so minimum 4 trees, more likely 40. The other problem with buying trees is that I don't know the quality I'm getting. I don't know what conditions these trees are use to, but I suspect they are cultivated to thrive in high quality potting soil with high inputs of water, chemical fertilizer and pesticides. My growing conditions are quite different, as we are still in the process of building our soil. When I grow my own trees from seed, I allow natural selection to have a heavy hand in the process. If it can survive our soil, 6 months of drought, nothing but organic inputs, then I know when I plant it out in the final location, that it is very likely to thrive... the babies commercial trees... they almost always die on me. If this style works with fruit trees, it might just work with almonds.

If you want to grow your own almond trees from seed, that's cool, but I've got to agree with Blake in that buying already grafted trees is the way to go from an economic standpoint. That being said, the trick is knowing where to buy grafted trees. Around my parts, the local tree suppliers sell either junk or trees that are outrageously expensive. At least for fruit trees, bare-root mail order is the way to go, however the ultra-crappy mail order nurseries are also really good at optimizing their Google rankings. Doing a search for "mail order almond trees" at least half the companies at the top of the list are terrible (stay away from tyty, willisorchard, and gurneys). While I'm fairly knowledgeable about fruit tree vendors, I don't know who are good vendors for nut trees, but I've heard good things about Stark and the highest quality pawpaw tree I ever received came from One Green World. For $150 (including shipping), you can order one each of every almond tree sold by One Green World and start getting almonds at least three years before the almonds grown from seed. If you're buying $200 boxes of almonds, those trees should easily pay for themselves. Even one or two of them dies, it will still be a good deal.

The great thing with buying a couple trees is that doesn't mean you have to give up the growing from seed project. In fact, that $150 spent on commercial trees will help your seed planted trees because of all the knowledge you'll gain looking after those grafted trees. Do you know what the major almond pests are in your area? Do you know how much wildlife pressure there is? You can learn a lot from a couple trees.
 
Alder Burns
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You want a nursery that is relatively local. StarkBros. is national, and in a specific, unique climate, their stuff may well not be well adapted. If there are good trees near you, you could start seedlings and graft them yourself. Almond will graft onto peach, and possibly other stone fruits, and in fact such trees may be more tolerant to wet conditions than on almond roots. Almond is naturally a semi-arid or Mediterranean tree and despises poor drainage, especially in the growing season. And they do benefit from a pollinator.
The biggest problem with almonds (and to some extent, apricots as well) in most of North America is that they bloom at the first hint of spring, and invariably the bloom or young fruit get hit with a late frost. There are a few varieties that are later blooming, and planting the trees where they are shaded in the winter (but sunny in the growing season....an interesting design challenge!) might help. But if you are along the west coast, that might not be so much of a problem. Peaches, at least, are subject to peach leaf curl anywhere much north of me, so that's something to watch out for too....(peaches and almonds are actually very closely related)
 
R Ranson
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All good points about buying almond trees. Things are a little bit different here in Canada and a lot more expensive when it comes to trees - mail order or not. There are a lot of restrictions and licensing requirements for importing live matter across the 49th. Red tape = added expense.

I would much rather take a permaculture approach and grow my own trees that are acclimatized to my own conditions than spend half a years income buying trees that will probably all die the first summer. Time and experience procreating trees I have, money not so much. We have 220 years of fruit tree care experience living in our household at the moment. Growing a few dozen trees is easy.

Perhaps, it's possible that we've gotten a hold of the wrong part of the conversation? What I would really like to talk about is the actual care and procreation and everything else of almond trees. My own project is just an example. Maybe we could make this thread a nice resource for others interested in learning about almonds?




Can we get back to focusing on general almond care now?

What I really want to know most of all is if Almonds are budded or grafted? What do I look for when buying supermarket almonds for seed? In the shell, out of the shell, a special smell to tell me it's fresh? Is there a better time of year to buy them? How well do almonds grow from cuttings? Do almond cuttings revert to the rootstock or grow true to the graft? Things like this.


Alder Burns wrote: ... Almond will graft onto peach, and possibly other stone fruits, and in fact such trees may be more tolerant to wet conditions than on almond roots. Almond is naturally a semi-arid or Mediterranean tree and despises poor drainage, especially in the growing season. And they do benefit from a pollinator.
The biggest problem with almonds (and to some extent, apricots as well) in most of North America is that they bloom at the first hint of spring, and invariably the bloom or young fruit get hit with a late frost. There are a few varieties that are later blooming, and planting the trees where they are shaded in the winter (but sunny in the growing season....an interesting design challenge!) might help. But if you are along the west coast, that might not be so much of a problem. Peaches, at least, are subject to peach leaf curl anywhere much north of me, so that's something to watch out for too....(peaches and almonds are actually very closely related)


I'm very glad to hear about almonds needing dry soil and good drainage. How about a loads of rain in the winter with good drainage and zero rain and good drainage in the summer?

Interesting about the flowering time. How do they compare with other fruit trees grown near them? Are they much before the plums?

Peach leaf curl - annoying, but we only get it on the one tree that is in the garden that gets watered. Sometimes the leaves get wet and they curl, but all the other trees don't seem to get it. Maybe because of the lack of rain after the tree gets growing? I wonder if the almonds would be okay.
 
Alder Burns
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In climates where the spring is gentle and protracted enough to see the difference (in some climates with a "sudden" hot spring they seem to crowd together) the usual order of bloom is almond first, followed quickly by apricot, then after a little while (perhaps a couple of weeks) plum, followed quickly by peach and nectarine, and then after another good long while apple, and lastly pear. So in climates like much of the East and Midwest of the USA, subject to variable weather in the springtime, almond and apricot are nearly always a wash (although there are some late-blooming varieties of both); plum and peach can be iffy, and apple and pear are more reliable.
I've never heard or read of almond, apricot, or peach rooting from cuttings. There are some varieties of plum that can do it. I think that grafting is more common (and easier to do yourself) with all of these than budding. I have grafted peaches and apples myself with a couple of different methods....the key is to have more seedlings to graft than you expect to succeed and keep the ones that "take".
Almond should take winter rain easily, especially if the soil is sandy or otherwise well drained. If it's a tight clay where water sits around for days after a heavy rain then beware. Best to graft on plum or peach and plant on ridges or mounds....
 
R Ranson
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Thanks for the flower list. I usually judge my spring progress by the trees than the calendar. Sounds like almonds would do well here most years, as the pollinators are out a few weeks before the apricots, if we get a break in the cloud. Humming birds do most of our early fruit trees for us, small price to pay for some sugar water all winter.

I think that grafting is more common (and easier to do yourself) with all of these than budding.


I've noticed grafting is more common, but I've wondered why. For success rate, I've always done better with budding on stone fruit and grafting on apples, pears, quinces and the like. It takes some knife skills, sure, but I find it's much easier to get a good contact with the cambium layer. I also like how you can do several buddings on the same stock, and if for some reason none take, the stock usually survives and we can try again next year. Grafting is always trick to make certain the scion is the same size as the rootstock.
 
leila hamaya
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i cant answer all your questions cause i am also looking for some info about this, but have been thinking about growing almonds for a while and had similar questions.

at least here, in california where theres tons of almonds, accessibility isnt as much of an issue...but then again i am way out in the mountains here so it is somewhat of an issue. also i am on a tight budget, buying almond trees outright isnt possible for me either. at some point i am going to attempt to grow some almonds from seed, so now the issue is where to get seeds. as well as how to increase the likelihood of getting a good sweet almond from seed...rather than a smaller bitter almond...and i also still have questions about that.

one thing i can share from my looking into it, is that most almonds are pasteurized, by law. it seems really weird, but hey thats the way it is. i am assuming the pasteurization makes it fairly impossible to start the grocery store almonds. ? or maybe not i am unsure. they pasteurize the whole thing, the shell and all, so maybe the shell protects the almond seed?

apparently there is some way that small amounts of unpasteurized almonds can be traded/sold/given away, a loophole we may be able to get through. i have on rare occasion, seen some people selling truly raw, unpasteurized almonds for seed...mostly on ebay, where i have been looking over some good looking listings

sweet almonds

more sweet almonds

heres one that explains about pasteurization:
sweet almonds unpasteurized


F.W. Schumacher sells bulk seeds...
 
Michael Qulek
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R Ranson wrote:

Almonds start producing nuts at about five years old, and really get into the swing of things at about 10 years. One single, healthy and happy tree, can produce 30 to 50 pounds of nuts per year! For 50 years! That's... let's see... 1500 to 25 hundred pounds of nuts for the life of one tree. Depending on where in the world you are, that's about one tonne! At that rate, I only need four trees to keep me happy.


OK, the first order of business here is a reality check. I like almonds too, but my trees produced NOTHING at all for the first 6 years. They are between 8 and 9 years old now, and one of two of the trees are just STARTING to bear a few almonds. How many of my own almonds have I eaten so far. ZERO! Animals have so far taken every single last kernel! Do not expect to be drowning in almonds any time soon. It just ain't gonna happen.
R Ranson wrote:
I know we can grow them from seed, so long as the nut is fresh and untreated. There are a few tricks like carefully shelling them and making them feel like they had a proper winter. We could even use grocery store almonds, apparently. Can anyone tell us what we are looking for when buying almonds for seeds?

I've just purchased raw almonds at the store and planted those straight in the dirt. That's what Luther Burbank did 120 years ago to start his first orchard. I use almond seedlings as my grafting rootstock for peaches, plums, and apricots. I noticed that some will want to sprout right away, and some needed a bit of winter chill (Riverside+30F in January) before they emerged.

Don't bother with trying to root cuttings unless you have a 100% humidity climate-controlled mist chamber. It just doesn't work.
R Ranson wrote:

What growing conditions do almonds want? Are there different kinds of almonds suited to different parts of the world? Do almonds need a friend to exchange pollan with or are they self fertile? If they need a friend, can that friend be a clone - or are there defences that prevent incestual nut procration?
They want the same growing conditions as peaches, since they are the same species. They need some winter chill, but not much. You'll be successful with almonds anywhere within the zone 7-9 climate types.

R Ranson wrote:
Do almonds need a friend to exchange pollan with or are they self fertile? If they need a friend, can that friend be a clone - or are there defences that prevent incestual nut procration?
Some varieties are self-fertile, but some prefer cross-pollination. If you want four trees, get four varieties. You can find anything you want mail-order.

R Ranson wrote:
And the most important question of all: Since I know I can bud a plum tree onto an almond rootstock, can I bud an almond onto a plum rootstock?
Can't say definitively, but I have grafted Japanese plum onto almond rootstock, so I assume you can graft almond onto plum. Just how much plum seed do you have? I'd say the easiest route is to just buy raw almonds, plant those, and graft them the following year.

Good luck.
 
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