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Are Hardy Almonds worth trying in a warm microclimate in zone 4?

 
Mike Jay
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Hello world! I am interested in growing hardy almonds in USDA zone 4. I have a block retaining wall that faces south and creates a micro-climate that I believe is at least zone 5. From what I've read, these almonds can handle zone 5. It's protected from the wind and gets decent sun all day. The wall is really two 3' walls with a terrace between them. I'm considering planting the almonds at the bottom of the lower wall and espaliering them to keep them low and tight to the wall.

Is it even worth the effort? Would the roots possibly disturb the retaining wall? Does anyone have an idea what sort of nut yield I could hope for from one or two trees in this situation? If I'm only going to get a couple dozen nuts, I'll spend my time/money/brainpower on something better suited to my location. My family consumes a lot of almonds so I'm just trying to bring the supply chain a bit closer to home...

Thanks!!
 
Mike Jay
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FYI, I did another search and after digging through several vendor sites I found one that says they will produce 12-15 lbs per tree and they are helped by having more than one tree to cross pollinate.

I am still curious if the fine folks out there think it's worth the trouble to try to keep it espaliered and if the roots could hurt the retaining wall.

Thanks!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I see lots of peaches (same species) growing in zone 4. They are not particularly healthy, nor long-lived, but they struggle on until they don't. Some years they produce nuts.



 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Joseph, unless someone else chimes in to the contrary, it sounds like it isn't worth the effort and risk for the gain.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Mike Jay wrote:Thanks Joseph, unless someone else chimes in to the contrary, it sounds like it isn't worth the effort and risk for the gain.


Depends on how much you like fresh homegrown almonds... Or the challenge of doing something that can't be done...

In my world view, it's well worth the attempt to grow peaches, even if they only produce fruit every few years.

 
Todd Parr
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These experiments are always worth it in my opinion. Even if they don't work out, you invariably learn something. I learn much more from the things that don't work than from those that do.
 
Alder Burns
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The main problem with almonds in the East, whether south or north, is not the winter-hardiness of the tree so much as the fact that it blooms so early, significantly before peach or plum...at the first hint of warming weather. So invariably the bloom is lost to a later cold spell. Apricots are often the same way, despite blooming slightly later. Some apricots don't mind quite a severe winter, and they grow in places in the interior West where a zone 4 winter prevails, but when it is over it's over. In CA where both almonds and apricots grow, they bloom in Jan. and Feb., but once again the danger of frost after this happens is much less than in the East.
 
Troy Rhodes
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If it's just one or two trees, it is possible to plant them in the sheltered area, and in the month or so when they are coming out of dormancy, and at risk from a late frost, to throw a big tarp or piece of construction plastic over them on the few nights where it's going to frost.

How bad do want to be the only guy in your county that gets fresh local, beyond organic almonds


I like fresh figs, and I live in zone 5 michigan. So I grow them in pots, and then they go out to the greenhouse about a month before the last frost. They like a long season to get the figs ripe.

After they go dormant in the fall and they have a couple light freezes and lose their leaves, I haul them down in the cold basement until spring.

You can grow peaches (and almonds are really just specialized peach trees) in containers too.


How much work do you want to go through?

Permaculture is a design science. It's all about problem solving while looking at the whole system, not just the immediate problem.

Really defining the problem is at least half of the battle.

If you define the problem as, "How do I grow almonds in zone 4, no matter what?" That will lead you to some techniques and tricks to get almonds in zone 4.

If you define the problem as, "I would really like some nuts that aren't shipped from california and treated with who knows what. What nuts grow around here that love my climate, ie, will need little if any extra work?"

Ahhhh, that's a very different problem to solve. Hickories grow great here. So do walnuts. Hazelnut bushes may give you a yield by the 3rd year, IF you get a variety that is resistant to the eastern filbert blight, which is endemic in my part of the country. There are northern pecans that taste fantastic, but are about half the size of the southern papershell variety. But they may take 7-12 years to yield.
 
Mike Jay
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That's true, the way I'd espalier them they'd be pretty easy to cover on a frosty night. I'm assuming I'd only have to cover them when they have flowers in bloom and maybe thereafter.

In addition to satisfying my wife's need for almonds, it would be pretty cool to be the only almond guy in my part of the world...

I assumed they would get too big for a mobile container. My basement has 7' ceilings and I'd have to move them through a 3' wide door.
 
Troy Rhodes
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Both espalier and container growing require pretty significant pruning, but both are possible.

For container gardening, you'd just keep them at 6-7', or lay them down in the basement over the winter, and have 4-6 trees instead of 1 or 2.

 
Mike Jay
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Thanks for the perspective Troy (and the edited/added part). I think in this case my goals land a bit closer to the "untreated local nuts" than they do to the "almonds at any cost". We have hazelnuts that grow wild here so I can forage plenty of them. And I'm trying to sprout some butternuts right now. I think I'm a zone too far north for hickories and pecans. I see that walnuts are supposed to be good to zone 4. Butternuts are in the same family and are a bit more hardy (from what I hear) so that's why I'm trying them.

I think I'll just pass on the almonds until I have more time and money to waste

Thanks everyone for the comments!
 
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