Everything about the almond tree and its cultivation
The almond tree has been cultivated since 4000 BC. and is one of the favorite trees of Greek nature, where during the flowering season beautifies gardens and parks. It is a deciduous tree with wonderful fruits that offer many important uses. The almond tree offers its fruit cooked or raw, full of vitamins, minerals and trace elements, with special emphasis on the calcium it offers to the body. From the fruit we will get the almond oil beneficial for the skin and hair but also the almond milk, ideal for people with lactose intolerance and vegetarians.
The leaves of the almond tree are lanceolate, the root is rich and deep, while the tree can reach 12 meters of hight and is cultivated in all warm Mediterranean areas. The fruit of the almond tree is well protected, as it consists of the exocarp, the mesocarp and the endocarp.
There are many varieties of almond tree with large or small fruit, and different flowering periods. Many varieties need cross-pollination in combination with other varieties of almond tree, while there are several that are native. Prefer almond varieties that are late to avoid destroying the flowers in frost or sharp cold.
The most well-known varieties are the following:
Of the Greek ones, the Retsou variety is the most famous, with elongated fruit shape, greedy growth and thin, fragile shell. It has a very good production consistently over time, it enters fruiting early, while its quality is excellent. It ripens in mid-September and blooms in March, a characteristic also positive for avoiding the destruction of flowers by frost. Characteristic of its fruits is the several times production of double-seeded almonds.
The Texas variety comes from the USA with medium-sized fruit, greedy growth and semi-hard shell. The fruit is widely used in confectionery, with very good taste, and a percentage of double-seeded almonds up to 20%. It matures in mid-September and blooms in March as well. This variety, like Retsu, is not self-fertile.
The Ferranduel variety, originally from France, as a result of improved varieties, with a long and wide fruit and a hard shell, has a greedy lateral growth in irrigated crops. The flowering of Ferranduel is late and resistant to cold, while it does not produce double-seeded almonds. It matures in September when it is adequately irrigated, is not a self-fertile variety and is used as a pollinator for other varieties with cross-pollination.
The Feranies variety is also a variety originating from France, with elongated and large fruit, the tree has a greedy growth, while the shell is semi-hard. It has a very nice taste and you will find it commercially for fresh consumption. The flowering of Feranies is late and does not show double-seeded almonds. It matures late and needs cross-pollination.
Self-fertile varieties are Isabelona, Truoito, Tuono, Guara, Avihor, Soleta and Genco. The following stand out:
Isabelona or Bellona comes from Spain with a late bloom at the end of March and an early harvest. The fruit of Bellona is of medium size with a round shape flattened with a hard shell. The variety is widely used in confectionery with a very nice taste, while it is also used in industry with a high content of oils. It has rich production every year, disease resistance, and greedy growth.
Avihor comes from France, with greedy growth and late flowering. The fruit is narrow and long with a medium size, while the shell is semi-hard. It has an early harvest as the fruit is ready for harvest at the end of August. Avihor production is large with also high resistance to cold and disease.
The Guara variety also originates from Spain, with medium growth, and late flowering. Its fruit is medium in size while the shell is hard. It is one of the most widespread varieties in Spain, similar to Tuono. It can be planted in dense cultivation, while it blooms in the last ten days of March, high production and resistance to different soils and climates.
Soleta has moderate growth, and also late flowering. The fruit is large in size with an elliptical shape and very nice taste, while the shell is hard. It is similar to Guara. It can be planted in dense cultivation, while it blooms in the last ten days of March, with large and dense bloom. The soleta does not produce double-seeded almonds.
Proper growing conditions – climatic requirements
The almond tree prefers warm and dry climates, without much rainfall, and light, fertile, medium soils with good drainage and ventilation, always provided that it is irrigated. Frosts do not damage it in contrast to the humid climate. Nevertheless you will find the hardy almond tree even in dry, barren and stony soils but without guarantee that you will find fruit. The root system of the almond tree is deep, helping to absorb the necessary moisture from the subsoil, so it needs deep and light soils.
The cold in winter below -4 degrees, can damage the flowers, while in summer it needs the necessary moisture in the soil so that the fruit does not shrink from the prolonged heat! You will find the almond tree from low altitudes up to 1000 meters.
The almond tree in order to be able to give quality and large production, must be irrigated systematically. There are of course varieties with drought resistance, ideal for areas without a source of irrigation.
During the period when the fruits are growing, regular watering is important, especially during the period when the heat starts from June to September with more important waterings in July and August, ideally with drip irrigation to deep water and maintain soil moisture. It depends of course on climatic conditions and soil quality as a poorly drained soil should not be watered with the same frequency.
Proper watering of the almond tree, gives excellent quality fruit, greater production and faster growth of trees.
Starting from the preparation of the soil before planting, the soil should be plowed deeply so that it is light and allows the growth of the root system of the almond tree.
The almond tree should be planted from November to January, without leaves and strictly pruned depending on the size of the root system. You will also find bare root seedlings in soil balls. Bare roots create a stronger root system. Another way of planting is by placing almonds in pits where when they germinate they are transplanted and grafted with the desired variety.
Plant the seedlings in holes of size 60 * 60 where in the hole you have added the necessary fertilizer for the growth of the tree. The almond tree needs deep planting but in no case should the grafting be covered with soil. The distances depend on the variety, the soil and the watering. Ideally, distances of 6 to 8 * 4 to 6 meters are enough.
Fertilization of the almond tree is important all year round, starting in January, as flowering takes place in winter and not in spring.
The three main components that the almond tree needs are nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Nitrogen is introduced from November to February to help better absorbtion from the soil moisture. It is needed from the beginning of planting in the pit under the roots and then it needs one handful per year of life. In January we add organic fertilizer for extra nutrition, low in nitrogen if we have already put nitrogen in the soil.
Potassium is also added to the pit when planting the almond tree, and due to its ability to be stored underground, it needs to be added every two years to each almond tree! The same goes for phosphorus, it needs to be repeated every 2 years, while it is important for the proper development of the root system.
Additional elements that help in the growth, flowering and fruiting of the almond tree, are the trace elements of zinc and boron which can also be sprayed on foliage, while in calcareous soils there is a lack of iron where the almond tree needs extra.
Pollination and fertilization
The almond tree, depending on the variety and the climate, blooms from the end of January until the end of March. Flowering lasts from 2 to 15 days, while the majority of the classic almond varieties are self-sterile and cross-pollination is necessary. The bee is the most important pollinating insect, where in the winter when the almond tree blooms the work for it is very hard.
For every 3 almond trees from varieties that need cross-pollination, a pollinating variety is needed. It is also important that the flowering range of the different varieties coincides so that pollination can take place. Few almond varieties are self-pollinated, so they need multiple pollination to produce fruit, and at least two trees are needed.
Almond harvest for better preservation
You will understand that the almonds are ripe when the pericarp is opened lengthwise. The fruits ripen from the outside of the tree to the inside. It is important that the fruit begins to be harvested after opening the pericarp in all the almonds. Depending on the variety, the harvest season starts at the end of August and ends at the end of September.
The almond harvest is similar to that of the olive as nets are inserted under the trees and the fruits are streaked. The almonds are then peeled and dried in the sun or in a dryer. When drying is done naturally the process should take at least a week, with frequent stirring and protection from rain and humidity.
Professional crops are harvested using special vibrators that are applied to the trunk of the tree and shake the fruit, saving time and labor especially in large crops.
Almond pruning is divided into shaping pruning and fruiting pruning. The pruning period should be from November to January so that the new vegetation has not started and should be pruned every year.
In the young trees we carry out the shaping or formation pruning, where we give the shape we want to the tree. In almond trees, the cup-shaped shape is preferred, with 3 or 4 main arms. Proper pruning will help the tree to enter fruiting age sooner, while ideally the height should start from 80 cm so as not to prevent soil plowing, fertilization and harvesting.
In the mature trees we carry out fruiting pruning, in order to maintain the shape and the unobstructed ventilation and sunbathing inside the tree. At the same time, the renewal of the fruiting branches, the thinning and the removal of dry or infected branches are important. Systematic pruning also helps maintain the tree at a height that facilitates fruit harvesting, as it should be.
The balance of the tree is important for good fruiting, so large vegetation prevents fruiting and large fruiting prevents vegetation. It is important in pruning to achieve balance for healthy fruits and tree. You will distinguish the buds from the different shape, as the spherical buds are the flowering ones while the conical buds are the woody ones.
As we mention in the planting of the almond tree, the propagation is carried out by planting almonds in pits. When they germinate, we select the most robust ones and transplant them, while in the process we graft with the desired varieties. Grafting is done in adult trees. The main subjects of almond tree are almond and peach.
Enemies and diseases
The almond tree is a sensitive tree to diseases. It is important to protect before the treatment is needed as most treatments require more than 1 spray during the flowering period, making pollination dangerous for bees. Ideally the ground around the trees should be kept free of weeds to avoid infections.
The best known diseases of the almond tree are: Screening, Anthracnose, Almond borers, Bacterial stain, Red and yellow almond spider, Dried almond tree, Ocher stain, Monilia
Monilia is a fungal disease that affects all the aerial parts of the tree, from leaves and buds to flowers and fruits. It causes necrosis and dryness, while the leaves appear burned by the cold. Copper solutions treat monilia. Ask about herbal remedies for environmental protection. There are ecological preparations.
Most of these diseases infect the foliage of the almond tree causing wilting and then the destruction of the foliage, or the premature fall of the leaves and the fruit.