Almond Nut Trees

When putting together your homestead garden blueprint, be sure and reserve a choice location for a couple of almond trees. Attractive and easy to care for, a well placed pair of almond trees can provide years of shady splendor as well as tasty nuts. The almond is a true Mediterranean fruit crop, requiring mild winters, and long, rain-less, hot summers with low humidity. Because almonds bloom almost a full month before peaches, they will succumb to spring frosts where winters are slow to make way for warmer temperatures. Unless you grow a dwarf form in a large tub that can be wheeled into a sheltered area. These popular plants are greatly valued for their delicious, edible fruits, gorgeous spring blossoms and some, for their colorful foliage. It is believed that the almond nut originated in Central Asia and China. Explorers traveling between Asia and the Mediterranean ate almonds and soon almond trees were growing in Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy. The almond was first brought to California by Franciscan Padres, in the 1700's. Because the coastal weather conditions were not conducive to the growing of almond trees the endeavor failed. Almond trees were planted once again in California in the 1800's. The weather, inland, proved to be much more conducive to the almond tree and the trees flourished. By the later 1800's several of today's almond varieties were created. These varieties include the California, Carmel, Mission, Nonpareil, and the Price. Almonds were used as a special addition to breads served to Egyptian pharaohs. In Roman times almonds were thrown on newly married couples to improve fertility.

A member of the rose family and similar in appearance to the peach tree, the almond tree reaches a height of 9-22 ft (3-7 m) and has pink or white flowers that bloom in early spring. The dry, leathery almond fruit surrounds a seed or kernel--the almond nut--which is harvested when the fruit dries and splits open. A well drained soil, with pH 6-7, a little on the sandy side is practically a must for successful almond culture. Wet, soggy soils will lead to declining yields and, ultimately, a failing tree. Plant in full sun all day in the north. Almond trees need a minimum of 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. Because lingering frosts are a constant hazard, place the tree on higher ground or in a protected area. Hardy in USDA Zones: 5 - 8, almonds are, by and large not self pollinating, which means you'll need a companion tree of a different variety planted nearby.

Nut trees generally have a sizable taproot, which makes them more difficult to transplant. Dig a large hole, making sure it is deep enough to accommodate the tap root. Immediately after planting, head back the tree, but leave three or four healthy branches growing at wide angles. Once the tree is established, pruning will consist mainly of removing old wood or inwardly growing branches. Almonds need water and are not drought resistant. Established almond trees need a well-balanced fertilizer program and an adequate supply of trace elements, notably copper, zinc, manganese and magnesium. Fertilizer programs for stonefruit will benefit almond trees. Trace elements are best supplied by regular corrective foliage sprays. Harvests begin the fourth year after planting, and full production is reached by the seventh. After the petals drop and the trees have leafed out, the first signs of the fuzzy gray-green "fruit" appear. The hull continues to harden and mature and in July it begins to split open. Between mid-August and late October, the split widens, exposing the shell, which allows the kernel (nut) to dry. The whole nut and stem finally separate and, shortly before harvest, the hull opens completely. Harvest by spreading a cloth under the tree and gently shake the branches. Remove the kernels from the innershell and allow to dry thoroughly.

Almonds have more dietary fiber and calcium than any other nut. Almonds are also an excellent source of Vitamin E and Magnesium. They are a source of dietary fiber, Calcium, Iron,Phosphorus, Iodine, Zinc, Copper and Potassium plus 18 of the 20 amino acids needed for healthy growth. Almonds are a great source of monounsaturated fat, which lowers "bad" LDL cholesterol and raises "good" HDL cholesterol. Almonds are even lower in saturated fat than olive oil, and one study in California found them more effective in reducing cholesterol. Almonds also build strong bones: They contain more calcium than any other nut, and they are high in the trace mineral boron, which may help regulate calcium metabolism. Almonds are rich in protein and fiber, and they have cancer-fighting protease inhibitors. Also, two phytochemicals found in almonds - quercetin and kaempferol - have been shown to inhibit the growth of lung, prostate, and breast tumors.

Stored properly at 40ºF with low humidity, almonds have a shelf life of up to three years.


Start Seedlings in Cardboard Tubes

Peat pots are a great way to start seeds, but you don't have to go to the store to find biodegradable pots. Instead use cardboard tubes from paper towels and toilet paper to start your seedlings. Cut the tubes into short pieces using scissors. Each toilet paper roll makes two pots and the paper towel tube makes four. After cutting them, line the cylinders up in a tray. Set them so they touch. That way they support each other as you water the seedlings. They also dry out more slowly when they're set close together. Then fill each pot with seed-starting mix, gently pack it down and sow your seeds. As you plants the seedlings in your garden, just break down the side of the roll so all of the cardboard will be buried underground. Just as with peat pots, if the edges stick up above the surface, they'll wick moisture away from the roots.


Even an organic insecticide can't distinguish between bad bugs and good bugs, such as honeybees. However, sometimes plants need to be protected from harmful insects. So how can you apply pesticides so they control pests but don't harm beneficials? Honeybees are most active during warm, sunny hours. If you apply insecticides at night while they're resting in their hives, they won't be hit by the dust or spray. Many of the nasty plant-munching critters, on the other hand, do their dirty work at night. By applying the insecticide while they're active, you can focus on your target insects. It's still wise to use as few pesticides as possible. But treating at night is the best time for bees.


What causes rhubarb to flower?

Large white-flowered yellow seedstalks will grow up through the center of the plant when the days get long and hot. Instead of moving carbohydrates from the leaves to the roots, as would otherwise occur, the plant begins to move them into the seedstalk. This means the roots go into the winter with less stored carbohydrate, which means in turn that next year's plant will be smaller and less vigorous. So, what to do? Cut off the seedstalk as soon as you see it. Don't let the plant flower!


To deter aphids use an aluminum foil much around the base of plants such as tomatoes. The reflection confuses the insects and drives them away.

To eliminate cabbage worms sprinkle flour on developing cabbage heads. The flour swells up inside the worms and bursts their intestines.


Chives are one of the easiest and most enjoyable herbs you can grow. They are the first to pop up in the spring, and are often ready to harvest before we have gotten our last frost! The flowers are wonderful little globes of purple that are spicy and can be used in salads. The plant is a perennial and returns each year. It grows in full sun, but can handle a small amount of shade. You can grow it from seeds, which are very tiny and do take awhile to germinate and grow. The best thing to do is buy one or two plants at a garden center (not the grocery store), and plant them in a sunny spot with good soil. I have found chives do not need fertilizer, mulch or extra water. They are self-sufficient little plants that only need to be watered during dry periods.



*My spirit was lifted and my soul nourished by my time in the garden. It gave me a calm connection with all of life, and an awareness that remains with me now, long after leaving the garden.*


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