(Species: Prunus dulcis - Family: Rosaceae)
Almond and its origins
The almond is a deciduous fruit tree that is native to south Asia and the Middle East. It was transported in ancient times along the Mediterranean into northern Africa and Southern Europe, and more recently to the rest of the world.
Almonds are recorded as being the fruit found in Tutankhamun's tomb, circa 1325BC and are also mentioned throughout the Bible.
The almond is the first fruit tree to flower in the Mediterranean and has been known to have snow on the branches at the same time as the blossom.
As well as its fruits, the almond tree is valued for its very pretty white and ice-pink blossom that appears very early in the year, before the foliage of attractive narrow, light green leaves.
The fruit trees stay quite small, so suit a small garden, and they will flourish if placed in a sunny, sheltered spot. If you can only plant one tree, make it a self-fertile variety such as Mandaline, which produces nuts with an excellent flavour.
How to plant: Almond
To grow an almond tree successfully, you need a warm wall that faces south or west, and therefore, receives a lot of sun. Only a sunny, sheltered spot will result in a plentiful crop of nuts, so avoid frost pockets and exposed, windy sites.
Almond trees can be bought freestanding or as a fan, which trained against a wall will give you the finest quality almonds.
The soil should be well-drained and fertile.
Planting time is best in spring and autumn and if the fruit tree is bare-rooted, plant in late autumn. Keep the tree well-watered until it is established, and mulch with well-rotted manure or garden compost in late spring and summer. A feed with general fertiliser XXXX in spring will be beneficial, as well as an application of XXXXX high-potash fertiliser in late winter.
As the tree blooms exceptionally early, the flowers might need some help with pollination, to set the fruit. Use a soft paintbrush to transfer pollen from one blossom to the next, gently pushing it into the flower.
The nuts are ripe when the husks crack open. Pick the almonds, remove the husks and lay the nuts in a dry, sunny place for several days before storing or using.
Prune while the fruit tree is in growth, not dormant, during late spring or summer, to avoid infection by silver leaf or bacterial canker. Cut out some of the older and unproductive stems, and train new growth into support on fan-trained trees.
Peach leaf curl can be a problem. XXX
Propagation of Almond
- Seed of almond cultivars will not grow from seed. Instead, take softwood cuttings in early summer.
- Choose a young side shoot and use a sharp knife to trim each cutting, to just below a leaf joint.
- Remove any leaves that will be buried under the compost.
- Fill a small pot with multipurpose compost.
- Taking a pencil, make a hole just deep enough for each cutting.
- Insert the cuttings with all foliage above the compost.
- Place in a propagator or cover the pot with a transparent plastic bag, and secure.
- Keep compost moist.
The cuttings should root within five weeks.
Did you know?
The fruits are dependent on bees to pollinate, which is why almond growers often keep beehives near their fruit tree orchards.