In August last year I bought a whole host of interesting (and heirloom) fruit trees from Yalca Fruit Trees. Now, I was very excited about all of them. Matt will tell you how willing I was to bore everyone around me with odd varietal specifications.
However, there was something special about the almond tree. The idea of growing my own protein fills me with delight. Besides which, almonds are very expensive, and I am at heart a frugal gardener.
Besides, I had only ever seen one almond tree before. Some lovely Greek neighbours in Brunswick had a tree, and boy were those almonds yummy!
So, here am I sharing my excitement that after a year and a month in our duck and chook fertilized soil, we actually have almonds!
If you’re quick with your maths you’ll notice that means I planted my almond tree at the very end of August last year. Late. Very late. Almond trees are renowned for being the first deciduous tree to wake up again in spring. In fact, the Hebrew word for almond means ‘awake’. So last year my poor almond was planted too late to blossom, and even its leaves were tardy and sad. The lesson; like pomegranates, almond trees need to be planted early. Preferably plant them as soon as they go into dormancy.
A few other notes: Our almond tree does not get all-day sun all-year, but even the harshest summer days haven’t phased it. We don’t irrigate regularly (although we should) and unlike some of the other plants, it doesn’t seem to mind.
On the other hand, the tree seems extraordinarily susceptible to our resident possum. Or perhaps our resident possum is as fond of blossom and leaf buds as we are of almonds. Either way Matt has had to rig up a simple protector to ensure that our tree flourishes. As the almonds get riper we’ll hang some netting too so the birds don’t find them all.
We are in Frankston, only a few kilometers from the beach, and technically within Melbourne so we have fairly mild winters. We get occasional frost, but no hard frosts. Our almond tree was blossoming on the 13th of August, a good few weeks before the peach tree.
I was starting to see the first baby almonds a month later. Now they are much larger, but also much fewer. Partly I’m putting this down to it being the tree’s first bearing year. Almonds don’t reach maximum yield rates until 5-6 years after planting.
These almonds should be ripe around the end of March, as they tend to ripen 7-8 months after flowering. Many in the Middle East actually eat them now as a snack. Apparently the sour flesh is merely tangy when dipped in salt, and the shell hasn’t fully formed yet. Perhaps I’ll try them next year: this year I’m too nervous to experiment!
I’ll keep you updated as they grow, and hopefully will have a harvest post for you in six months if we continue to deter the possum and birds.