Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
We’re big fans of almond and other nut trees in gardens, particularly if you’re trying to grow as much food for your family as possible.
They’re particularly useful as sources of plant-based protein and oil, which makes them a staple tree to include if you’re trying to create a permaculture system.
Apart from the orchards on our farm, we also have a pretty big garden. We grow a wide variety of fruit and nut trees, including 8 almond trees (2 each of 4 different varieties) under netting.
When are almonds ready to pick?
You can tell when almonds start to ripen because the husks open up, as you can see above. This exposes the shell underneath (and the almond nut is inside the shell).
The other indication they’re ready is that some will have fallen from the tree to the ground. The third test is to eat a couple of almonds and see how they taste.
In past years we’ve found fallen almonds are a pain to find in the grass. This is particularly true if we’ve let it grow quite long underneath the almond trees (which we’ve been guilty of, many times).
Make the job of picking up fallen almonds easier
There are plenty of solutions to out-of-control long grass, but it’s a matter of finding the right one for you. We’ve attempted various options to turn the jungle into a more controlled understorey.
Options we’ve tried (so far) have included the following treatments.
- pulling out weeds and using them as mulch
- pulling out weeds, laying newspaper and compost as mulch
- cutting the weeds short then covering them with newspaper and compost
- cutting weeds short.
Each treatment was followed with planting understory plants (eg marigolds) into the mulch/weeds. To date, we’ve had varying degrees of success in terms of (a) getting understorey plants established, and (b) keeping the weeds (especially couch grass and kikuyu) under control.
The big take-away lesson?
The key is to follow up on any treatment regularly! Weeds just love to come back and fill a vacuum, so unless you are regularly topping up the mulch, tending the understory plants, and replacing them when necessary, it’s a pointless exercise.
However, one thing that definitely worked was that doing anything to get rid of long grass before harvest time definitely makes the process of picking up fallen nuts from the ground much easier.
What do you do with almonds after you’ve picked them?
After we’ve picked, we remove the husks before we store the nuts. We only shell the nuts as we need them through the year as they stay much fresher in the shell.
Our eight trees supply us with enough nuts for eating all year. Plus we grind some into almond meal to use in cooking, as we make a lot of gluten-free meals.
Our small almond block is planted in 2 rows, with 2 trees each of 4 different varieties.
Like so many other well-meaning but vague gardeners, we lost the labels.
Yep, that means that we don’t know which variety is which.
This is one of the things we caution against in our Grow Great Fruit program — so please, do as we say, not as we do!
Identifying different almond varieties
We’ve previously attempted to identify the different varieties. As you can see from the photos of these three varieties, they’re all quite different.
We planted pollinisers together, so variety 2 is probably either Ne Plus Ultra, Mission, or IXL (as they are pollinisers of California Papershell).
Ne Plus Ultra has very large kernels, and as you can see from the photo (the sunnies are there to give a size comparison between varieties), #2 is much smaller than #1, so that rules out Ne Plus Ultra.
It’s more likely to be Mission, which yields relatively small kernels.
Varieties #3 and #4 were also chosen because they pollinise each other.
The likelihood is that they are Brandes Jordan and Chellaston, but we have no idea which is which.
Over the years we’ve realised that it doesn’t really matter. They ripen close enough to the same time to be able to pick them all together. They’re all delicious and are all similar in the way they store and taste.
So we’ve decided that it doesn’t really matter.
But we do recommend that you keep better records than we’ve managed to!
Assess how good your thinning efforts in spring were by checking the fruit quality and the health of your trees.
Make the most of your year’s hard work by picking and storing your fruit correctly using these simple tips.
Windy conditions are often blamed for fruit losses but it’s not all bad news, and wind can be the fruit grower’s friend.