Sunday, 19 June 2011

Planting nut trees

Nuts  can be used in a variety of ways and just five portions a week can have many health benefits. They can be used in many ways, eaten whole, ground, flaked or made into butters and added to sweet or savoury recipes. 

Nuts are very nutritious, providing the body with fibre, essential vitamins, protein and minerals such as potassium and phosphorous. Nuts are, however, high in carbohydrates and oils and should be eaten in moderation.
Growing your own organic nuts  is, therefore, very beneficial for health reasons but can also save you money, as the price of nuts and seeds can be very expensive.

There are a number of nut trees suitable for the Mediterranean climate that, once established, need very little care. 

You should, however, only buy your trees from a recommended seller in your area, as purchasing an inferior fruit tree may not be apparent for two to three years. Before buying trees to plant, research the varieties that are growing locally, what and what is not suitable in your area and their soil requirements.

It is also worth considering the age of trees to buy, although this may depend on how much money you have available. Trees can be purchased as young, older or mature and each has advantages and disadvantages. Young trees have the advantage of allowing you to control their shape but it may be a few years before you start enjoying any nuts. Older trees, two to four years old, will provide nuts much sooner but their shape is less controllable and their cost may be three times that of a young tree. Mature trees, from seven to ten, will have an instant impact in your orchard and will provide nuts the same year but the cost, in comparison to a young tree can be ten times or more. 

Growing your nuts organically, will ensure that you are not ingesting chemical residues that are found in the majority of non-organic nuts and seeds sold. The only way of being totally in control is to grow your own. 

The following information provides some general guidelines on trees that can be planted in the Mediterranean area, with details on soil needs, planting, watering, after care, pests and diseases, harvesting and nutritional benefits.

General Information:  Before providing guidelines for each tree it is worth generally considering how to plant and care for them. The traditional time for planting trees in Cyprus is October which ensures they benefit, during their settling in period, from the rainy season and milder temperatures. 

All nut trees have a wide spread of roots to collect the moisture and nutrients needed to grow and to remain healthy. It is therefore recommended that a hole, for young trees, of 100cm square and at least 50cm deep is dug. The under soil should be loosened by forking to assist drainage and well rotted compost or manure added, depending on each trees requirements, before refiling. It is also worth allowing the soil time to settle, for at least 10 days, before planting trees.  

The distances between trees recommended is mostly aimed at commercial growers, to maximise size, yields and allow access for tractors, but many trees can be planted a lot closer, as long as their size is controlled by pruning. When growing your own, it is more important to utilise the space available to provide the largest possible variety of fruit, harvests over a longer period and yields that are adequate for your needs. Closer planting will reduce a trees ability to grow large and will make it easier to prune, net against birds and harvest. We would, therefore, recommend a three metre distance where trees are spaced to fit as many trees as possible into the area you have available.

Follow instructions for individual trees on planting, but in all cases; (a) create a watering circle by providing a circular soil ridge around each tree which is wider than the trees spread; (b) before planting insert stakes for  young trees to protect from wind damage; (c) water in well and then follow instructions for individual trees regarding water needs but all young trees will need regular watering until well established for about 2-3 years; (d) do not prune young trees until well established and (e) don't add any extra feed, if you have prepared your soil then it will be not be needed.

Nuts

Almond: Prefers a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Harvested at the mature stage in August but in Cyprus green almonds are enjoyed green and raw in May. The whole almond which is soft, has a fuzzy green skin and the nut, at a very early stage, in the centre are eaten all over the Island. Ground blanched almonds are traditionally used in many Cypriot desserts. The almond, is native to the Mediterranean, and by far the most popular nut tree grown in Cyprus and its beautiful blossom can be seen all over the island in January. You will need to plant at least two almonds for cross-pollination for nut production.  Prune only to remove dead or unhealthy branches in the late autumn. Water well until well established then will tolerate drought. A mulch in the autumn of strawy material will help to retain moisture but keep it away from the trunk. Fertilise in the early spring and winter. Once established, prune in December to maintain a desired shape and remove any non-budding side shoots. Prune in July to remove any excessive new vertical growth which will increase the size of the almonds. 

Chestnut: Harvested in October and are the only nuts which contain vitamin C but need to be roasted to remove the bitter taste if eaten raw. Trees are self-sterile and two need to be planted for cross pollination. Prefers a pH of 4.5 to 6.5. Fertilise only in March. Keep weed free and this is assisted by a summer mulch which also aids water retention. Once established chestnuts are very drought tolerant.  Prune in May, once established, to remove any dead or overcrowded branches.

Hazel: Harvested October to November but tend to produce nuts every other year. Prefers a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Water once or twice a week until the tree is established. Hazelnuts are self-sterile and another tree needs to be within 15 metres for cross pollination. Mulch to a depth of 10cm, but keep away from the trunk, to assist moisture retention and keep down weeds. Cut off suckers as they appear and as low as possible. Prune in January, when young, to maintain a desired shape and size. 

Pecan: Harvested September to November and eating a few a day can reduce your cholesterol level. Prefers a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Soak for 15 minutes before planting. Plant at the same depth as pot level. Water weekly for the first year. Can grow very tall, so prune to the desired height. Mulch with strawy material to 15cm depth but keep the mulch away from the trunk.

Pistachio: Harvested September to October but produces heavier crop every other year and takes 7-10 years to provide any significant crop. Tolerates most soils but prefers a pH of between 7.0 and 7.8. Very drought tolerant and prefers a position in full sun. Prune in December, to remove any overcrowded branches and to promote fruiting side shoots


Walnut: Harvested September to October. Prefers a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. Prefers a soil which has had organic matter added and has good drainage. Regular watering is essential until the tree is established and then is drought tolerant but will benefit from a deep watering in very dry periods. Fertilise in the early spring and winter. Once established, prune in December to maintain a desired shape, remove any dead or diseased wood. When still young can be pruned to maintain a desired size and height. Benefits from a deep mulch, but kept away from the trunk, to assist in moisture retention. an antiseptic and disinfectant

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