Almonds are shrubs or small trees up to 10 m high (depending on the variety) and a powerful root system reaching 4-5 m in depth. The crown of the tree can be round, pyramidal, sprawling and even weeping. Almonds are widely cultivated in countries with a warm climate, and on the territory of the former USSR it is grown in Central Asia, Transcaucasia, Crimea, in the Danube regions and southern zones.
Almonds (Prunus dulcis, in the past - Prunus amygdalus or Amygdalus communis) - plant subgenus Almonds (Amygdalus) genus Plum. Almonds are often classified as nuts, although from a biological point of view it is a stone fruit.
There are two subspecies of common almonds - bitter (wild) and cultivated sweet. The seed (core) in bitter contains up to 4% amygdalin, which gives it a bitter taste and a characteristic “almond” smell; in cultural forms, the core is sweet with a membranous skin. In terms of nutritional value, the almond kernel is not inferior to bread, milk and meat combined. Depending on the variety and place of growth, it contains 54-62% fatty oils, 22-34% protein, 4-7% sugars, vitamins B1, B2, etc. Almond oil does not burn. Thanks to their properties, nuts can be stored and eaten for many years.
Almond flowers are large, white or pink (in decorative almonds they can be double), fragrant. Flowering almond trees (March-April) are also valued as early honey plants, giving up to 40 kg of honey per hectare.
Almond trees begin to bear fruit in the 4th-5th year after planting, and come into full fruiting in the 10th-12th year. The average yield, depending on the variety, is from 6 to 12 kg of peeled walnut from a tree, and the life of the tree itself is 60-100 years.
The almond fruit is a drupe, in shape and appearance similar to a green peach fruit, with a pubescent pericarp, cracking after ripening (in August-September) into two leaves along the seam, freeing the stone.
According to the hardness of the shell, the fruits of almonds, depending on the variety, can be hard-shelled, standard - and soft-shelled. The thinner the shell, the higher the percentage of kernel output. For example, if the content of the kernel in a nut is more than 40%, then the hardness of the shell decreases from soft brittle to paper, which is destroyed simply by fingers.
In appearance and shape, the almond kernel is similar to the apricot kernel, but much larger - its mass is from 0.9 to 2.2 g.
Almond growing conditions
Almonds are photophilous, drought-resistant, heat-tolerant, relatively winter-hardy: withstands frosts of minus 25 ° C, but spring frosts are fatal to flowers.
For planting almonds, one should choose elevated sections of large beams or other slopes, protected from the direct influence of cold north-west, north and north-east winds. For almonds, elevated wide “amphitheaters” open to the south are preferred.
The soil. Almonds grow well and bear fruit on light clays and loams, as well as on ordinary, carbonate and leached chernozems. The high lime content in the soil or subsoil indicates its suitability for the almond orchard. They should all be well aerated, so moist acidic and saline clay soils are completely unsuitable.
Planting is carried out by annual seedlings in autumn or early spring according to the scheme 7 × 5 or 7 × 4 with a slight deepening of the site of vaccination. All varieties of almonds require cross-pollination, therefore, the main varieties must be planted with 4-6 varieties-pollinators, alternating (when planting orchards) 4-5 rows of the main variety with one row of pollinators.
In other words, for the almond tree to bear fruit after flowering, at least three other varieties of trees must grow nearby. Almonds are an extremely insect-pollinated breed, in which bees are the main carrier of pollen. Therefore, before flowering in the garden, it is advisable to place 3-4 hives per hectare.
Reproduction of almonds is mainly vegetative - by budding (inoculation), as well as by seeds. The rootstocks are seedlings of bitter or sweet almonds, peaches, cherry plums or plums, which are planted at the age of two.
Immediately after planting in the spring, annual almond seedlings are shortened at a height of 80-120 cm, forming a stem 60-80 cm high, and the crown zone 30-40 cm. All branches on the stem are cut into a ring, and in the crown zone they are shortened by 2-3 eyes . Of the overgrown shoots, 3-4 of the strongest are left (skeletal branches of the first order). For 3-4 years, a crown is formed according to the type of bowl, similar to a peach.
Pruning almond trees for 4-5th year after planting consists in thinning - branches that thicken the crown, fat shoots and competitors are removed. Annual growths longer than 60 cm are shortened, and half-skeletal branches older than 4-5 years are rejuvenated to three-year-old wood.
Old or damaged almond trees can be easily restored after anti-aging pruning. If the trees are not trimmed for a long time, then a lot of fatty branches will form on them, the semi-skeletal branches will be greatly lengthened, and fruit formations will become lifeless.
During vegetation in almond orchards, the soil should be kept under black steam, loosened regularly, and watered if possible. In late autumn, fertilizers should be added - organic matter (manure, compost, bird droppings), phosphoric and potassium salts. Nitrogen-containing fertilizers should be applied before June, but not later.