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Tony Tomeo Highlight: Almonds

Almond trees get planted in winter.

It is no more in season now than the other stone fruits like apricot, cherry, plum and such, but this is the time of year that almond, Prunus dulcis, needs work. Established trees get pruned while bare and dormant. New trees, preferably bare root, get planted. The most popular modern cultivars available are self pollinating, and labeled as such. Old traditional cultivars require pollinators.

Almond is the "other" stone fruit. Because it is a nut, it does not resemble the rest of the juicy and fleshy stone fruits like nectarine and peach. However, the resemblance to the stones of the stone fruits is obvious. It is, after all, a big seed. The fruity parts form tough hulls that spit open to reveal the dry nuts within. Almonds do not get picked, but instead get shaken or knocked from the trees.

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Because the nuts are lightweight, almond trees do not need to be pruned as aggressively as other stone fruit trees. Because the nuts are not hand-picked, the trees can be pruned upward as deciduous shade trees with spectacularly white spring bloom. Some cultivars can get more than 20 feet tall. Squirrels and crows take most of the nuts, but do not bother to clean up the hulls. -- Tony Tomeo

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