Almond trees, climing roses & other stuff

WaurikaNovember 16, 2012

Thrilled to learn we can grow almond trees here in Oklahoma! This was brought up over on "my" fall apple tree planting thread.

Is there anything different I need to do to the ground than I would do for an apple tree? Boron or no boron added to the soil?

I intend to try out the same kind of almond tree as Dawn has, since I am so clueless. I am more excited about getting almonds, than I am about having apples!

I do not have a whole lot of room, so a couple/three apple trees, a couple of pear trees, & squeezing in some blackberries is about the most I can do. Thank goodness the online catalong says the almond tree is self pollinating. Is this true? As I am a little stumped as to where I could squeeze in a second almond tree.

As it is, I do a lot of container gardening, simply due to lack of space. Thrilled to get container tomato ideas from Dawn too. *smile* I have just been buying plants that the local feed store stocks & it always comes with leaf miner. *grrr*

And last but not least, any suggestions for a THORNLESS climbing rose that does well here in Oklahoma heat? I love the Queen Elizabeth rose, but I understand the climbing variety is a real dud when it comes to blooming.

Thanks in advance for all the help. :)

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I don't grow almonds, but they do grow here. Garden writer Louise Riotte grew them in Carter County. A member of this forum who posted under the name "River" grew them in NW OK and got a good crop, but River hasn't posted here in quite some time. Telow is the current forum member who mentioned planting an almond tree on the apple tree thread.

Almonds are grown exactly like all other stone fruit trees (stone fruits are the ones with pits, or stones, like peach, plum, apricot, cherry, nectarine, pluot, etc.). The only big problem with stone fruits is that they tend to bloom too early some years and then you lose the crop to a late freeze. With my stone fruit trees, I am happy if I get a great harvest once every three years, a so-so harvest once every three years and no harvest once every three years (well, not happy in the no harvest year, but understand that comes with the weather we have here). If I remember correctly, 2010 was the best harvest ever, 2011 was no harvest, and 2012 was a really good harvest, but not as good as 2010's. In a perfect world, stone fruit would give a good harvest every year, but OK weather is not a perfect world.

I do not grow apples or pears because I have no patience when it comes to cedar apple rust and fire blight. I grow stone fruit, figs, berries and brambles, and citrus in pots. I'd like to grow pome fruit like apples and pears, but never seem to get around to planting them.(I have too much garden and too little time as it is.)

You need a soil test because without one you have no idea what the soil needs added to it, if anything. My clay soil doesn't need much added to it in order to grow healthy, productive fruit trees because red clay like mine tends to be very high in minerals and, thus, high in fertility, though I add organic matter to improve both its ability to drain and its ability to hold water in drought. My sandy/silty band of soil does need a lot of work before anything will grow in it but once I've improved it, fruit trees love it.

If a catalog describes the almond as self-pollinating, then it is. The plant breeders and retailers give accurate pollination descriptions because they want people to succeed with their plants. Self-pollinating fruit trees do not need a second variety near them as a pollinator, but often they will produce better if there is a second variety around that enables cross-pollination.

Container gardening has become a bigger part of my gardening experience ever since the incredibly wet years of 2004 and 2007 when we had flooding and ground that stayed incredibly wet for months. Those wet years seem like such a distant memory now. I love container gardening. Right now I am toying with the idea of growing most of my 2013 tomatoes in containers just to give the soil in the raised beds in the main garden a break. My favorite containers are molasses feed tubs given to me by a friend who is a rancher. I have about 45 of them, but also grow in other containers too. My favorite container for growing lettuce is a cattle feed trough because ground-dwelling pests seldom can climb up into that feed trough. I also grow lettuce in large, flat tubs in the greenhouse. I can grow lettuce in the ground in fall but have a harder time with it in the ground in the spring because the wildlife devours many of the plants as soon as they sprout, likely because there's not a lot of green plants around in early spring so the wild things flock to whatever ones they can find. Containers can solve a multitude of problems, but filling them up with a good, soil-less mix can get expensive.

Leaf miners are an issue with any tomato plant (and many other types of plants as well). You can use a preventive insecticide if looking at them bothers you. I just ignore them on most plants. I raise spinach,Swiss chard and other greens in spring under floating row cover to exclude the miners. In the fall/winter garden, I don't think I have seen leaf miners on a single plant. I simply prefer to raise my own tomato transplants from seed because it allows me to grow the varieties I choose and it allows me to have some control over their size and age at transplant time. In Oklahoma's ever-changing weather, timing tomato plantings precisely helps you get a better crop because an early planting helps ensure they set fruit before the temperatures get too hot for good fruitset, and I try to get my seed sown early enough that my plants are a nice size at transplant time. Also, I prefer to plant much earlier than recommended even though that means I will have to employ some protective measures to keep the plants from dying during a late freeze. I have no problem with planting purchased tomato plants either, but if you plant a lot of them, it can get pretty expensive and, as you noted, you sometimes bring home pests or even diseases on purchased plants.

Someone else will have to advise you on climbing roses as I don't grow them here. I planted a lot of roses after we moved here in 1999, but either flooding rains or drought or black spot have gotten most of them over the years. All I have left is some no-name climbing roses outside my kitchen window, and one beautiful Graham Thomas rose on the south side of the house. When I lived in Texas, I grew a climbing 'Don Juan' that was spectacular, 'Iceberg' and a gorgeous yellow climber whose name I no longer remember. It might have been 'Golden Showers'. I've been working on improving soil in an area along our south property line that would be great for roses because it is in full sun and always will be since the power line is directly overhead. However, when I get that soil improved enough to plant something into it, I'll likely plant blackberries there.

We built our house in what is essentially a large clearing in the woods. It was open area at the time, but of course we did plant shade trees for relief from the summer sun. As the trees now have reached a nice size, the planting areas in our yard are evolving from full sun areas to partial shade, dappled shade or even full shade areas, and my plantings are changing accordingly. That means mostly more ground cover type plants near the house and fewer flowers. I now grow most my flowers in a border around the veggie garden, inside the 8' fence where they are safe from the deer herd. Over the years, the deer have destroyed much of what I grow outside the fenced garden too, so I no longer plant much out there in the unprotected areas.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 5:42AM
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Oops, my mistake. Telow, I would love to hear any musings you have about growing almonds here in OK.

Red clay soil here. But I have access to composted cow manure mixed heavily with sand and straight horse manure.

I too use a lot of cattle tubs as pots.

First time growing Swiss Chard. My plan is to use cattle tubs. I sure hope that is okay? Bright Lights & Fordhook Giant. Is full sun okay? My tomatoes in tubs already claim the part shade space. I am really aiming for the tubs, as I need what little in ground gardening space I have for other plants.

My tubs I used for zuchinni were hit by squash beetle for the past two years, even though I squished bugs & picked off eggs like crazy. The soil from those tubs are now being recomposted, hoping the heat kills any remnant beetle issues. That soil will go back into the tubs for Swiss Chard, with some fresh new compost added. Any issues doing it this way? I guess I will not be growing zuchinni in 2013.

I am so grateful for the all the sharing of info on this board. :)

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 2:16PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Swiss Chard grows great in pots, but it also tolerates heavy clay just fine. I have grown it in some of my most dense, thick, barely-improved-at-all clay and had it live a long time---like 18 to 24 months. I like to sneak Swiss Chard into flower beds, often pairing it with cannas, colocasias and ornamental peppers.

I have the best success with zucchini and summer squash by planting it really early so it can produce before the pests hit, and by covering it up with floating row covers. The only drawback to using floating row covers is that they exclude pollinators and you have to lift them up for a minute and hand-pollinate the flowers. I have found squash pest issues to be highly variable. Some years they hit my plants hard, and other years (like in 2011) I don't have them at all. This year the squash pests didn't hit my plants until latest July or earliest August and by then I was getting pretty tired of squash so I didn't really care.

With the container soil, I handle it two different ways. Sometimes in fall and winter I dump out all the soil-less mix on a tarp, mix it together and then add compost, Black Kow composted manure and pine bark fines. Then I mix it all together really well and refill the tubs. Then, I add an organic fertilizer right before planting time and stir it in really well. I usually do that every other year, so let's say in odd-numbered years In the other (or even-numbered) years, I just add organic fertilizer, compost and composted manure directly to the containers and mix it in really well.

I have become incredibly picky about using hay or manure from any source other than our own property because of the issues with herbicide-contaminated manures and hay. There are some herbicides in a specific class that do not necessarily break down properly even after passing thru the digestive tract of the animals that ate forage that had been sprayed with those herbicides. If those herbicides persist in your soil, it can be almost impossible to grow anything in that soil for several years. I do buy Black Kow manure though because I've never had a contaminated batch of it and I like its quality since it is 100% composted manure whereas, by law, bagged manure products are only required to contain 10% manure so many companies only put 10% manure in and use cheap filler clay for the rest. The last thing I need is more clay. When ranching friends offer me cow manure or old hay, we play a game of 20 Questions with me trying to figure out if they used any of those persistent herbicides or if they bought hay that might have been raised with them. I'd be the unhappiest gardener in Oklahoma if I inadvertently contaminated my own soil.

For anyone who is not aware of recent issues with herbicide contamination of manure, compost, hay, straw and even grass clippings--it is an issue that dates back to roughly 2000 or 2001. I've linked a MEN article that discusses it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pyralid Contamination in Compost, Manure, Hay

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 10:26AM
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Waurika, we planted an almond tree about 12 years ago and three years ago I begged DH to cut it down because we had only gotten one crop off it in all that time. It blooms really, really early and frosts out. (I'm sorry I don't remember the name of it other than "hardy almond" but I can tell you that it isn't like the almonds that you buy in shell this time of the year. The shells are much harder and shaped like a peach pit and the nuts aren't as large or as sweet as commercial varieties, but have some bitterness to them.)
But last year we got a heavy crop and again this year, so DH, who likes the nuts better than I do, voted to keep it. I am in z 6b. If you are warmer than me perhaps you can grow one more like the commercial types.
It is reliably self-fruitful. It put on so many nuts that they had to be thinned.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 10:10AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Almonds come in two types: bitter almonds and sweet almonds. If I was going to choose one, I'd used to think that I'd choose a Hall's Hardy, which actually is a hybrid almond resulting from a cross between a 'real' almond and a peach variety. Some people really like the almonds from Hall's Hardy, while others don't. Nowadays if I was going to plant an almond, I think I'd choose Stark's All-In-One, which is supposed to taste more like the commercially-grown California almonds.

Almonds technically are a fruit that behaves the same way other stone fruit like peaches, plums and apricots do, so they do often freeze after blooming and lose their crops, Dorothy, which is why I've never planted one here. Even in Fort Worth they'd bloom too early and freeze, but people I knew who grew them liked them even if only as an ornamental that occasionally produced a crop.

I've heard that there is some sort of issue with growing bitter almonds versus sweet ones because they have a higher cyanide content in the drupe, which is what we think of as the nut. I assume that might be what makes them taste more bitter but I'm just guessing. I think that most of the commercial crop in the USA is grown in the part of California where the risk of losing the crop after flowering is very low.

I think Hall's Hardy is the one usually recommended for this part of the country since it is, at least in theory cold-hardy to zone 5, but if someone wanted to try a commercial variety more like the ones grown in California, I'd check the west coast nurseries like Dave Wilson Nursery to see what varieties they offer and how cold hardy they are. The fact that Hall's Hardy Almond is hardy down to zone 5 fails to take into account the fact that once it meets its chilling hour requirement, it will tend to bloom early and freeze afterwards.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 12:55PM
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Hall's Hardy is what we have, and it is rather peach like, having a thin peachy fruit over the seed shell. They are very ornamental, with pink blooms.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 11:06PM
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So much for having stars in my eyes over the almond tree. Will use the space for another fruit tree. *darn it* If I plant it, I really do need to get food from it, as I have very limited space.

As for the manure, the cow manure is 3-4-5 years old. I know which piles to shovel out of. The horse manure is mine, & I know exactly what I feed. When I deworm that manure never goes in the compost, as I do not want to kill any earth worms that have been so kind as to migrate on over.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 11:42PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Waurika, I just wanted to be sure you were aware of the issue. I've seen some people here in my county accidentally destroy their own veggie gardens by using compost, manure or straw/hay mulch that contained those persistent herbicides. In Spring 2011 some ranching friends of ours who do not use GrazeOn and similar herbicides containing chemicals from the pyralid family in their fields gave us over 200 bales of old, spoiled hay (from the last cutting of 2010). I tested that hay before using it in the garden, and it tested clean. I use it as mulch and hope it lasts a long, long time because bumper crops of hay aren't as common around here as they used to be, and I doubt I'll ever again receive a gift of that many bales of old hay at one time.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 11:23AM
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