Pistachio trees are native to the middle eastern or central part of Asia. The seeds of these trees are called pistachio or pista in some regions of the world. A flavorful and nutritious dry fruit, pistachio is used as a dry snack. You can also use them as a crunchy ingredient in different dishes.
But, a bag of pistachio comes with a high price tag. So, if you are craving this healthy and tasty dry fruit, growing pistachio trees can be an excellent option. A grown pistachio tree can produce 20-50 lbs of pistachios, and what’s more, you can store these nuts for up to a year. So, you will not have to buy pistachios paying a high price.
Things to Know About Pistachio Tree
It is interesting to know that there are around 11 species of these trees, but only Pistacia vera is grown commercially. Before learning about how to grow and care for Pistachio trees, let us look into some of their basic facts.
Scientific/ Botanical name:
Well-drained, loamy, sandy, light
Toxic to horses
Oblique-banded leafroller, Soft scales, Mealybug, Citrus flat mite, Navel orangeworm.
How to Grow Pistachio Tree?
Pistachio trees are native to sunny climates and are most suitable for growing in areas that receive full sunlight. These trees are deciduous with compound leaves, and the fruits and flowers are produced in clusters. A matured pistachio tree can be 20-30 feet in height, but you can prune them to a more manageable size.
Although you can grow these trees from the seeds available in your kitchen, growing them from plants available in the nurseries is always advisable. If you want to grow these plants and get proper nuts, nursery plants are most suitable, as trees grown from kitchen seeds may not even bear fruits.
Pistachio trees bloom in spring, develop during the summer months, and are harvested during the fall. These trees remain dormant during winter. Remember that these trees are alternate bearing, which means that they will bear a heavy crop one year and a lighter crop the following year.
The best soil condition for growing these trees is deep, light, loamy, and well-drained. Also, soil with a high concentration of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is suitable for growing these trees. High salinity is also good for pistachio trees.
Next comes the climate. Climate is a crucial factor when it comes to planting and growing pistachio trees. Since these trees are native to hot and desert environments, they need long, dry, and hot summers. Therefore, day temperature above 100 degrees F. (38 C.) is ideal for growing these trees.
Also, in winter, temperature 45 degrees F. or 7 C. is suitable for these trees. However, they cannot tolerate high elevation and ground that freezes. Therefore, the arid environment is ideal for pistachio plant growth.
Spring and summer breezes are also necessary for the pollination of pistachio flowers, as they are wind-pollinated.
So by what time can you expect your pistachio trees to bear fruits?
It takes time; you have to be patient.
It takes a long time for pistachio trees to produce nuts. You may have to wait for 7- 8 years to see the first good yield of pistachios. The peak production takes place after 15- 20 years of planting.
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What if you wish to plant pistachio trees in your backyard or garden?
Well, you can, but you must have a bigger plot at your disposal if you want to plant multiple trees, as there should be at least 20 feet distance between each pistachio tree. A length of fewer than 20 feet can lead to overcrowding, and too much shadowing can affect product quality.
Also, since pollens are wind carried from male trees to blossom on female trees, 1 male tree per 8- 10 female trees are planted.
Caring for Pistachio Tree
While you are considering the factors that affect the planting of pistachio trees, we suggest you focus on caring for these trees as well.
That being said, taking care of pistachio trees is relatively easy. What is tricky is waiting to see them producing fruits. However, these trees require low maintenance and make it easy to be homegrown.
Let us focus on the ways we can take care of pistachio trees while seeing them grow.
We have already stated that pistachio trees require full sunlight for at least 6 hours per day. They cannot stand humidity and need a dry and bright climate.
Since these trees are desert tolerant, offering them good and extremely high sunlit areas is essential. That being said, these trees aren’t an option for everyone. So, if you live in an area of high humidity or wet soil, you may have to leave the idea of growing pistachio trees.
Pistachio trees are drought tolerant. So, they do not stand wet soil or areas with stagnant water issues. Nonetheless, please do not allow this reputation to think you can avoid watering them, as they require plenty of water to bear good quality nuts.
Also, you must irrigate these trees early in the morning, and deep irrigation is required every 1- 2 weeks during the dry season. Also, drip irrigation is most suitable for pistachio trees.
We all know that fertilizers are trees’ best friend to eliminate pest issues. So, when it comes to pistachio plants, fertilizing them once a year is sufficient for late winter or early spring.
However, before applying any fertilizer, we suggest conducting a soil test of what your soil may lack. Also, we recommend you use slow-release fertilizers, decomposed manure, and bone meal in the ground.
We have already stated that pistachio trees grow high. So, you can think of pruning to manage their growth. In addition, pistachio trees remain dormant during winter, which makes pruning during this season most effective.
The right way to prune pistachio trees is by choosing 3 branches to act as the main branches then trim the branches below the lowest (height) main branch. The lowest main branch should be 24 to 32 inches above the land, while the pruned branches should be approximately 3- 4 inches long.
Avoid pruning the older branches, as fruits are borne on branches that are at least 1-year old. However, to encourage ongoing growth, it is advisable to prune 2 to 3 times a year.
It would be best to ensure that all leaves and fruits drop naturally during autumn and winter. If they don’t, you must remove them to prevent carrying diseased plant material in the upcoming growing season.
Pistachio trees can be propagated through grafting. You can do propagation in the fall to get the best result. Propagation is done through budding onto rootstock.
However, rootstock done for commercial purposes is different. The two most common species for this purpose are Pistacia altantica and Pistacia integerrima. Although propagating pistachio trees can be tricky, you can get good results if you are successful.
The two most common cultivars are Peters (female cultivar) and Kerman (female cultivar).
Harvesting and Storing
Much like the maintenance, harvesting pistachios is pretty straightforward. You can eat them fresh as well as store them for later usages and consumption.
When the hull turns reddish and splits to reveal the shell below, it is time to harvest your pistachios. You can harvest pistachios by laying a tarp under the tree and shaking its branches until all the nuts fall onto the tarp.
Remember not to allow the pistachios to land on the ground, as they split before harvest, which increases the chances of contamination. Also, always remove the hull immediately after harvesting to avoid shell staining and mold growth. Removal of the hull also catalyzes the drying process.
As far as storing is concerned, you must store dry pistachios in an air-tight container. You can quickly dry the newly harvested nuts in the sun for 3-4 days or in an oven at 150-160°F for around 11- 13 hours.
If pistachio trees experience too much humidity or moist condition, they may develop Alternaria Late Blight disease. In this disease, the foliage lesions may develop black spores.
Other common diseases include Botrytis, which develops in wet spring, mainly for male trees, Verticillium wilt, and Phytophthora. The most deadly among these is Verticillium, as this disease has no cure and can cause the trees’ death.
Growing Pistachio Tree in Pots
If you are planning to grow your pistachio tree in a pot, it is possible. That being said, you can increase your pistachio tree in a container or pot for the first 3 to 5 years as a seedling. However, after this, you would need to plant them in the garden to give them well-drained and loamy soil to grow.
But while letting your pistachio tree grow in a pot, always remember to re-pot it in a larger container each year to give the roots sufficient room.
Tips to Consider while Growing and Caring for Pistachio Trees
- It is better to buy pistachio saplings to grow these plants commercially.
- Always use clean and sharp pruning tools to cut your trees.
- If you plan to grow pistachio trees on a large number, we suggest testing your soil first.
- Try to keep the pH level of the soil between 7.0- 7.8.
- Before planting the saplings or raw seeds, prepare the soil by chiseling, sowing, and disking it.
- Budding should be carried on in the fall.
- The male-female plant ratio should be 1:8 or 1:10, respectively.
- Do not irrigate the plants in the rainy season.
- Avoid any water logging conditions.
- You can use nitrogen fertilizers for pistachio trees.
The bottom line!
The bottom line is that growing your pistachio tree in the backyard or garden is possible. These trees require low maintenance and produce delicious and nutritious nuts.
However, if you have made up your mind to grow them on your own, you must take care of the above-stated factors and suggestions. And above everything, have the patience to get the first batch of pistachio nuts or pistas.
If you want to be sure of the fruit production, we suggest you buy pistachio saplings from the nursery and plant them. However, remember to plant these trees at a proper distance of a minimum of 20 feet to let them grow and branch out sufficiently.
Ans. A male pistachio tree is always higher and has clustered branches about 2 to 3 inches long. On the other hand, a female pistachio tree tends to have open and loose branches about 6 to 8 inches long.
Ans. Pistachio trees grow best in hot and dry climates. In summer days, these trees need at least 38°C, while in winter, they need around 1,000 hours below, at least, 7°C.
Ans. A pistachio tree takes around 5-7 years to produce the first batch of nuts. However, it is after 15- 20 years of planting that you will get the peak production.
Ans. A fully grown pistachio tree can grow 20-30 feet in height.
Ans. Pistachio yields mainly depend on the climate, crop management, and cultivar. Nonetheless, on average, you can expect to get a 7- 10 kgs yield per fully matured tree (after 10- 12 years of budding).
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