Six nuts you can grow at home
Good things do come in small packages - like nuts! These bite-sized nibblies are available in a variety of rich flavours, each with their own unique taste and texture and packed full of healthy goodness - so what a wonderful thing it is to try and grow your own. While certain trees, like walnuts and pecans, will need a considerable amount of space, almonds, macadamias and pistachios will happily grow in an average-sized garden. Have a crack and go nuts!
These beautiful green, purple and pink nuts may be small, but pistachios (Pistacia vera) are packed with flavour and loads of nutritional goodness. They grow on a small shrubby tree, approximately 5m high and wide, and are ideal for suburban gardens.
However, they're dioecious, which means male and female flowers grow on separate trees, so you will need to plant two trees if you want to produce nuts.
TO GROW: Pistachios grow best in areas with long, dry, hot summers and cold winters. The trees are quite hardy and will happily tolerate poor soils, provided they are planted deep enough to accommodate their lengthy taproot. Plant male and female trees close together to help promote pollination.
TO HARVEST: If looked after, pistachio trees can produce nuts after four to five years. Harvest in autumn, when hulls begin to split. Remove hulls as soon as possible and dry nuts (still in their shells) in the sun or oven.
The luxurious, velvety texture and taste of macadamias make them one of the most-loved nuts in the world. An Australian native, macadamias (Macadamia sp.) are one of the few bush foods sold on a commercial level - and it's great to have a go at growing your own.
Macadamia trees can grow up to 20m in the wild, but will grow between 8-10m tall in most gardens. You can grow them from seed, but they can take years to fruit and can be extremely variable, so it's best to buy grafted trees of known varieties like 'A286' or 'A4'.
TO GROW: Macadamia trees thrive in tropical and subtropical climates, but they will also grow well in frost-free, warm-temperate areas. However, there are certain varieties that will tolerate cooler climates and light frosts. Plant young trees in full sun and protect from strong winds. Ensure the soil is moist, well drained and enriched with organic matter prior to planting. In spring and summer, feed with a complete fertiliser and water in well. Trees will also benefit from a fortnightly liquid feed during the growing season.
TO HARVEST: Seedling trees can take up to seven years to fruit, but grafted trees will fruit in as little as three to four years. The nuts mature during late autumn and winter, and will fall to the ground when ripe. Pick nuts and remove husks as soon as possible, then air dry in the shade for at least two weeks.
Whole, blanched, slivered, flaked and ground, almonds (Prunus dulcis) are one of the most useful nuts for adding texture and taste to your meals. The nuts grow on gorgeous compact trees, only 3m tall and wide, making them ideal for the average home garden. They provide colour in the form of delicate pink or white blooms from mid-winter, giving shade in summer, and produce nuts after three years. You will need two varieties for pollination but for suburban gardens look for self-fertile varieties like All-in-One or Dwarf Almond.
TO GROW: Almonds grow best in temperate or warm temperate climates. They can grow in cold areas, provided the site is protected from cold wind. Plant in full sun and in moist, well-drained soil. Water well, especially during summer, ensuring the soil is moist, but not waterlogged. Feed trees in autumn and late winter.
TO HARVEST: Nuts will be ready for harvest after three years, however, after eight years, the tree should be bearing a significant crop. Harvest nuts when the outer coating splits and the fruit drops. Collect as they fall and sun dry for a few days.
It's hard not to fall in love with the unique rich, buttery taste of pecans - just one bite will leave you craving for more! However, you will need a large garden to grow them, as pecan trees (Carya illinoinensis) can reach up to 30m tall. These trees can produce nuts for more than 100 years, so they are well worth the investment if you have the space.
Like macadamias, nuts grown from seed are not true to type, so it's best to buy a known or preferred variety that's grafted onto seedling rootstock.
TO GROW: Pecans grow best in areas where summers are long and hot and winters are cold. If growing in warmer zones, a cool, elevated site is best. Grow in part shade or full sun and plant in deep, moist and well-drained soil. Most cultivars are self-pollinating, but planting two different cultivars will ensure optimum cross-pollination and nut development. Water well in late spring and early summer when the tree is setting nuts.
TO HARVEST: This slow-growing tree can take between 10-12 years to fruit. Nuts mature in autumn and winter; pick when they start to fall, then air dry.
They might be referred to as nuts, but peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) are actually highly nutritious legumes. They form on a small bushy shrub that grows only 30cm tall and 20cm wide, making them the perfect size for growing between other plants in the vegie bed. But where and how the nuts form is most unusual - they are not simply picked off the branches. Instead, the flowering stems elongate and bury themselves in the soil, and that's where the nuts develop.
TO GROW: In warm climates, seeds can be sown from early spring, but in cooler climates it's best to sow in late spring once the soil is warm. In a warm, sunny position, plant fresh nuts with their papery covering intact. Ensure the soil is moist and well drained.
TO HARVEST: Once the leaves on the plant turn yellow, the nuts are ready to harvest. This can take anywhere between 17-20 weeks, depending on the cultivar. Use a fork to carefully lift the entire plant with nuts, discard the taproot and hang to dry. Leave to dry for several days and discard any nuts that show symptoms of fungus or mould.
You have to love their odd wrinkled shape, but as well as their unique look, walnuts (Juglans sp.) are sweet, have great texture and make a fab addition to cooking and baking - hello brownies! They can grow up to 25m tall, but they're highly ornamental and are beautiful specimen trees. Walnut trees are partially self-fertile, so one tree will eventually bear fruit, but the chances will be improved if you plant two. If you have the space, walnut trees are well worth growing.
TO GROW: Walnuts grow best in climates with long, hot, dry summers and cool winters. Plant in an open sunny site, in deep and well-drained soil enriched with organic matter, and protect young trees from strong winds.
TO HARVEST: Nuts will be ready for harvest after four years and can be picked from mid-April. Remove the hull as soon as possible, then sun dry on racks for several days.