What you need to know about a pistachio
Name: pistachio, Pistacia vera
Height: typically 2–3m, but can grow to 5m
Climate: climate sensitive - the ideal climate is arid and semi-arid inland areas of Australia, but a pistachio will also crop in cold and warm temperate areas with hot summers (above 38°C) and cold winters (with at least 6 weeks at 7°C, but no colder than –9°C).
Soil: grows well in all soils, but prefers a deep, free-draining soil.
Position: full sun, preferably in a windy area to improve pollination.
Flowering and fruiting: flowers are produced in mid-spring, with nuts developing in summer.
Feeding: apply a slow-release fertiliser in early spring and again in autumn. Enrich soil with decomposed manure and blood and bone.
Watering: water at least once a week, more often in dry weather, for the first couple of years, until the tree establishes. After the third winter, water only as required, especially during flowering and nut development.
Appearance and characteristics of a pistachio
Pistachios are either male or female grafted trees, with at least one of each sex required for pollination. One male can pollinate up to 10 females, but the male should be planted upwind of the female trees to encourage pollination.
With striking, oval-shaped leaves, pistachios are ornamental as well as productive, producing nuts around 5–8 years after planting.
How to plant and grow a pistachio
Plant your pistachio tree during winter when dormant:
Dig a deep hole at least twice the depth of the pot to allow easy growth of the tap root.
Backfill the hole so that your pistachio can be planted at the same height as it was in the pot.
Plant the tree, then backfill and firm down the soil.
Water to remove air pockets.
Caring for a pistachio
Once established, pistachio is an incredibly hardy plant that is tolerant of most soils, and needs only periodic watering.
Pistachios have a strong taproot, so are very drought- and wind-tolerant once established. Water at least once a week, more often in dry weather, for the first couple of years, until the tree establishes. After the third winter, water only as required, especially during flowering and nut development.
Fertilise trees twice a year in spring and autumn with a controlled-release fertiliser for fruit trees, and improve soil prior to planting with decomposed manure and compost.
Harvest nuts when they reach maturity at the end of summer. You can tell the nuts are ripe when they change from red to pink/yellow and the husk is easily removed. You can eat them fresh or dry them for later.
How and when to prune a pistachio tree
Pruning is an integral part of fruit and nut tree growth.
Prune to open up the centre of the tree and to remove branches overcrowding, rubbing or crossing.
Prune in winter while dormant.
Always disinfect pruning tools between trees to prevent the accidental spread of disease.
Pistachio is sold as a grafted tree. If unwanted growth appears from below the graft, this should be removed as soon as possible to prevent it impacting on the success of the top growth.
Diseases and pests
Pistachios are prone to fungal attack. Always buy resistant rootstocks, and water the roots, not the foliage. If any fungal problems are present, spray infected plants with a fungicide.
How to propagate pistachio
Pistachio is propagated by bud-grafting onto a disease-resistant rootstock. Both male and female pistachios are propagated in this way.
If you like this then try
Hazelnut: delicious nut trees that can also be inoculated with truffles.
Macadamia: productive nut trees that also make great hedging plants.
Almond: popular nut trees for cold and warm climates.
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