Most varieties of date palm, if properly cared for, will begin to bear in the fourth year, and should yield a considerable return in the fifth and succeeding years. Under Arab treatment they usually take longer. References in the Code of Hammurabi (about 2000 B.C.) indicate that the Babylonians at that time could secure a paying crop in the fourth year; if so, they were better cultivators than their modern descendants.
Beginning with two small bunches, the grower may allow his palms to bear an increasing amount each year until maximum is reached. After the fifth, sixth, or seventh year, 100 pounds or thereabouts to a tree can be maintained steadily without difficulty by most varieties, and one or two offshoots a year will still be produced, given proper fertilization and irrigation. In many cases even larger yields can be obtained. If, however, the growing palm is not given proper culture, for instance is allowed to carry a full load of offshoots, and, simultaneously, to bear all the fruit that it can, it tends to become an intermittent bearer, bringing in a large crop one year and little or nothing the next. This should be avoided by eliminating the conditions named.
The season of ripening is from May to December, depending on variety and location. Fresh dates as early as May can be secured in favored locations in Arabia, where certain early kinds are grown. They have not yet been produced so early in the United States, where the first dates do not ripen until July. In many regions very late varieties will carry fruit into midwinter. In California and at Basrah the height of the season is September; in Egypt, August; in western Arabia, July; in Algeria, September or early October. As a general rule, the dates of best quality are late in ripening and the early dates are soft varieties which must be consumed fresh as they lack the necessary amount of sugar to keep without fermenting.
American growers will find an advantage in fairly early varieties (other considerations agreeing), as the crop can thus be disposed of without competition, say before November 1, at about which time dates from Persian Gulf or North African sources can be put on the market, possibly at lower prices.