This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
In a treatise upon the cultivation of hardy fruits it is necessary that all the hardy fruits known and grown - it matters not to how small an extent - should have a place. In this position stands the Almond. For there is perhaps none of all the fruits of which we have already spoken which is cultivated on a more limited scale. In some favoured localities the Almond is grown for the sake of its fruit; but even in these localities the crops are very irregular, and the fruit often of very doubtful quality. The tree is more generally cultivated for the sake of its flowering properties than for its fruit-producing qualities. In many places in the south of England the Almond is one of the finest early spring-flowering ornamental trees grown. Its beautiful flowers, rivalling the Peach in its modest colouring, leap to loveliness and life at the early dawn of spring, spreading a freshness and beauty on the barrenness of the landscape, and making nature to rejoice at the early birth of her favoured child. We never have seen the Almond in cultivation in Scotland, and we believe there are not more than four or fire places where it is cultivated in that country.
This is to be accounted for from the fact that the soil and climate are not well suited for it.
The Almond is propagated either from seed or by budding on the Almond or Plum stock. It is chiefly from seed, however, that it is propagated; and in some of our large nurseries it is grown in great quantities as stocks upon which to graft the Peach and Nectarine, some of our greatest fruit-growers being of opinion that these, when worked upon the Almond stock, are less liable to the attacks of mildew than those worked upon any of the other kinds of stocks used for this purpose. To raise young trees, the finest fruit should be selected at the gathering season. These should be placed in layers in damp sand, and placed in a cool room or shed. By the end of March or beginning of April they will have germinated, and should be planted from 1 ½ to 2 inches deep in lines 1 foot apart, and 4 inches plant from plant, in a nice warm situation, and in soil of a light and dry, yet rich nature. At the end of the first year they may be transplanted into soil of a similar nature, allowing 1½ to 2 feet between each plant. In performing this operation, the chief object in view is to cut the tap-root, to prevent its penetrating to any considerable depth.
Those roots which may be ramifying near the surface should be encouraged as much as possible, and every care taken to hurt them as little as possible in the performance of this operation. In the autumn of the following year the stocks may be budded, and at the end of the following year after this may again be transplanted, either into their permanent quarters or into nursery-lines 2 or 3 feet apart. Again examine the roots, and remove all those which have a decided tendency to penetrate downwards, encouragement being given to all those taking a horizontal direction. When planted they will now require to get stout firm stakes to support them, as in proportion to the size of the tree so will be its liability to be tossed about by every wind that blows, until such time as it has established itself in its permanent quarters. The tree resembles the Peach very much in its general appearance and habit of growth, so that the pruning and training of the Almond are to be performed just in the same manner as recommended for that fruit.
I have been unable to ascertain how many varieties of the Almond are cultivated in Britain. M'Intosh in his 'Book of the Garden' says, "The varieties cultivated are the Sweet and the Bitter Almond; of the former there are several sub-varieties, the most esteemed being the Sweet Jordan, having a tender shell and large sweet kernel. As an ornamental tree the variety Macrocarpa is in greater repute on account of its splendid and very large blossoms." Thompson in his 'Gardener's Assistant' names eight varieties, but whether they are all cultivated in this country or not he does not say. Mr M'Intosh says eight varieties are in cultivation in France, so that the eight varieties named and described by Mr Thompson are in all probability the kinds grown in France.
Dr Hogg in his 'Fruit Manual' describes the six following varieties, which are all Sweet Almonds - viz., Common Sweet, Large-fruited Sweet, the Peach Almond, Pistache, Sultana, and the Tender-shelled, which is the true Jordan Almond of commerce. " Besides these," he says, "there are several varieties of the Bitter Almond - such as the Large-fruited, the Tender-shelled, and the Amandier d'ltalie." These, however, never have been in cultivation in Britain, and, as Dr Hogg says, "are not likely ever to be;" so it is quite unnecessary to say more regarding them at present.
The best time for planting the Almond is the end of September or beginning of October. We have invariably found that all our hardy fruits, by being planted about this time, become stronger and healthier trees, and that of two trees of a like age, if the one be planted in September and the other in March following, the tree planted in September will for many a year continue to be the largest and best. As already stated, the very best position ought to be selected for the Almond, as it is only with great care and attention that it can be got to produce fruit in this country. If space could be spared against a south wall, this would be found to be the best position for it; and if managed as the Peach, it might be more productive than as a standard. It cannot be expected, however, to be a profitable speculation, as the prices and quality of the Almonds imported from the south of France are such as to defy competition. It is merely for the sake of curiosity that we would recommend their cultivation in Britain at all.
As the insects and diseases to which the Almond is subject are the same as those which attack the Peach, and as the cure in every case is the same, we refer the reader to our papers upon that fruit, where he will find the information he may require upon this division of our subject.