November 18, 2023

How Do Pistachios Grow?

Pistachios may seem exotic to gardeners, but they are easy to grow in the right climate. The key is to plan for long-term success, since it takes 7 – 8 years before a pistachio tree begins to produce and 15 – 20 years for peak production. A good start is to select a site with well-draining sandy, loamy soil. The soil should be chiseled and plowed to break up hardpan and caliche layers.

Plant pistachios in the early spring while they are still dormant. This prevents transplant shock and gives the pistachios time to develop a strong root system. Dig a hole twice as deep as the nursery container and backfill with original soil, compacting to remove air pockets. Add a layer of mulch around the base of the trees to conserve soil moisture and suppress weeds. Space the pistachios about 15-30 feet apart.

Pistachio trees are highly drought tolerant, but they require ample water during the growing season to produce a large crop. However, the trees do not tolerate wet or soggy soils, and extended periods of high humidity may promote disease issues such as Alternaria late blight (Alternaria alternata) and Botrytis cinerea.

Like other nut crops, pistachios are heavily dependent on pollinators for fruit production. To increase the odds of successful pollination, female pistachio trees should be planted upwind from males. Also, the pistachio plants should be sprayed with minor elements once each month from April through July. This includes boron, copper, and zinc, with an emphasis on boron to reduce foliar symptoms such as crinkle leaves and knapweed. The sprayed nutrient levels should be monitored using leaf analysis to maximize pistachio yield and quality.

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