I live in Las Vegas, Nevada. So I know I have the right soil and conditions to grow pistachio trees. But can I just plant a pistachio seed and grow a tree or do I have to go buy the tree?
The pistachios (Pistacia vera) that you buy at the grocery store are usually roasted and will not grow. They are a nice looking tree and only get about twenty feet or eight metres tall. Where you live is hot and dry with alkaline soil and not a lot of moisture in the spring. This is the just right for pistachios but....
- Seed germination is most successful with fresh seed
- they do not start producing pistachios until they are eight years old with real crops starting around fifteen years of age
- they need at least one male tree and one or more female trees to pollinate each other and produce nuts
If you can find raw unroasted pistachios you can remove the shells and put them in damp paper towels. Some may germinate after ten to thirty days. Plant in small pots and transplant into progressively larger pots as they grow. Chances are good that grocery bought pistachios will have a poor germination rate as they are not fresh.
You would find the most success buying pistachio seed from a supply house or buying trees from a supplier.
Modern pistachio trees are simply not grown and then wait for the results. The nut you buy to eat will not germinate to produce a tree from which you can obtain more nuts.
Trees are grafted onto a rootstock (either after plantation or in nursery stage) and the tree takes off from there...
The rootstock seeds are notoriously hard to find and generally take several months to germinate even if done properly. I'm lucky as I now have a rootstock tree (from a graft that didn't take) that regularly produces several thousand seeds.
It's at least 2 years from ungerminated seed to a position to plant in the ground.
I'm a commercial grower and I need to give nurseries a 2 year notice when I want some more trees, so now I germinate my own, but have 4 HA of 20 year old trees to get cuttings from too.
Take my advice....if you find a tree to buy, buy them.
Remember pistachio trees are dioecious, which means you need a male and a female tree. About 1 male (which doesn't produce fruit) will pollinate 12-15 female trees.
For the first time planting, buy a male and female tree at the nursery. The male doesn't produce nuts, but produces a lot of pollen. Dig a hole in moderately crappy soils containing gravel, caliche (small), humus, good compost, triple(8-8-8) fertilizer, phosphorus. the hole should be about 2 feet across, and 2-3 feet deep. Mix the fertilizer in with everything. Fill the hole with water, let drain, then obtain some liquid dishwashing soap and make about 3 passes around the hole. Water this in as well (the soap is a wetting agent), 3 times over the course of a week.
The water cycle should be about 8 waterings over the course of the first year, and maybe 4-6 waterings in the years after that. This is native plant originating in the deserts of Afghanistan, and doesn't like wet soil. It can grow in a lawn, and produces a lot of shade, but do best where there is good drainage
Once the female tree starts producing nuts, at the end of the growing year and starting in the fall, it'll be harvest time. Pinch the nuts with your fingers and if they pop out of the hull, it'll be harvest time. not all nut mature at the same time, so get a ghetto blaster and a decent chair, along with some 5-gallon buckets, salt, and lath in which to dry the nuts while keeping the birds away from your stash.
And nuts that fall from the tree an onto the ground have the potential to sprout a new seedling. Of course, you won't know if it's male or female until the tree matures a bit. Seedling females can start producing nuts the 3rd or 4th year. The hard part about transplanting is that when the tree is 4 years old, its tap root is pretty fixed in place. You could always let the seedlings grow to nut stage, and then thin out the ones you don't want with a chainsaw. Its only real pest in the leaf footed bug, that injects a virus into the seed pod.
You could also contact nurseries to see if they would buy the extra unwanted seedlings from you, but again, no one quite knows the sex of the seedlings.