Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/345

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blossoms of spring comes the showy almond, a dense mass of white with a "hint of a tint" of pink in it.[1]

The cultivation of the almond is easier than of any other tree, unless it be the prune. The orchard is plowed and harrowed once or twice a year, and then the weeds are kept down in any way the farmer chooses. The amount of work required to do this depends on the weather, and is just the same for the almond as for any other tree. But the almond tree, like the prune, is never pruned in this region. Like the prune, the fruit is never thinned on the tree, as the peach and apricot must always be, to produce a crop of good fruit. The heavy pruning and thinning required every year on our peach and apricot trees is a great expense, the thinning alone often costing fifty cents a tree, for an average of the whole orchard. Aside from stirring the soil and killing the weeds, a dozen apricot trees take more care and labor than a dozen acres of almonds. This is the consideration that makes almondgrowing popular. Equally important is the fact that thus far the almond has no parasites, such as scales, moths, etc., while almost every year adds a new recruit to the insect enemies of other fruits. Our peach-growers are put to the expense of buying costly machines for spraying their trees, and insecticides with which to spray them. Insecticides cost money, and spraying costs time and labor. If the wash is strong enough to kill the scale, it is apt to kill the new wood of the tree a very serious matter in the case of the peach, whose fruit is all on its last year's growth of wood. Still, the spraying must be done every year, and may even be enforced by law in California. All this trouble and expense are saved to the almond-grower, whose only insect enemy is the red spider, a semi-occasional visitor easily got rid of, and not formidable if left unhindered in his work.

First to bloom in the spring, the almond is last to mature in the fall. The whole spring and summer long it hangs there, a green peach for all the world, and after the first few weeks never increasing in size or changing in appearance. The seam is deeper than in most peaches, but not deeper than in the ripe apricot. Late in August this seam will be seen to have opened in a few of the earliest. The grower's anxiety now reaches its climax. Will his almonds open and remain open until harvested, or will the drupe remain closed, or only partially open and then close tight again? The whole profit of the crop may depend on this question. It may cost half they are worth to pick and husk them.

  1. The writer in the Encyclopædia Britannica combats the ancient tradition that almond blossoms are white. He says they are pink. As I have seen them it is more proper to call them white than pink, though the whitest contain a suggestion of pink, and some varieties show it so plainly as to be distinguishable at considerable distances.