Growing cashews is something you can easily do. However, a more specific cultivating condition and environment are needed to let the tree thrive perfectly.
If you are confident that providing such an environment is possible, then it would be a great option to grow a cashew tree and enjoy the nuts or fresh fruits later on.
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Although growing one will not be difficult, you should remember that cashew trees require two to three years for producing tasty nuts and fruits. Now, let’s check the following for more information about them.
1. General Information for Growing Cashews
Firstly, where do cashew trees grow naturally? Scientifically called Anacardium occidentale, this species is native to Brazil and the Caribbean Islands. It will typically cultivate the best in tropical areas.
Nowadays, you can find these trees to cultivate mostly in India, Southeast Asia, and Africa. They are capable to reach 20 up to 40 feet high when mature.
These trees acquire evergreen foliage that is leathery, oval-shaped, and dark green. Meanwhile, the fruits of cashew are pretty unique in appearance.
However, when growing cashews in the garden, you shouldn’t be fooled by the look of their fruits. Most people may consider their fake fruits as real.
For your information, the oval-shaped bell pepper-like parts of these trees are not the real fruit. They are called cashew apples and typically come in various colors including red, orange, or yellow.
While the apples are edible, the real fruits are the nut attached to the end of them. These unique-shaped produces are the ones that contain the edible kernel and what people call cashew.
2. Specific Requirements for Planting Cashew Trees
Growing cashews require you to build a proper environment for the trees to grow flawlessly. Keep in mind that they prefer an area that enjoys minimally six hours of direct sunlight.
Even though they can survive in shady areas, cashew trees may tend to grow slowly and don’t generate any fruit if planted in such places.
Furthermore, cashew trees will grow happily slightly sandy laterite soil. Then, a suitable pH level should be around 5-6.5 to allow them to cultivate perfectly.
You should never plan for growing cashews in a clay-rich soil since it often promotes water-logging and is pretty heavy.
Besides, these trees will also require a well-drained environment in a way that stream flows efficiently.
They may be able to tolerate drought once established. However, you will want to provide cashew trees with regular water so that they can generate more fruits.
Throughout summer days, it is recommended to water these trees twice or at least once a week. On the other hand, you can reduce watering during winter since overwatering may kill them at this point.
Growing cashews calls for regular fertilizer application as well. You need to do so for the trees to thrive better and produce more fruits.
You can utilize slow-release fertilizer by following the instructions on the product’s package around the bottom of the trees. Do this every two months and throughout their growing season.
Applying farm manure or compost one time in a year to a mature cashew tree is also necessary. You will need approximately 15 kg of fertilizer and put them on the soil’s surface.
3. How to Cultivate Cashew Trees in Your Garden
Now that you have known the basic requirements for growing cashews, it is time to execute the project in your garden.
Remember that the USDA Zones 10-11 is the most recommended area to plant cashew trees, considering that they are native to tropical, warm regions.
Thus, is it possible for growing cashews in Florida? If you are in the southern area of this state, planting these trees will be easier since the said region mostly has a tropical climate.
Moreover, depending on the way you grow them, your cashew trees will produce fruits differently. When they are planted from seed, it typically takes up to three years for them to produce.
A faster method for growing cashews is by buying a grafted one. In this case, you can enjoy the fruits within 18 months only. Then, these trees tend to bear their optimum yield after seven years.
• Prepare and Plant the Cashew Seeds
If you are living in tropical areas, growing cashews from the seeds will be straightforward. Simply prepare the seeds, to begin with.
Keep in mind that the seeds are the cashew nuts that are still within the kernel or the matured unshelled ones. Since they are only feasible for up to four months, older ones tend to not sprout.
Start with collecting fresh seeds from cashew trees and dry them in direct sunlight for around three days. After that, soak in the water throughout the night before propagating.
Next, you can sow the seeds in the good quality mix to let them germinate within four days to three weeks.
When growing cashews, you better start to propagate the seeds in pots rather than planting them right into the ground. This way, it will be easier to protect and give the sprouts extra attention.
You can sow the seeds into either tiny individual containers or one bigger pot. Propagating more than a single kernel will improve their opportunities to generate a healthy cashew tree.
Make sure to use clean pots with drainage holes in the base. Since cashew tree seedlings are at higher risk of phytophthora root decay, overly soaked soil may be deadly.
Simply drill several holes in the bottom of the pots if there are no drainage outlets on them.
To plant the seeds, you need to mix all-purpose potting compost into the soil to boost moisture and nutrient retention. Don’t forget to leave a one-inch gap at the top.
After that, put the seeds into the container at a five to 10 cm deep and a slender angle. Then, place the pots in light, warm areas around your garden.
Different from growing cashews, germinating the seeds won’t require much sun. Thus, you should not locate them in direct sunlight since too much warmth may burn the seedling leaves.
You need to check the seeds regularly and make sure they obtain plenty of water and light during the germination process.
• Plant the Cashew Trees
Once the cashew seeds grow and the small trees start to outgrow the containers, you should prepare to plant them out.
While you can plant the seeds anytime throughout the year, the best time to cultivate the cashew trees is during spring.
By growing cashews in spring is the most ideal because it provides the tree adequate time to set them up ahead of winter.
Before planting out the young cashew trees, let them consolidate for several weeks. This adaptation period is crucial to help gentle plants flourish in their new surroundings.
Then, make sure to position the cashew trees in their ideal location that is mainly frost-free and faces west or south.
When growing cashews in the garden, you should make sure to protect them from strong winds as well.
Don’t forget to get rid of any weeds in their surroundings too since these wild plants tend to rob your cashew tree’s essential nutrients and moisture.
Since cashew trees are vigorous growers that have a widespread root system, you need to be careful when planning to grow more than one plant.
For instance, a mature cashew tree tends to need an all-round gap of 33 feet. Meanwhile, the young one may be planted 26×16 feet distance and diluted afterward.
4. Necessary Care for Cashew Nut Trees
Growing cashews should be followed by proper care as well to make sure the trees thrive properly and bear abundant fruits.
Regular watering is the simplest way you can do to take good care of cashew trees, especially the young ones. Try to do it at least once a week to improve the growth rate and help them establish rapidly.
Throughout summer, you have to water cashew trees two times per week. However, be vigilant not to water them too much since doing so will damage or even kill these plants.
For growing cashews, it is better to hang around until the soil around the bottom of the tree seems dry before watering it.
• Pruning and Mulching
To get rid of lifeless, frail, and entangled branches, you need to prune cashew trees regularly.
Moreover, it is important to cut off branches that are infested with pests and diseases as well. Prune overcrowded ones too so that the spirited growth can be encouraged.
Mulching is another essential part of growing cashews. Do this around the tree with unrefined matters to avoid weeds and preserve moisture.
Since you will want to protect cashew trees from cold climate and frosts, mulching is necessary too. Doing so tends to be especially useful in sandy soils.
In case you are not willing to regularly work untreated matters around the bottom of your cashew trees, use black polythene to cover it instead.
Even though black polythene may not offer additional nutrients that organic mulch does, this can still help with moisture retention and defend against iciness.
Otherwise, you can put small pebbles and stones around the base of the cashew trees. It will be more eye-catching compared to cover the bottom with black plastic as well.
• Common Pests and Diseases
When it comes to growing cashews, some possible pests, and diseases that will follow include leaf miners, blossom Webber, and tea mosquito.
Zinc deficiency is another possible problem that your cashew tree may face. This issue is frequently caused by sandy soils where the plants tend to thrive.
Luckily, you can deal with this matter easily by spraying a micronutrient foliar zinc fertilizer onto the leaves to alleviate the deficiency.
For an organic alternative, you can take advantage of kelp extract. Since cashew trees will excitedly endure high levels of zinc, don’t be afraid of overdoing it.
Even though zinc deficiency is pretty simple to manage, diagnosing one is a bit difficult. The signs that include leaf discoloration or chlorosis are similar to symptoms of other issues.
When growing cashews, the most common way to boost the overall environment is by using chelated zinc. Then, just don’t forget to incorporate compost or other unrefined matters to the soil for keeping all nutrient levels.
5. Harvest and Process Cashew Nuts at Home
The most rewarding moment after growing cashews is probably when it is time to harvest the fruits and nuts.
While climate and weather may influence the flowering, one tree to another can experience a different process as well.
Several trees that you plant at the same time can bloom at dissimilar times or rates. However, once they flower, the blooming period will typically last for up to three months.
After six to eight weeks since the pollination, the fruits will grow up. The cashew nuts typically develop first and followed by the apples that are going to expand significantly two weeks before maturing.
In terms of growing cashews, you can start harvesting when the cashew apples are becoming red or pink and the nutshells turn gray.
After harvesting cashews, you can separate the nuts from the apples for storing or processing. In a cool, dry spot, it is possible to save unprocessed kernels for up to two years.
If you are planning to process the cashew nuts, remember that they outline a shell that holds caustic oil. When this grease comes into contact with your skin, it will typically result in burns or irritation.
For this reason, it is necessary to guard yourself when processing cashew nuts. Moreover, you can also freeze them for the safest method.
Even though you still need to wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts, and even safety goggles, freezing cashew nuts will help to take them out from their shells securely.
Alternatively, it is also possible to roast the cashew nuts. Immerse them in water first to make the kernel a bit rubbery so that rupturing the shell will be less difficult.
To conclude, growing cashews can be perfect if you are looking for a fascinating outdoor element. With their delicate pink blossoms, rich green foliage, and edible fruits, there is no doubt that these trees will become a practical focal point in your garden.