I’m eating my way through a packet of dry roasted and salted macadamias as I tap out this story on the keyboard and I’m having a hard time getting on with it because their SOOO delicious! Macadamias are my absolute favourite nuts to eat, so when I heard that a visit to a macadamia farm was included in my recent Food Trail Tour of the Atherton Tablelands in Tropical North Queensland, I was chuffed.
We arrived at Greg and Wendy O’Neill’s farm aptly named Wondaree Macadamia Nuts (I’m informed that Wondaree is a word used by North Queensland Aborigines meaning “trees”). The scene is lush and inviting but another tropical downpour is looming heavily upon us.
Farmer Greg jumps on the bus with us to give us the “good oil” (literally) on growing macadamias. I notice the bee hive at the entrance to the farm used for pollination and no doubt some honey too. Greg notices I’m writing on my notepad as he speaks; he is warily cautious and jokingly threatens that anyone taking notes won’t be allowed to leave the farm alive. I explain who I am and that I’m in town with the Australian Institute of Horticulture then I boldly ask if he has any tips for the home gardener. Realizing I’m not out to steal his secrets for commercial production, he relaxes and is very forthcoming with some tips and pointers for us home gardeners.
I’m immediately taken with his approach to farming and even more so as he goes into his strategies for Integrated Pest Management. He’s a kindred spirit …. I knew it as soon as he mentioned the field we passed on the way in was being used for experimenting with improved pasture and cattle.
Although the macadamia tree can grow to 20 metres (60 feet) high, with careful yearly pruning they can be limited in size, making them a good choice as a productive shade tree for a reasonable sized home garden. They are vulnerable to frost so cultivation would only suit frost free temperate to tropical zones. You will need rich well drained soil for best results. A good supply of nitrogen and potassium are needed to produce quality fruit. Addition of chicken manure and compost before planting and as a regular side dressing throughout the growing season is recommended. Being an Australian native plant it has adapted to low levels of phosphorus so be careful using any fertilisers high in phosphorus.
Greg points out that the Macadamia tree has a very fine fibrous root system that is vulnerable to drying out, so tip number one is to grow it with regular irrigation and a good layer of mulch in the home garden. Lucerne is a good mulch that adds nitrogen as it breaks down; a layer at least 5cm (2 inches) deep is needed around the drip line of the tree to keep moisture in and weeds out.
Keeping the weeds from competing for water and nutrients is essential for increased vitality of the tree and to maximize crops. This is particularly important from the time the tree is in flower until the full oil production is reached in the fruit/nut. Oil production in the fruit will take up to 3 months after initial fruit has been set.
During this fruit development time, Greg keeps a keen eye on the available nutrients taken up by the trees. He does this through regular leaf testing which indicates any deficiencies that might affect the fruit. To remedy any deficiency, regular foliar sprays are applied to the orchard. So tip number 2 for the home gardener is a fortnightly liquid feed of worm juice and fish emulsion. Mix in some seaweed solution to help stimulate growth and protect against pests at the same time. A liquid feed will provide some additional nutrients while the tree is in its most active stage and avoid any deficiencies that could potentially affect the developing fruit.
I ask Greg about pest and disease problems that he encounters on the farm. He admits that they do have some problems with nut borer and weevils. Their practices have changed over the years with the current trend involving Integrated Pest Management. Greg explains that they use organic techniques as much as possible without aiming for certification. Previous routine spraying with insecticides has now been replaced with biological methods, introducing native parasitic wasps to help control many pests naturally. The new economics showed that the financial cost of spraying actually proved to be more than the cost of any crop lost using the new biological controls.
Tip number 3 for the home gardener is to encourage beneficial insects into the garden through companion planting, using lots of flowers that attract parasitic wasps in particular. Wait for the predators to come before resorting to chemical warfare. Growing companion plants that add nitrogen around the trees is also beneficial for plant growth.
A macadamia tree is an investment, as are many fruit and nut trees, taking 5 years after planting a grafted specimen before the tree produces a significant crop. It is considered “mature” only after 10 to 15 years.
The old-fashioned harvesting roller is demonstrated with our tour group, picking up the green nuts that have fallen to the ground. The nuts will fall naturally when they have matured. The husk is still green to brown and encases the nut inside. On the farm they are harvested using machinery but can be collected by hand in the home garden as they fall off the tree. The husks on the farm are cracked to obtain the nuts then the husk is processed and returned as mulch under the trees. It’s a good display of closing the system.
The nut is graded according to size and then cracked open again to reveal the small kernel inside that we eat. Plant breeding has increased the size of kernel weight from 15 percent to 50 percent now in some of the modern cultivars, which means much bigger macadamias for us to eat.
Now the fun starts … taste testing!
Wondaree Macadamia Nuts offer a range of flavored products, from natural raw or lightly salted macadamias to the tasty hickory smoked nuts.
Macadamias contain no cholesterol as they are a natural plant food. They are not genetically modified and only contain natural genes. Macadamias do not contain any trans fatty acids. Research has shown that macadamias can help lower blood cholesterol levels and may reduce the incidence of heart disease. They’re high in fibre, very high proportion of monounsaturated fat, contain no cholesterol, contain vitamins, minerals and protein essential in a healthy diet ….
AND they taste great, too!
I started 2 macadamia trees from seed about 4 years ago. Now they are 13-15 feet high. They are at the 50 meters from the Mindanao sea in the Philippines 9 degrees north of the equator. I expect flowering in a few years. I also have a cutting which is now 8 inches tall and 9 months old. I just put the cutting in a pot of soil.
That’s great. Good luck with it.
Hi, my neighbour has a macadamia tree which hangs over our driveway and last year we only realised this after my son collected all the dropped green balls. I opened the brown ones and let the green ones sit in the sun until they browned. Was this the right thing to do?
I can see lots on the tree now but none are dropping yet. Is it bad to pick them? I’m inpatient!
I have a macadamia nut tree in my garden (about 16 years old) which for the last 3 seasons has experienced problems with nut borer and we have lost almost the entire crop each time. The tree sits over an area where my chickens run and they scratch under the tree so we have been trying to find other methods to prevent the nut borer as we have nowhere to move the chickens to.
We had a period late last year when we had no chickens (thanks to a nasty fox) and took the opportunity to spray with carbinol at the time – and at first, with the current crop we though we had been successful – but now they are back.
I am open to any suggestions of how we can naturally get rid of the pests and have a crop again! We do clean up the garden underneath and dispose of the damaged nuts, but it is in a difficult area, and hard to get to all nooks and crannies!
which macadamia seed nuts are able to germinate? freshly harvested or dried seed nuts !
if it is on your property, then its ok. If that bothers you neighbor, then let him cut the branches himself.
Hi There… i have a single Macadamia tree now about 3 mtrs tall and very lushly,,
But i have no flowers at all,, therefore no fruits,,, What am I doing wrong..
Can U hwlp me please… Thank U..
Any ideas those will grow in Greece? I’m very interested in adding them to my farm
I have a huge tree that is loaded with nuts. the tree squirrels are starting to feast.
does anyone have a good deterrent?
I need to start planting macadamia in Uganda ie an African country within the equator.
Advise me on the spacing of the trees.
what is the standard spacing of macadamia?
I suggest you contact the Macadamia Growers Association. Different species have different growth habit and the association will know best.
Hi, I put down some LAN around the base of my macadamia tree and all the leaves have turned brown and are falling off. What can I do to resuscitate it?
we have one macadamia tree about 6 years old, it’s never flowered yet ,it’s eight foot tall and has a lot of new growth,do I need two tree’s to get nuts.
It can take a long time before you see any fruit. Grafted plant can take 5 years but others don’t reach maturity for 10-15 years.
Hi Veggie lady,
I moved a few months ago to a delightful farm in the south of West Australia. To my utter delight there is a huge macadamia tree in the house yard. The lower branches only just above the ground.
As it is a great shade tree, I had it pruned so as to put a garden table and benches underneath for great family dinners outdoors. There where a lot of nuts underneath the tree, but all seem to be empty. The gardens seem to have been neglected for many years, possibly decades, judging the state of the rest of the gardens.
I am (with a friend) making big inroads in reviving the gardens. I would love to get some advice what to do to nurture the macadamia back to a healthy fruit bearing state.
Any suggestions welcome! ps I love your website, thanks Lia V
Hi Lia. Thanks for the lovely comments and great to see you making inroads with the garden. I’m happy to put you in touch with someone local to your area for advice. Send me an email at toni (at) theveggielady.com with details.
Hi I live in Charters Towers & it seems there are many varieties to choose from, can you suggest a good variety for our climb? Also I was told that you need two to get the best pollination result is this true? How do you feel about the dwarf varieties?
I would consult with the macadamia growers assoc for best knowledge.
Hi, I have a macadamia tree about 40 cm high and currently it is planted in a pot. It did grow some new leaves early this summer, but recently it stopped growing but all the leaves are still green. Do you have any idea on possible cause of this? Thanks!
I am Kenya and we are looking for someone to buy our macadamia in large quantities please connect me to a company from the United States
Hi there, we have moved to a place with a Macadamia Tree and I’ve picked a whole bunch that have recently fallen. They look awesome but my question is do I remove the green husk straight away or leave them to dry and crack in their own?
our qld nut tree had lots of little tiny nuts but now they have all fallen off, last year we only had 4 mature nuts any hints on what we may be doing wrong, out tree is 3 years old thanks
Your tree is still only young and may not be mature enough to hold a decentcrop yet. 5 years is not uncommon to wait. Macadamias are also shallow rooted so they are influenced heavily by the environment. If you have had hot weather or variable watering/rainall then this may be enough for the tree to shed its fruit.
When is the macadamia season in Australia? Searched online but can’t find this info anywhere.
I have a Mature Aldi nut tree it is about 12 years old we have not had fruit for about 5 years the tree flowers but we do not get nuts. We live in yugar Queensland.
I have a Mature QLD nut tree it is about 12 years old we have not had fruit for about 5 years the tree flowers but we do not get nuts. We live in yugar Queensland.
have macadamia tree that is 15 years or so old. has had fruit last couple years but only get handfull lots of flowers last couple( bees also no prob with pests) years but no fruit forming . will it react to a burning like most other natives ? other ideas ?
A bit a beginner, but how tall and wide do these trees grow , I have only a small block of 510sqm .
It depends on the variety you choose. There is a dwarf variety available.
Have a look at Daley’s list for QLD.
No it will not rejuvenate like other native plants.
It would depend on conditions and variety.
Possibly speak to the guys at Daley’s
We planted a macadamia tree in our backyard probably 8 -10 years ago but have never had flowers let alone nuts bear. Do Macadamia’s self pollinate or do I need to plant another? Or is our climate too cold? We live in Toowoomba Qld.
It would depend on conditions and variety.
Possibly speak to the guys at Daley’s
what is the unique rooting system of macadamia and how does it affect farmers
Hi, we have an existing macadamia tree on our property & we tried to harvest some nuts last year but left it too late. We’ve just started this year but I’ve been unsuccessful in removing the outer husk without cracking the shell & damaging the kernel. I tried with a hammer like I’d seen on You-tube. Do you have any suggestions/words of wisdom?
How to handle husks? For those small back-yard people wondering how to process the nuts… (with apologies to Veggie Lady, who is doing a marvelous job fielding all these questions!) …
We had a small Macadamia orchard in SW WA. Such an easy crop, as the parrots would (mostly) leave them alone. Not to mention the green nuts would fall naturally to the ground when ready, so harvest is easy even if the trees are big (never pruned them!).
There are two ‘casings’ to open before you get to the edible bit. A very tough leathery green husk encases the very hard pale-brown nut-case, which in turn encases the edible cream-coloured kernel.
Processing? We’d pick the green nuts up as soon as possible after they had naturally dropped (though we often picked up old ones we’d missed from weeks ago!). We’d leave them to dry out for a month or so in an airy shed, single-layer on enclosed wire racks (to avoid mold and rats!). The green husk would go dark brown after about a month, and a split would appear, exposing a glimpse of the pale brown nut-case within. We would then prise the split husks off by hand to expose the pale brown nut. A good nut cracker was then required to get to the creamy kernel. Roasted is best IMO, but we’ve eaten them raw up to a year later and enjoyed them.
Hi there , I bought a tree to plant . But only after digging up all the pavers . I realised the Previous owners has cemented the entire surroundings of the house . Will the tress grow well in a planter box . If I trim and shape it regularly . The best out of a worse situation really . Dire help advise needed please
Oh how disappointing. You would have to have a tree that is suited to container culture and plant it in a very large container, at least the size of a half wine barrel. I would consult the nursery you bought the plant from for advice.