Nut bearing trees are often overlooked by the backyard orchardist. They shouldn’t be. Of course nut trees take longer to reach maturity than most fruit trees, but once they start producing, nut trees will continue to reward for decades, even centuries. Most make handsome shade trees in addition to providing delicious and healthful nuts. The best time to plant a nut tree in your backyard was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.
Here’s a brief rundown on some important kinds of nut trees available to the hobby farmer.
The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) has been pretty much wiped out by the devastating chestnut blight. However, the Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima) is blight resistant and is widely available in American nurseries. More recently, a hybrid between the Chinese and American species, called the ‘Dunstan’ chestnut has become available. It combines the best qualities of both species and is apparently immune to chestnut blight. ‘Dunstan’ and Chinese chestnuts can be grown as far north as Michigan and Canada and as far south as Georgia and northern Florida. They get 40-80 feet tall and begin producing in as little as four or five years. Chestnuts are very easy to grow and require less spraying for pests than most fruit trees. Since chestnut trees are not self-sterile, you will need to plant two different cultivars. The only drawback to a chestnut in the back yard is the spiny husks that fall to the ground and create a barefoot hazard.
Perfect Plants does not offer our own Chestnut trees but contact us and we may be able to find you one!
Black walnut tree
The American native, black walnut (Juglans nigra) is a large, imposing tree that can get up to 100 feet tall. With its deciduous leaves and wide spreading form, a black walnut tree makes an excellent shade tree during the summertime. The nuts are oily and sweet and somewhat of an acquired taste. They are hard to crack and command a high price when you can find them in the grocery stores. Black walnuts are mostly used in baking. The wood is among the most valuable of American hardwoods, used for many things including gun stocks, veneer, and furniture. Walnuts produce a chemical called juglone that inhibits other plants from growing near its roots, so you don’t want to have one near the garden. Black walnuts can self pollinate or be self fertile, but you will get better yields if at least two trees are near each other for better cross pollination. Grafted black walnut varieties should begin producing in six or seven years after planting.
The butternut (Juglans cinerea) is another native American nut tree worth considering. Reaching a mature height of 60-80 feet, butternut trees are more cold hardy than other nut trees and can be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 3-7. Like other members of the walnut genus, the butternut is technically a self pollinating nut tree, but will produce more nuts if another single tree for cross pollination is nearby. These trees have both male and female flowers. The nuts are similar to those of the black walnut, but not as oily and strong tasting. Their sweet, buttery flavor is prized in cakes and cookies. Butternuts also produce a chemical from their roots that inhibits the growth of other plants.
English walnut tree
English walnuts, also called California walnuts (Juglans regia), are the common walnuts you see in grocery stores. They are native to the Middle East but have been grown in Europe for centuries and in California for decades. English walnuts are much milder in flavor then black walnuts; easier to shell, too. They can be grown in USDA zone 5, south to zone 9. The Carpathian walnut, (J. regia var. Carpathian) is a variety of English walnut that is hardy to Zone 4. Like black walnuts, English walnuts produce a toxin the inhibits the growth of other plants near their root zones.
The pecan (Carya illinoensis) is North America’s finest native nut tree. Pecans are widely cultivated across the southern US, and many varieties with different properties and adaptations are available. Pecan trees take 20 to 25 years to reach full maturity and get 60-100 feet tall, with a spread of 30-50 feet. Pecan tree cultivars started from container grown stock (such as the pecans Perfect Plants offers) will begin to produce nuts in as little as 4 to 8 years. Select at least two different pollinating varieties since fruit set is improved by cross pollination.
Read more about growing these nuts on our Pecan Grow Guide
There are eleven different species of hickories (genus Carya) in North America, growing in hardiness zones 4 through 9. All large trees produce edible nuts, but only the pecan (Carya illinoensis) is commonly cultivated. The other hickory nuts are smaller and harder to crack open, but just as tasty as pecans. Shagbark (C. ovata) and shellbark (C. laciniosa) hickories are probably the best eating and the best for the backyard orchardist. Hickory nuts are used in cookies and cakes or just eaten as you crack them. Native Americans relied heavily on hickory nuts.
The almond (Prunus dulcis) is closely related to peaches and nectarines. The edible part is actually the seed which is inside a peach-like fruit that is not eaten. Almond trees can get about 25 feet tall. They do best in hot, dry climates, but they still require a couple hundred hours of winter chilling, so they cannot be grown in the tropics. Grafted trees can start bearing nuts about 5 or 6 years after planting. At least two pollinator trees are needed for best cross pollination. Some trees have better disease resistance than others so do your research.
Hazelnuts (Corylus avellana) and filberts (C. maxima), are shrubs or small trees native to Europe and Asia. They typically get about 10 or 15 feet tall. Most cultivars grown for the edible nuts are hybrids between these two species. Hazelnuts are grown in zones 4-8 or 9, and require a period of winter dormancy chill hours, like many of our favorite fruit trees. Hazelnuts can be pruned to a central leader if you want a treelike form, or they can be allowed to grow into a much branched, bushy shrub as wide as it is tall, and best suited for the hedge row.
Consider adding nut tree to your back yard landscape. Your children will thank you for years to come!
Many of these trees we do not have on our website but we may be able to find for you. Contact us to see how we can help!
Tags: nut trees, Pecan Trees
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A few years ago, Bill Lancaster bought six acres of sagebrush and rocks in eastern Washington state with the idea of creating a natural grove of nut trees. “They told me I was crazy to try to grow nut trees here,” he said. But now his neighbors are buying nut trees from him! His 4 acre grove of trees resembles a natural forest. Walnuts and Chinese Chestnuts, planted on a 60 foot spacing, form the upper story of the grove. Filberts, which grow well in partial shade, fill in the 20 foot high lower story.
There are also peach, plum and pear trees planted in the sunny corners and edges of the grove. Grape vines are trellised around the edge of the grove.Bees from his own hives do the pollinating, and peafowl patrol for insects in the grove.
The grove is just reaching it’s prime, producing 8,000 pounds of nuts each year. But the nut and fruit tree grove is only part of Bill’s cash crop income. On the remaining 2 acres, he grows tree seedlings and grafted trees in a backyard nursery, his most profitable plants. His trees are such high quality, they are sold out for two years in advance. Bill says this grove could produce for another 50 years, with very little further work.
Bill Lancaster is an example of what is possible with a well-managed small nut orchard. You don’t need a huge orchard to make a good income. All you need to do is choose the right nut varieties to grow. Here’s more information on Almonds, Chestnuts, Filberts, Pecans and Walnuts, the most promising nut varieties for small growers because they are already grown in commercial quantities and have established markets. Other lesser-known nut varieties with potential are macadamia, pistachio, jojoba and cashews. These lesser-known nuts have exacting growing and microclimate requirements, so be sure to check with your local agricultural extension agent before getting started with these specialty crops.
The United States is one of the leading almond producing countries in the world. Much of the U.S. crop is grown in the Sacramento and San Juaquin valleys of California, Texas and other areas of the Southwest, as almond trees need mild winters and a long, hot growing season. Yields range from 1,500 to 3,000 shelled pounds per acre per year.
The American Chestnut was once the dominant tree in hardwood forests until the chestnut blight fungus destroyed it over 100 years ago. In recent years, most orchards have planted the blight-resistant Chinese Chestnut. Researchers have developed a hybrid chestnut that combines the best qualities of American and Chinese chestnuts and can be grown in most areas of the U.S. This hybrid chestnut, called the “Dunstan,” has been grown with good results since the 1950s. Find out more from: www.chestnuthillnursery.com
Two big pluses for chestnuts are that they can be grown on land too poor or hilly for other crops and the timber value at maturity is very high – almost as high as black walnut. Average nut yields are 2,000 to 3,000 pounds per acre.
The filbert, also called a hazelnut, was one of the first shrubs to appear following the receding glaciers of the last ice age. Today, filberts are grown in areas with cool summers and mild winters, such as Western Oregon and Washington. Filberts have two markets, in-shell and kernel. The in-shell market is seasonal, from Halloween through Christmas. Kernels are sold to bakers, candy makers and salters (for mixed-nut packs).
Most commercial growers use the Barcelona cultivar, which produces larger nuts and sells for premium prices. A good mature orchard can produce around 1,500 pounds of dried nuts per acre.
The first French and Spanish settlers in America found native pecan trees growing in the Mississippi river valleys. Today, pecans are grown in much of the South and Southwest. Climate dictates where pecans can be grown, as it requires a long, frost-free growing season with warm summers and adequate moisture.
Pecans can begin bearing lightly at four years, with commercial production in eight years. Nut production continues to increase until 20 years of age. A mature pecan orchard can yield from 1,200 to 2,000 pounds of nuts per acre.
Walnut trees are grown for both nuts and timber. A walnut orchard can take a few years to come into full production, but then produces up to 6,000 pounds per acre. Black walnut logs bring premium prices, with single trees bringing thousands of dollars. Bruce Thompson, author of “Black Walnut for Profit” estimates a mature stand of black walnut trees can bring about $100,000 per acre in timber value alone.
To bring in income while the walnut trees are growing, many new planting are using “agroforestry,” which uses double-cropping of walnut trees with pasture crops for harvesting or livestock grazing. Trees are planted in widely-spaced rows, at about 100 trees per acre, with other crops between the rows. In addition to pasture crops, high-value crops like raspberries or blueberries can be used.
Agroforestry can provide income four different ways. For the first few years, the only income is from the crop planted between the trees. As the trees become larger, they are thinned to about 30 trees per acre, with wood from the thinning being sold. After a few years, the walnut trees begin to produce nuts for harvesting. When the remaining thinned trees are mature, they are harvested for veneer logs, which bring thousands of dollars per log.
As they are not as common as fruits and vegetables, fresh local nuts bring premium prices at local or regional farmer’s markets, a roadside stand, direct from the tree (U-Pick), or in bulk to local food co-ops. An additional source of income is “value-added” nut products such as nut butters, candies and cookies which can be produced during off-times. Many growers also sell nut tree seedlings and grafted varieties from their own orchards. This can be even more lucrative than selling nuts.
Although it may take a bit more work and patience to establish a planting of nut trees compared to “instant” crops like vegetables, the trees will continue to increase nut production, and profits, for many years as the trees grow. Nut trees can produce for decades as well, producing an dependable income for many years. For example, the original tree planted in a filbert orchard in Scottsburg, Oregon was planted in 1858 and is still producing nuts today. Now that’s a legacy! To learn more about starting your own tree legacy, read Growing Trees For Profit.
Money grows on nut trees
THE future is bright for pecans, with unprecedented demand from Asia, India and the Middle East, but Australian growers need to ramp up production to take part – so says Australian Pecan Growers Association president Scott Clark.
Scott, who has a young orchard of 5000 pecan trees on 25ha of land at Lagoon Grass near Lismore, entered the industry as a way of potentially earning an on-farm income without having to rely on cattle.
His property, which includes creek flats ideal for growing pecans, was first bought by his great-uncle as a dairy farm before his father converted it to beef production.
Since Scott took over the family farm, he has dabbled with stone fruit and wholesale nursery work that still includes production of grafted pecan trees.
But a hugely destructive hailstorm in 2007 delayed his plans to expand into the nut-bearing trees, cutting 1500 newly planted pecans off at ground level.
That event delayed the grafting program and, as a result, eight years later he is only just starting to harvest a small supply of nuts from his oldest trees.
Despite the setbacks, Scott is excited about the future, with the Australian dollar well below US parity and this year’s price to growers at $4.50/kg for nut in shell – a dollar more than last year.
Add to that a seemingly insatiable market into which 30% of Australia’s crop is exported, and there is little wonder that Scott is excited.
The Northern Rivers is particularly suited to pecans, with its climate much like that of Georgia, which produces most of the US crop.
“The tree tolerates a range of soil types, but prefers sandy loam about two metres deep,” Scott said.
The trees continue to produce crop for decades, with some in the US still offering a good harvest after 80 years.
And because the trees lose their leaves in winter, there is an opportunity to grow something else between the rows, which are spaced 10m x 5m.
An orchardist at Bowraville on the NSW mid-north coast grows garlic between his rows.
Beef would work well with the nut trees, once the pecans grew to a reasonable size, but Scott has shunned that alternative and instead plans to run free-range chickens and some sheep, which will co-exist well.
Interestingly, tree spacing in the US is much greater – with only 70 trees per ha compared to 200/ha in a typical Australian plantation.
While the trees respond to chemical fertiliser inputs, and absorb foliar fertiliser particularly well – especially zinc – Scott says he is taking a biological approach with his trees, encouraging their health with mulch, using a side-throw slasher to mound cut grass under the trunks.
As well he uses trace minerals like copper, boron and zinc in humic acid.
He has found an application of gypsum at the right time really moved his trees along, because his soil is high in magnesium and low in calcium.
When it comes to yield, Scott is anticipating upwards of 3t/ha at peak operation which means his small farm is potentially capable of earning its keep – something not so certain in other agricultural industries.
“And once the biology gets going, the inputs for a pecan plantation are small,” he says.
Find Minnesota Nut Tree, Fruit Trees, Flowering tree, Grapevines, Bamboo Plants, Shade Tree and Berry Plants
The most important factor for gardeners in Minnesota is the question of whether he has selected a tree to buy or purchase that will not be damaged or killed by the frigid cold winters. Most gardeners make te decision to plant a tree that will produce fruit or nuts in a hurry or a shade tree that will produce a cooling shade the quickest. The gardener would decide whether or not to plant a large tree, or whether to plant a fast growing tree or bush, Research has shown that fast growing trees produce elongated and enlarged cell walls, but inadequate concentrations of lignin and cellulose that provide insulation that is deposited inside the cell walls will be vulnerable to damage or killing by a sudden drop in temperatures during the winter. Many times it is better to plant a slow growing tree or vine that will survive the winter freezes. Because the winters in Minneapolis, Minnesota brings extreme drops in temperatures of minus 45 degrees, a Minnesotan gardener must carefully select trees for planting outside in gardens or orchards. Minnesota USDA zones are 2,3,4 and 5, a fact that restricts very favorable tree and plant growing in Minnesota of Fruit and Nut trees that are recommended for MN. planting such as the American Black Walnut, Juglans nigra, the Butternut ( white walnut) and Shag bark Hickory nuts. Black walnuts are excellent trees, not only because of the tasty nut kernels, but the black walnut lumber is extremely rare and expensive, desirable for fine cabinets and furniture tables and gun stocks. The White walnut tree is a heavy bearing walnut tree and is cold hardy throughout Minnesota. Hickory trees produce tasty nuts and hickory wood is in high demand for smoking delicious flavor into meats and other foods. Both hickory tree nuts, white walnuts (butternuts) and black walnuts are all an important diet supplement for wildlife animals and wildlife game birds.
The best fruit tree orchards in MN are important, with many new of the best apple fruit trees that are recommended by the University of Minnesota, including the Honey Crisp and the old timer, antique apples, Red Delicious apple trees and Golden Delicious apples. Get crabapple trees that are important pollinators for apple trees, because the the crabapple pollen is necessary for successful cross pollination in insure that apples will be produced. Fig trees are not recommended to grow in MN, unless they are protected and grown inside or in a greenhouse, however, the Chicago Hardy fig tree will grow in zone 5 States, when properly mulched and protected. Many other fig tree cultivars are grown in protected greenhouses during the winter.
Discover the top cherry trees that are fast growing and the North Star cherry tree is an excellent tree for growing sour (tart) cherries. Sweet cherry trees, such as Bing cherry tree and Black Tartarian cherry trees are not cold hardy enough to survive predictable Minnesota snow and ice and temperature drops to minus 45 degrees F. Pear trees can be grown in Southern MN, but very few Pear cultivars are cold hardy enough to revive extreme Minnesota winters. Find apricot trees that can be grown in Minnesota gardens, and the two best recommended cultivars are the Sun Gold apricot that is delicious and very productive and the Moongold Apricot. Apricots are high in fructose sugar content upon ripening in late summer. Plum trees such as the Superior plum trees cultivar will survive in MN.
Latham Raspberry plants are extremely productive throughout Minnesota and the Latham, red raspberry plant cultivars are the most cold hardy raspberry plants. Great interest has been shown in growing berry plants organically in this cold State, and that basically means withholding industrial, inorganic fertilizers and avoiding chemical sprays of every type. Berry plants are ideally adapted for growing in organic soils, much like the native MN raspberry plants that normally grew in the native wild environments. Not only raspberry bushes, but blueberry bushes are best grown in organic heavy soils and are unfortunately often damaged or killed by over- fertilization by Minnesotan gardeners. Pick-you-own organic, blueberry orchards are appearing and thriving as a farm supplement to berry plant and fruit tree income.Get the top high quality information and reviews on berry plants on tytyga.com.
You can order and purchase shade trees must survive very cold winter of USDA climate zones of 3 and 4, so that there are not lots of choices to select with confidence that will survive the frigid cold temperatures in Minnesota. Green Ash trees, The sassafras tree matures into a huge size and not only grows well as a shade tree, but produces clusters of yellow flowers in the summer. Sassafras trees and Maple trees will grow well during the cold winters and the Green Ash tree and the Weeping Willow tree are fast growing trees with tough cold hardiness, and all three of these leaves are brilliantly colored with vibrant leaves during the fall. In USDA climate zone 4, the Ginkgo tree the Sycamore tree and the Oak trees will live and produce cooling shade during the summer and are brightly colored during the fall season. The Japanese Magnolia tree will grow in zone 4 and also Japanese Magnolia trees are covered with bright pink, large fragrant flowers in the spring to grow as an excellent, MN flowering tree. The Lombardy poplar tree is a very fast growing shade tree, sometimes growing over 8 feet during the first year, and when planted closely in dense rows, the Lombardy poplar grows into an excellent privacy screen or an effective wind blocker.
Wildlife animal conservation is important in Minnesota, and the Kieffer pear tree and the seedling crabapple trees produce fall feeding plots for deer, game birds and many wildlife animals in Zone 4. The various kinds of mulberry trees, elderberry plants and the strawberry bush produce lots of berries in zone 3 and 4. The native American chestnut tree and the Chinese chestnut trees are effective nut producers during the late fall when wildlife food is scarce.
Minnesota bamboo plants are very popular landscape plants to decorate covered indoor shopping malls in the cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, MN. The attractive colored canes of fast growing, bamboo plant clumps grow in exotic colors of iridescent blue, bright yellow and shiny black, and the plants are extremely cold hardy to below zero temperatures of minus 20 F. Not only are MN bamboo plants grown as a privacy screen in protected areas, but they a popular green house plants or successfully grown indoors at your home or business office.
In Minnesota Yucca trees, Agave plants and Aloe plants can be grown in dish gardens or in containers as ornamental plants that are armed with prickly, thorny leaves containing thick juices and ending in a sharp spike. The Aloe vera plant is commonly used as a healing first aid solution to bumblebee stings, fire ant bites and serious burns to the skin or flesh wounds. The native American plant, Century Plant, Agave americana, ‘Marginata’ is variegated with creamy white stripes that border each leaf, and the other native American plant Spanish Bayonet, Yucca gloriosa at maturity sends up a stalk of flowers 30 feet high and after a period dies, leaving a clump of small plants at the base. The Agave tequilana contains thick sweet juice that can be fermented into tequila, a strong alcohol drink.
Long rows of tightly planted American chestnut trees line a field here near the Minnesota-Iowa border. But these aren’t your great-grandfather’s chestnuts.
Those 80-foot giants with massive trunks — the kind that led Longfellow to write, “Under a spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands” — were largely wiped out by an invasive fungus in the early 1900s, nearly eradicating the trees once known as the Redwoods of the East.
In this unlikely patch of southern Minnesota, though, the American chestnut is thriving in a new form, a 40-foot hybrid engineered in a laborious and time-consuming breeding technique, nurtured by a Minnesota researcher with a passion for the trees.
“The first chestnuts that I planted here, we had winter mortality somewhere around 90 percent. They just couldn’t stand the winters,” said Philip Rutter, who figures he’s planted about 40,000 chestnut trees over the years on his 160 acre, completely-off-the-grid farm. “This is the coldest, driest place in the world anybody works with chestnuts at all.”
A chestnut burr on a tree at Badgersett Research Farm. Alex Kolyer for MPR News
Trained as an evolutionary ecologist, Rutter has been a leader in the increasingly successful effort to revive the American chestnut for its beauty and what he sees as its potential as an economical source of food. He now serves along with former President Jimmy Carter, as an honorary director of the American Chestnut Foundation. Rutter was the group’s founding president in the early 1980s.
On a recent day, Rutter showed off what he’s built. He walked toward one of his most productive trees and picked up a chestnut burr that landed on the snow. The seed pod once held three chestnuts inside. The outside looks like a sea urchin about the size of a lemon.
Rutter figures it’s a 10-year wait before a tree starts producing nuts. “They’ll start to produce flowers when they’re 3,” he said. “But you don’t get good pollination until you’ve got big trees to really spread pollen out over things.”
A century ago, the American chestnut made up about a quarter of the hardwood forests, particularly in the Appalachian region from Georgia to southern Canada. But in 1904, a fungus imported on Chinese chestnut trees, began destroying the trees, and within 30 years, wiped out nearly 4 billion American chestnuts.
The goal of hybridization is to give the American trees the blight resistance of the Chinese chestnut, without its undesirable traits such as shrub-like growth.
Chestnut trees line snowy pathways at Badgersett Research Farm in Canton, Minn. Alex Kolyer for MPR News
Research on genetic engineering and fungal diseases also show promise, said Lisa Thomson, president of the American Chestnut Foundation.
“We are still testing,” she said. “We are still learning, and we don’t have a perfectly blight-resistant tree yet through the hybridization process.”
The hope is that knowledge gained from the American chestnut experiments can help save other species from exotic pests like the emerald ash borer, said United States Forest Service Pathologist Bruce Moltzen. The chestnut’s revival, he said, is a step in the right direction.
“The ultimate hope is to one day be able to get a tree that resembles what we once had and these things were quite spectacular,” he added. “Not very many people remember how big these trees actually got and what they represented.”
Rutter said the rise of the local food movement has helped bump up chestnut sales in recent years. He sells chestnut seedlings online and some of his crop to Rochester and Twin Cities restaurants and co-ops, including the Eastside Co-Op in Minneapolis, Heartland Restaurant in St. Paul, and all three Mississippi Market locations.
Philip Rutter has dedicated his life to working on American hybrid chestnuts. Rutter, his wife and an assistant grow chestnuts on the family farm near Canton, Minn. Alex Kolyer for MPR News
He hasn’t turned a profit on his operation yet. But with advances in hybridization and genetic engineering, he’s convinced that his three decades of investing in chestnuts will soon provide a return.
Rutter poured a couple dozen nuts out of a Mason jar and cracked one open. The nuts are highly nutritious and their value goes far beyond providing a holiday treat, he added.
“Chestnuts used to be a staple. Chestnut bread is older than wheat bread,” he said. “One of the simple reasons to do this is they’re really good. They’re mysteriously tasty food.”
Gallery Fullscreen SlidePrevious Slide 5 of 5 Philip Rutter looks at a tray of sprouted chestnuts in the greenhouse.Alex Kolyer for MPR News 1 of 5 Mark Hamann prepares Chinese New Year chicken and chestnuts for lunch in the Rutters’ home.Alex Kolyer for MPR News 2 of 5 Mark Hamann holds a peeled, roasted chestnut just after it came out of the oven.Alex Kolyer for MPR News
You must crack the nut before you can eat the kernel. — Irish proverb
Some gardeners would also add that it’s good to grow the nuts before you try to crack them. Nut crops have a certain mystique, and there’s a sense among gardeners that they are difficult to grow or take a very long time to mature. But don’t be intimidated by nuts. There are some new hybrids that might be easier to grow than you think. Nut grower Phil Rutter, of the Badgersett Research Corporation in Canton, Minn., has three woody species to recommend: hazelnuts, chestnuts and hickory-pecans.
Hazelnuts (Corylus x hybrids) are probably the easiest nuts for beginners. Most hazelnuts sold in the Upper Midwest are hybrids bred from European and American species. These crosses were created to achieve resistance to Eastern filbert blight. They are hardy in USDA Zones 4 and 5, and worth a try in Zone 3, particularly in protected areas. Their growth habit is a large shrub, 10-12 feet high and 6-8 feet wide, but can be pruned to maintain a smaller size. They yield four to five years after bearing, ripening in September each year.
Hazelnuts make an attractive shrub for the home landscape.
Ripe hazelnuts often have a red color.
American chestnuts (Castanea dentata) were essentially wiped out by chestnut blight, a fungal disease from Asia. Most chestnuts today combine parentage of Chinese or Japanese chestnuts, which have some resistance to the blight. Hardiness depends on the parent species, since Chinese chestnuts are only hardy to USDA Zone 5, while American chestnuts have more cold tolerance. Chestnuts spoil quickly when fresh but keep well when dried properly. Badgersett chestnuts will start bearing in three to five years and are hardy in Zone 5 and perhaps in Zone 4, depending on the microclimate.
A chestnut tree laden with nuts.
Chestnuts are large trees, so siting is important.
Hickory-pecan (Carya x) hybrids have been created in order to take advantage of the cold tolerance of hickories, as well as the flavor of pecans. The hickory-pecan hybrids from Badgersett include genetics from shagbark and bitternut hickories and pecans. They are hardy in USDA Zone 5, and worth a try in Zone 4. Individual trees vary somewhat in flavor, with some tasting more like pecans and some more like hickory. Most trees have shells that are thin enough to be cracked with a hand-operated nutcracker.
Once they begin production, hickory-pecans yield well.
Hickory-pecan flowers look like exotic jungle blooms.
Tips for Planting and Growing Nuts
Know your Soil
If you haven’t had your soil tested recently, you might want to. But no matter what your situation, there’s probably a nut that will work for you. Hazelnuts need a pH of 6.5 or higher. Beyond that, they are very tolerant of different kinds of soil, and will grow well in sand, loam or clay. They even tolerate wet feet, or intermittently flooded areas. Chestnuts prefer a pH below 6.5 and well-drained soil. Hickory-pecans need a pH of 6.0, or higher. This large tree requires careful siting, but it will grow on a hill or in a river bottom.
Plant Young Stock
Older transplants may look more impressive, but nuts have root systems that resent being moved. Purchasing smaller plants is better and they grow quickly.
Mow, Don’t Mulch
Contrary to the popular practice of mulching young trees and shrubs, Rutter recommends skipping the mulch, because it can cause drainage problems. Instead, mow up to around 6 inches away from the plant. A few extra grasses around the nuts will disguise them from deer and rabbits. Otherwise, you can use shears to trim the grass around the plant. Always be careful not to nick the trunk with string trimmers or a lawn mower.
Judicious use of a balanced fertilizer can really help nut trees. To avoid problems with burning, use a bulb planter to dig a hole 18-24 inches from the base of the plant and place the granular fertilizer in the hole.
Nuts have a deep root system, so it’s important to give them deep soakings.
Alleviate Soil Compaction
Since hazel roots can reach 11 feet deep, they need soils that are free of compaction.
Protect From Pests
A number of critters really enjoy nuts, including squirrels, deer and crows. Covering them with bird netting used for fruit trees can protect hazels and young nut trees. The family dog can also provide an effective deterrent.
Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative, sponsored by University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Minnesota, and University of Wisconsin Extension.
Midwest Nut Producers Council, Information on growing chestnuts. Affiliated with Michigan State University
Michigan Nut Growers Association
Iowa Nut Growers Association
Upper Midwest Nurseries and Suppliers
Badgersett Research Corporation, Canton, Minn.
Hazelnuts, chestnuts and hickory-pecan nuts.
Forest Agriculture Enterprises LLC, Viola, Wis.
Hazelnuts and chestnuts.
Red Fern Farm, Wapello, Iowa
Hazelnuts, chestnuts and pecans.
Hazelnut Valley Farm, Lake City, Minn.
About Badgersett Research Corp.
Badgersett is a for-profit research and development corporation, directed and operated by Philip A. Rutter and staff. The farm and research facility are located in the southeastern corner of Minnesota, about 8 miles north of Iowa and 60 miles west of the Mississippi River. Badgersett sells nut trees, as well as nut products, and hosts an annual field day and nut courses. For more information, visit badgersett.com.
Photos courtesy of Phil Rutter/Badgersett.com
Erika Jensen is a freelance writer in Waupun, Wis., and a frequent contributor to Wisconsin Gardening magazine and newsletter.