Thursday, January 24, 2008

Going Nuts

Among the fifty other things I want to do this spring (besides that whole baby being born thing) is plant some trees. Specifically, I want to plant a bunch of nut trees. I’ve got apples and peaches already, and I’d dearly love to add cherries (especially since we’re in that magic zone where both sweet and pie cherry varieties can grow well). But for some reason, I think a windbreak/hedge of nut trees is where my focus is right now.

For one thing, nuts are far less finicky than fruits. They generally have fewer pest and disease problems, and they seem better suited to hedgerows and windbreaks - the latter of which we desperately need. They can provide mineral-rich calories for people or livestock. They can provide oil for various uses. Some can be coppiced for firewood or simple building materials. Food and shelter for wildlife. The list goes on and on. And you only have to plant them once.

The main type of nut hedge I’d like to plant is hazelnut. I like the nuts, they grow fast, their suitable for coppicing, and they work well as a hedge. I’m hoping to throw in a few chestnuts (Chinese or hybrid because of chestnut blight) as well for good measure.

Since I want to plant more than a few, and since they’ll need to be shipped, seedlings seem the most cost effective. I’ve been digging for good sources, so I thought I’d pass along a few that seemed to be the best, at least for me. I was looking for growers with responsible growing practices, who are in a climate not too far from mine. I also wanted to favor naturally propagated (open-pollinated, seed-grown) trees, for a more genetically diverse population.

Hazelnuts: Badgersett
You can buy seedlings in various sizes that will produce nuts of various sizes and levels of quality. These guys have spent a lot of time selecting and crossing for improved quality. They also sell hybrid chestnut seedlings, and will soon be adding hickories and butternuts. And you can buy actual nuts for eating from them as well. They’re based in Minnesota.

Chestnuts: Empire Chestnut
Similar to Badgersett, Empire has put a lot of effort into their craft. They’ve spent decades growing and selecting for quality and disease resistance. They sell Chinese, Chinkapin, timber hybrids, wildlife hybrids, seed chestnuts, and table nuts (in season). They are based in Ohio.

Variety: Oikos Tree Crops
Oikos sells a wide range of open pollinated and hybrid chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, hickories, and walnuts, along with fruits (including many North American natives), oaks, perennials, supplies, and on and on. They are based in Michigan.

Another good place to check for tree seedlings is your state Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry (or other analogous entity, depending on where you live). They often sell trees in bundles of 50 or 100. If you’ve got the space or a lot of friends to share with, this can be an extremely inexpensive way to plant a lot of trees.


At 1/25/2008 9:07 AM, Blogger barefoot gardener said...

I have an uncle who has wild hazlenuts growing on his land, and they are FABULOUS!!

I have to warn you, if you don't already know, they are misery to pick and husk though. Those husks get SHARP when they get dry.

Oh, the memories of fighting squirrels, deer and bear for my share!

Good luck with your project!

At 2/01/2008 1:53 PM, Anonymous Jill said...

I'm with you on the nut thing--my dad and I bought some hybrid chestnuts, northern pecans, and apricots from Oikos last year. They were great to work with, the seedlings were packed really well, and their stock seemed very healthy (though we managed to kill off about half of the chestnuts during the Michigan drought last summer). But the rest are planted out in our back pastures and looking good.

This year, like you, we're going to put in some hedges of hazelnuts.



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