The Miracle of  Growing Food Regeneratively

Creating Local Food Security & Healthy, Vibrant, Regenerated Living Soil, & Nutrient Dense Food

HOW TO GROW NUTS

 

Nuts are one of the most valuable crops to grow. They can be very productive over time, but obviously growing nuts is a medium to long-term investment in time and land space. However, if you are serious about growing food for yourself, family or your local community, then investing in nut production should definitely be on your list of ‘To Do’s’. If you are limited for space then stick to smaller trees like hazels, we have been able to fit 3 hazel bushes on our 1,000 square metre (¼ acre) plot of land. Of course if you want to establish a forest-garden then nut trees are a must as part of the mix of trees and plants (see the section - ‘Different Approaches’ - FOREST GARDENING)

Nuts are very nutritious, outstripping wheat and other grains in food value – here is a comparison between wheat, hazel nuts and walnuts:

Nutritional value per 100g:

WHEAT

Energy.....1,368kJ.(274Cal)

Carbs ……..... 71.18%

Sugars ………...0.41%

Protein ……..…12.6%

HAZEL NUTS

Energy.....3,023kJ (505Cals)

Carbs.............16.7%

Sugars...........4.35%

Protein............34%

WALNUTS

Energy......2,736kJ (547Cals)

Carbs.............11.0%

Sugars............2.6%

Protein...........27.0%

Having said that, it is very important to realise that nuts and grains contain numerous enzyme inhibitors that reduce the body’s ability to digest the nutrients they do contain – however this can be easily alleviated – (see the section Fermenting Grain Etc) – on how to increase their digestibility.

Most nut trees also provide useful timber, such as walnut, and even hazel trees produce valuable stakes for use in the vegetable garden for growing beans up, and making temporary fencing, etc.

Seek out varieties that crop earlier than either wild versions or other cultivars. For instance the selective cultivars of sweet chestnuts 'Marron de Lyon' or 'Paragon' will fruit within two to five years, whilst wild seedlings may take up to twenty years to produce! Also the modern grafted cultivars of walnuts can fruit within five to six years, whereas traditional ones took ten or more years and were not in full production until thirty years.

Also pruning and training can induce earlier production. Even growing large trees like sweet chestnuts and walnuts, can be induced into producing earlier by training the trees into a bowl shape – i.e. cut back the young sapling to three outward pointing healthy buds about half a metre (20in) from ground level and each year cutting the side growths back by a third to two sidewise pointing buds. In this way a bowl shape will be formed of six main branches with an open centre. Trees trained in this way will not only crop earlier, but are easier to handle and pick. The same technique can be used for hazels, almonds, macadamias etc.

ALMONDS (Prunus dulcis)

Almonds are so useful. You can sprout them, grind them into almond meal, add them skinned to rice or vegetables, or just eat them after soaking the shelled kernels in warm saline solution for 7 hours or more then rinsed and dried in a slow oven or dehydrator.

Soil & Site:

Almonds like well-drained soil and will not tolerate a heavy wet soil in winter. Almonds blossom in late winter/early spring, and for this reason it is good to plant them in a sheltered position where the blossom won't get damaged by strong winds or air frosts.

Rootstocks:

Almonds are usually bud-grafted onto seedling almond stock.

Varieties:

All-in-One: I guess the name says it all - a self-fertile Almond that is highly recommended for home orchards. It is a semi-dwarf variety, which grows to 4.5m x 3.5m (15 x 11½ft). It produces heavy crops of large soft-shell nuts with a sweet flavour (hence its other name – Fat Boy). Suitable for warmer areas, as they require less winter chill than other varieties. Plant it in a sheltered position. We planted one in our front garden in the winter of 2013, and it’s producing well.

Almond 402: This variety has large, soft-shelled almonds. It is a heavy producer and ripens early. It is also self-fertile and is a good pollinator for other varieties. It prefers a sunny position away from harsh wind and frost.

Almond Self-Fertile: Obviously self-fertile. This variety produces large soft-shelled nuts.

Planting:

To give your trees a good start - (See the section ‘Growing Tree Fruit’ - PLANTING TREE FRUIT). Planting is best carried out during winter.

Support & Training:

They will need staking for the first few years.

The ‘All-in-One’ tree we bought in winter 2013 was about 1.75 metres (6ft) high.

After planting, I cut out the central leader to knee height – 0.6m (2ft) just above three main side branches, plus two smaller ones.

The side branches were cut back by a third to two side pointing buds each – one on each side – which grew into two branches the following season and is now the vase or bowl shape I was looking for.

Training the tree this way will keep the tree at a reasonable height, allow an open centre for air and light to penetrate, and create a productive tree earlier in its life than would otherwise happen if it was left to grow upwards naturally – (see the picture right):

Maintenance:

For first five or six years, they will not bear fruit, however it is essential to ensure they have adequate water during these first few years.

Our young 'All In One' Almond tree

Mulching:

In its young years mulch down with 15cm (6in) spray-free straw, after that undersow with a grass/clover mix, and also an area with insect attractant plants like Bee Balm, Borage, German Chamomile, Clover, Phacelia, Sweet Alyssum, Thyme, etc.

Feeding:

Mulching annually with well-rotted compost or manure is usually sufficient in the first few years. After that apply an annual dressing of powdered seaweed, or fresh washed seaweed in the winter.

Pruning:

Do not prune in winter! Late pruning in spring reduces canker infections in pruning cuts and allows you to remove winter-killed branches. Almonds can also be pruned in autumn immediately after fruit picking.

Apart from initial training, keeping the height down to 4-5m (13-16ft) and an annual cutting out of dead, diseased and crossed wood, as well as removing a little unproductive wood in the summer, is about it.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Depending upon variety, almonds are ready for harvest from early autumn. Harvest as soon as most (75 per cent or more) of the hulls have split open exposing the almond shell inside. It is also important to keep your tree well watered up to the time of harvest, since the hulls will not split well if the tree lacks water.

Spread a plastic sheet under the tree and knock the almonds from the trees by striking the small branches with a pole. Pick the nuts up promptly to prevent possums, mice or rats from eating them. Remove the hulls promptly from the nuts and then spread them in a thin layer on a tray or screen to allow good air circulation under cover, preferably in a sunny spot, to prevent mould growth in storage. Stir them often to dry them well. You may need to cover the drying nuts with a screen or plastic netting to prevent loss from birds.

Check the nuts regularly for dryness. To do this remove the shells from several nuts and break the kernels. If the kernels are rubbery they will need more drying. They are ready for storage when their kernels are crisp to brittle when broken. When properly dried, in-shell almonds can be stored at room temperature on in a cool dry store, hung in netting to avoid mice eating them.

Propagation:

Almond trees, like so many trees are difficult to root from cuttings, so graft the named variety onto the seedling stock. Cuttings are taken from trees during dormancy and grafted to a suitable rootstock in the spring.

To grow your seedling rootstocks:

1. Carefully use a nutcracker to crack the shell and extract the nut, being very careful not to damage the nut inside.

2. Soak your raw almonds in warm to room temperature water for 24 hours.

3. Use 8-10cm (3-4in) plant pots, remembering that they and their nuts will have to sit in your refrigerator where the temperature stays just above freezing for about six weeks. This process is called stratification. If you live in colder winters you can leave them outside, but you run the risk of animals and bugs eating the almond before it gets a chance to grow. Fill the pots up all the way with the soil mixture, as the almond roots tend to go deep.

4. Bury two soaked almonds per hole about 7.5cm (3in) below the soil surface in the pots. This will ensure that at least one grows. If both do, discard the extra one. Place the whole pot in a plastic bag and close it up to create a humid environment. Set it in your refrigerator (or cold garden) for six weeks.

5. After six weeks remove them from the plastic bag. Place them in a warm glasshouse, tunnel-house, or a sunny window until the weather warms up and the average daily temperature outside is regularly above 100C (500F).

6. Plant them outside in their final site, or in a nursery bed in full sun. Almond seedlings don’t like root disturbance, so keep as much of the soil in the pot around them.

7. Bud or whip & tongue graft onto your seedling rootstock from a chosen variety.

8. As almonds send down deep roots, when they are between ½-1m (1½-3ft) they rarely need regular watering.

9. Keep down weeds and mulch down with 10-15cm (4-6in) spray-free straw or 6cm (2¼in) grass clippings for the first 3 years.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Aphids and leaf-eating Caterpillars: Spray with homemade garlic, chilli and ginger spray – (see the section ‘Pests & Diseases’Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray).

Peach leaf curl: can attack almonds as well as peaches. It’s a fungus infection that will start to brown your tree’s leaves, and then they will curl up tightly. If this happens to your trees, remove the infected leaves right away and dispose of them. Burning is a good idea so the fungus doesn’t spread. Rake any dropped leaves off the ground around your trees. If you can’t control it, spraying regularly through the growing season with Trichoderma viride powder, mixed thoroughly in water, or liquid Trichoderma, which can be bought in some countries.

Alternatively, spraying with urine watered down 3 to 1 in the growing season, and then spraying undiluted urine over the whole tree plus the ground around it in the winter, should help to control leaf curl (urine is a good natural fungicide) – (see the section ‘Pests & Diseases’HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES – Urine).

HAZEL NUTS (Corylus avellana)

Hazelnuts are highly valued for their delicious taste plus the fact that they are high in protein and oil, Vitamin E and anti-oxidants. They take up a lot less room than other nut trees – 2-3m (6½-10ft) apart and 4-5m (13-16ft) high – so if you are limited for space, hazels are well worth thinking about.

ONE OF OUR HAZEL BUSHES

Soil & Site:

Hazels can be grown in a wide range of soils, but ideally they need a relatively fertile well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter to hold moisture; preferably with a good depth of topsoil between 30-60cm (1-2ft). Stony or sandy soils are not ideal because they present a real challenge in maintaining adequate soil moisture levels. Aim for a pH of 6.5 as with most other horticultural and farm crops.

Hazels are naturally forest edge trees, or grow in the understory of larger trees. As a result good shelter is essential, including partial shade, especially at midday in areas with hot summers, because the trees can suffer from overheating and sunburn in hot weather.

Rootstocks:

Hazels are grown on their own roots, from layered stools or runners.

Varieties:

To ensure adequate pollination it is advisable to include a mix of at least 2 different varieties mixed in together.

Alexandra: is a New Zealand selection from Central Otago. It forms a large vigorous, open, spreading tree with few suckers. The nuts usually fall free of the husk. Pollinate with Merveille de Bolwillier or Whiteheart.

Barcelona: is a vigorous grower that produces large nuts in great quantities. Pollinate with 'Merveille de Bolwillier' or 'Butler'. 4m high and 3m wide (13x10ft)

Ennis: is an abundant cropper with nuts that are large, tasty and attractive. Pollinate with 'Alexandra' or Merveille de Bolwillier.

Merveille de Bolwiller: Has large round nuts. Pollinate with 'Alexandra'. Tonda di Giffoni: A high yielding Hazelnut tree with large succulent nuts that ripen at the end of summer. Pollinate with 'Barcelona'.

Whiteheart: One of the best. A great producer with well-filled nuts. Use 'Merveille de Bolwiller' or 'Alexandra'as the pollinator.

Planting:

To give your trees a good start – (see the section ‘Growing Tree Fruit’ - PLANTING TREE FRUIT).

Plant at 2m-3m (6½-10ft) between trees in rows 4m-5m (13-16ft) apart. Hazel nuts are wind pollinated and therefore are best planted in blocks, so whichever way the wind blows the female flowers will get pollinated. The mail flowers are long fluffy catkins that puff out pollen in late winter and the females have very small bright red flowers on top of a bud usually on the twiggy branches.

Support & Training:

They will not need support. The best way to train them is to form them into a ‘vase’ shape with five main branches with an open centre, on a 45cm (18in) leg. For newly planted young trees, prune the leader back to three or four lateral branches just above 45cm (18in). Shorten these laterals to 22cm (8½in), then remove all other laterals below them. Over the next two years, let 10-12 well-spaced shoots develop to form the main branches.

Maintenance:

Spray with liquid seaweed and/or compost tea every few weeks during the growing season. Hazels send up suckers around the main stem, these should be cut out each autumn.

Mulching:

Apart from the annual mulch of compost or rotted manure, mulch during the growing season with 4-5cm (1½-2in) grass clippings or spray-free straw, leaving a little gap around the trunk.

Feeding:

Mulching annually with well-rotted compost or manure is usually sufficient, along with a dressing of seaweed meal or fresh seaweed that has had the salt hosed off.

Pruning:

Prune at the end of winter when the catkins are elongating and producing their pollen. Test by gently knocking some to see if they produce a pollen cloud. The shaking of the catkins as you prune will help to pollinate the small red female flowers. This is the time to cut out the inevitable runners that come up around the main trunk, and to cut back the new long shoots to three or four buds.

In late summer break down the long shoots halfway along their length, but leave the short twiggy growths, as these usually have the female flowers on that produce the nuts. In the following winter prune back the half broken shoots to three or four buds. This will build up the spurs over the years that will produce the nuts. As they age, remove any worn-out branches where strong new growth exists to replace them.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Hazelnuts are harvested when they fall naturally to the ground and should be dried thoroughly prior to storage. Pick them up regularly to avoid possums and rats eating them. Secure storage against mice and rats is also important, like steel bins, or onion bags suspended from the ceiling.

Hazel stakes are very useful as beanpoles, etc. However they will have to be trained from upright new shoots, or from trees that are used for that purpose only, by cutting down all the branches in the winter to near ground level and allowing them to grow the next season.

Propagation:

On a small scale you can dig out the outer shoots. Hazelnuts spread by underground runners that develop roots. These runners can be cut away from the main plant using a sharp digging spade. This is best done in late autumn after the leaves have dropped and the bushes are dormant. The roots of the transplanted shoots will continue to grow until it gets cold.

On a larger scale you can propagate by ‘stooling’, which is a form of layering. In early winter cut an established bush down to just above ground level, removing the branches. Then mound up topsoil over the cut down stems to a depth of around 8cm. In mid to late spring, new shoots will start to grow through. Several times throughout the growing season mound up the shoots with more topsoil to a final depth of 15-20cm (6-8in), making sure you leave the tops of the shoots uncovered. During the next winter carefully remove some of the soil to see if the shoots have produced new roots. If they have, cut off the rooted shoots and transplant into a nursery bed, or into their final place. This can be repeated many times over several years, or you can let the bush regrow, training it back into its original form.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

(Refer to the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ for maximising resistance).

Pest and disease control is particularly important when the trees are young as any damage can kill them.

Pests

Big bud mite: is a microscopic mite that lives inside the dormant buds sucking the sap from the embryonic leaves, this causes the buds to become swollen and rounded. The buds often dry up not producing any leaves, or have stunted foliage with few or no flowers. If it is noticed in time, picking off the effected buds and disposing of them will keep it in check. If the infestation is severe then spraying with a sulphur spray, spring and autumn, should help.

Grass shield beetle: These beetles feed on the nuts, causing a distortion of the kernel making them taste bitter. They are easily controlled with Neem oil as well as good orchard hygiene.

Hazel leaf miner: Causes premature defoliation of trees and no controls are known at present. As with other pests and diseases, improvements in plant resistance will help.

Lemon tree borer: Usually these borers only affect trees that are already unhealthy. With healthy trees it is very rare. It can be controlled by pruning out affected stems which have been weakened by borers tunnelling up them.

Hares and Rabbits: Hares bite the tops off young trees and rabbits can eat the foliage and gnaw the bark. Use tree guards if this is a problem.

Possums: in Australia and New Zealand possums may steal nuts whilst they are on the ground, so prompt and regular harvesting will keep this to a minimum. Possum traps are also available, if they are climbing the trees, eating the branches, leaves and the nuts.

Rats: The same as above stealing nuts on the ground, so harvest regularly.

Squirrels: are a common and serious pest for anybody growing nuts in the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa, and were also introduced by humans to Australia. The best trap seems to be the Kania Trap, which is effective and humane and available.

Diseases

Bacterial blight (Xanthamonas corylina): This bacterium causes dieback of the leaves and shoots and can even attack new buds, stunting them, usually to young trees that have not got fully established. Stress produced by wind, hot sun or a lack of water can make the trees more susceptible to attack. At its worse, it can kill the tree. The usual remedy is copper spray in spring and autumn, but I do not like to use copper as it kills soil organisms. If you do use it, place a plastic sheet under the tree whilst spraying. My choice would be to use a strong garlic, chilli and ginger spray spring and autumn, which is natural bactericide – (see the section: ‘Pests & Diseases’).

Phytophthora: is a soil-borne fungus that kills the tree’s roots. Phytophthora is more of a problem in heavy soils and/or high rainfall. If you have a heavy clay soil, use a crowbar to break up the bottom of an extra large planting hole and use a well drained potting compost mix when filling in around the tree roots.

For more information on hazelnut growing see: http://www.hazelnut-growers.org.nz/ this is not an organic site, but it is very useful and has a section on growing organically.

MACADAMIA (Macadamia integrifolia)

For many people Macadamia nuts are one of the favourite ones for taste.

However they are tender and will only grow where air temperatures do not get below freezing. They take 4-5 years before producing.

Macadamia Orchard

Soil & Site:

Macadamias prefer temperate to tropical climates that are frost-free, but areas that have mild frosts at ground level with the air temperature above freezing will get away with it. Here in the Nelson area, New Zealand, we have so many microclimates that inland away from the coast and in frosty valleys it is not possible to grow macadamia nuts. However, on North facing sunny slopes where the cold air rolls off at night, and areas near the coast, I know of people who grow macadamias successfully. The most obvious places to grow macadamia nuts in New Zealand are the Auckland region and regions further north. They like an average rainfall.

Macadamias like a well-drained soil rich in organic matter but can tolerate a wide range of conditions from clay to sandy loam, with a pH of 5-6. If the pH is that already, then they will still benefit from 4 handfuls of gypsum (Calcium Sulphate) per square metre (yard), to supply both valuable calcium and sulphur without raising the pH any more.

Plant them in a sunny spot with protection from prevailing winds and cold Southerlies, especially when young.

Rootstocks:

Seedling rootstock, or commercial rootstock Hinde (H2).

Pollination:

Pollination is performed by honeybees; as a result, weather will affect pollination if it is too windy and wet during flowering resulting in a low nut set, so protection from winds will help.

Varieties:

There are two main species of macadamia:

1. Macadamia tetraphylla comes from mid NSW and is more tolerant of cooler climates. These trees tend to be vertical in growth and prickly with pink flowers and new growth. Most rootstock is tetraphylla. This is obviously the type to grow in cooler climates.

2. Macadamia integrifolia comes from Northern NSW and Queensland in Australia and prefers warmer frost-free climates.

No planting of a single variety is recommended as macadamias do better when the various types are mixed to allow cross-pollination, thus increasing yields.

Beaumont: Self-fertile but more fruitful with a pollinator. Heavy yields of large nuts that need to be picked, because they will not drop. Texture and flavour very good, nut tends to be high in sugar. A good consistent producer for the home garden and small farm. This variety has been bred for New Zealand and is the most commonly grown one commercially.

GT201: Average sized nuts. Heavy and consistant cropper. Size - 6-8m (20-26ft). Ideal pollinator for Beaumont. PA39: Matures early and tends to drop nuts. Crops well and combines well with Beaumont as a pollinator.

Renown: An open tree with good crop and is a good pollinator. A good variety for home use with large nuts.

Own Choice: Another good variety for the domestic garden with good self or cross-pollination. Large nuts.

Planting:

To give your trees a good start – (See the section ‘Growing Tree Fruit’ - PLANTING TREE FRUIT). Planting is best carried out in the spring. Trees should be planted in rows with 6m (20ft) between rows and minimum of 4m (13ft) between trees, or diagonal planting at 5m (16½ft).

Support & Training:

Stake newly planted young trees for the first two years. Train the trees in an open ‘vase’ shape, on a 60cm (2ft) bare stem.

Maintenance:

Irrigate as the nuts are starting to swell if it is dry.

Mulching:

Trees should be mulched around the trees, especially in the early years. Then sown down with a red clover grass mix, mowed regularly and the clippings left to rot down.

Feeding:

Macadamias benefit from trace elements that are best supplied by seaweed sprays, mulching with seaweed, or applying powdered seaweed to the soil, or all three!

Pruning:

Some pruning is desirable after planting to reduce the tree to two leaders at each branching.

The tree should be pruned to allow for light, picking and air movement in the centre. The tree can be thinned to a minimum of internal branches without effecting production. The height should be kept at picking height. After training new growth may also need to be trimmed.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Picking: It is best to pick the nuts when ripe, but before they drop, especially if it is wet. To work out when to pick, wait until a few have started to drop and the nut husks starting to split on the tree. To test for maturity, when opened, both the nut husk interior and the nut should be brown (not white). Picking too early will result in many small and hard kernels, which will be useless. Pull or cut the nut clusters from the tree, having spread a net under the tree.

Husking: It is best to de-husk the nuts within 24 hours of picking to prevent mould, rancidity and germination.

Drying & Storing:

Nuts are best hung in a well-ventilated place to reduce moisture content and protection from mice etc. Failure to store in a dry well ventilated pace will lead to mould, rancidity and even germination. Nuts should be crisp when fully dry and should rattle when shaken to indicate that the kernel has shrunk away from the shell.

Propagation:

Graft chosen variety onto seedling rootstock, or Hinde H2.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

(Refer to the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ for maximising resistance)

Shield Bug: This is the main problem for NZ. They can pierce the immature nut and stain the kernel brown and towards the end of flowering (September).

Leaf Roller Caterpillar: can also be a problem.

For both these pests (see: the section ‘Pests & Diseases’Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray)

Rats: can be a problem and an eradication program is advised. The rats often reside in bird's nests or piles of rubbish or weeds and these should be removed.

Possums: will eat the soft greens nuts, so trapping is advised if there is a problem.

Squirrels: The best trap seems to be the Kania Trap, which is effective and humane and available in most countries.

PECAN ORCHARD

PECAN (Carya illinoinensis)

Pecan nuts are members of the Hickory family that originated in North America. They are fast growing deciduous trees. These nutritious and delicious nuts are produced in clusters. Their height in 10 years will reach 9m x 6m (30 x 20ft), although they can be kept lower at 6m (20ft). 

Pecan trees flower from spring, about a week after the leaves have started to open. The nuts mature in the autumn and fall from autumn through to mid winter.

Soil & Site:

Pecans are native to river and creek bottoms, where the soils are deep, well drained and fertile, with a good water holding capacity, so apply at least two buckets of well-rotted garden compost per square metre before planting mixed into the top few centimetres. Pecans planted on shallow soils will have trouble developing to their full potential. They prefer a soil pH of between 6 and 6.5.

Pecans grow well in mild climates to cold climates. However they require about 150 to 210 frost-free days during the growing season to produce nuts, but they also need a chill spell during winter. The pecan can stand heavy frosts when dormant, but late frosts prevent fruit setting and can even kill the embryonic nuts. A site with late air frosts is therefore not suitable.

Rootstocks:

Seedlings grown for grafting onto.

Varieties:

Most varieties start cropping around 5 to 7 years and eventually grow to 3m high and 2m wide.

Carya Colby: This variety produces very meaty thin-shelled pecans. Recommended pollinator is Carya Peruque.

Carya Hirschi: produces large thin-shelled pecans. The nuts mature in May and June when they fall from the tree. They are self-fertile but will do better when cross-pollinated. Recommended pollinator is Carya Colby.

Carya Lucas: A very heavy cropper. The pecans are thin-shelled rich in flavour and easily shell out. Recommended pollinator is Peruque.

Carya Peruque: is very productive. Recommended pollinators are Colby and Pawnee.

Planting:

To give your trees a good start – (see the section: ‘Growing Tree Fruit’ - PLANTING TREE FRUIT).

Planting is best carried out during winter. Pecan trees have a very long life span and can attain a great size if you let them. However, they can be planted 7.5m (24ft) apart for the first few years, eventually thinning to 15m (50ft) apart when they grow too close.

Support & Training:

If grown in windy conditions large branches are often blown down. Therefore pecans should be grown in sheltered sites and trained into a vase shape on a half metre (1½ft) leg, and to reduce height and for ease of harvesting.

Animals should not be allowed in the paddock for at least three years after planting unless the trees are protected. Where it is intended to graze stock underneath, the stem should be trained to 2 metres (6½ft) free of side branches.

Maintenance:

Foliar feeding with seaweed spray twice in the growing season will supply trace elements, plus potassium and magnesium.

The required rainfall and irrigation requirement for pecan production per year is between 75cm and 200cm (30-79in). Here in Nelson we have around 66cm (26in) per annum, so to grow Pecans successfully, irrigation is required as the nuts start to grow, up until maturing, in order to initiate nut growth, increase their size and prevent the nuts from drying out and dropping prematurely.

Mulching:

Mulch around the trees to just beyond the drip line with grass and clover clippings. Some of the healthiest fruit and nut trees I have seen are grown by one of our neighbours up the hill from us, who cuts the red clover and grass growing in his orchard which he piles around his trees with the regular addition of worm juice from his worm farm. In other words he creates little compost heaps around each tree – and do they look healthy!

Feeding:

An annual feed in early spring, of seaweed meal, plus Eco or Organic Fertiliser, plus one bucket of compost per square metre (yard) around the perimeter of the tree where the feeding roots are will produce good crops.

Pruning:

In winter prune out all diseased, crossing or damaged branches, as well as any runners around the trunk. Cut out any inward pointing growths to keep the centre of the tree open.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Some varieties tend to produce their main crops every other year. Pick fallen nuts regularly. Taking care of the nuts when they fall is important. Pecans last a long time, particularly when frozen and can hold their freshness for up to two years. Store shelled or unshelled. Nuts in the shell retain their quality longer than shelled.

Propagation:

Propagation can be done by taking cuttings or grafting onto seedling rootstock.

Cuttings:

1. Take cuttings in late spring or early summer when the tree is no longer dormant.

2. Fill a 12cm (5in) pot with pumice grist, perlite or vermiculite, or a half/half mix of pumice grist and vermiculite. Pour water into the pot until the medium is saturated.

3. Gather 15cm (6in) long tip cuttings from healthy side branches, with 6mm thick stems and plenty of foliage. Avoid branches with blossoms.

4. Make a cut 2mm below a mature leaf, using bypass shears or a craft knife. Make the cut slightly angled to expose a larger portion of the inner flesh.

5. Pull off all the leaves along the lower half of the cutting. Dip the cut end in rooting powder. Flick the stem to knock off the excess powder.

6. Push a pencil into the pumice grist near the edge of the pot and insert the pecan cutting to half its length. Repeat the process around the rim for the other cuttings. Shake the pot gently to settle the pumice against the stems. Drizzle some water around the cuttings to further settle them in.

7. Place the pecan cutting outdoors where it will receive light shade and shelter from wind – not in full sun.

8. Mist the pecan cuttings with a spray bottle at least twice daily to prevent drying. Moisten the pumice whenever you mist the cutting so it never fully dries out.

9. Check for roots in six to eight weeks by lightly tugging on the stem and feeling for resistance. Carefully transplant the rooted pecan cuttings 20cm apart into a nursery bed.

10. The following autumn, when the leaves have dropped, transplant out the plants into a sunny sheltered site in soil enriched with garden compost at two buckets per square metre.

Grafting:

Whip-and-tongue or bud graft in late winter or early spring, onto seedling rootstock.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

(Refer to the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ to encourage maxim resistance)

Possums & Squirrels: Grow the trees on 1.5m (5ft) trunks with stainless steel sheet bands attached to stop them climbing up. Other problems are borers, shield bugs, bronze beetles and cicadas. Regular spraying with Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray will help control these pests (see: the section ‘Pests & Diseases’)

Pecan Scab: Eastern cultivars are adapted to more humid conditions and are less susceptible to Pecan scab. Pecan scab is characterized by irregular brown to black spots on the leaves and circular spots on the nuts. Spray fortnightly with Trichoderma virid spray, or powder thoroughly mixed with water.

Pine Nuts

PINE NUTS (Pinus pinea)

There are many pines that have edible nuts, but the pine nuts that are commonly sold, are the nuts of the Stone Pine (Pinus pinea). A beautiful tree reaching 5-6 metres (16-20ft) in 10 years. 

Stone Pine

The pine nut grows into a large attractive umbrella shaped tree. They are self-fertile so you can grow only one if you want to. A mature tree will yield 5kg (11 pounds) of shelled nuts per year.

Soil & Site:

In their natural habitat they grow on rocky hillsides hence the name. As a result it will grow pretty much anywhere.

Planting:

(See the section ‘Growing Tree Fruit’ - PLANTING TREE FRUIT). 

Support & Training:

Just tie to a stake for the first year until the roots have established.

Maintenance:

Water in dry periods during the first year.

Mulching:

Mulch with spray-free straw for the first two years.

Feeding:

Apart from a good feed at planting (see above), there is no need.

Harvesting & Preserving:

This tree will take up to 8 years to fruit. The cones take 2 full seasons to mature and are ready to harvest when they have turned brown in colour. Stack the cones in the sun to dry and open. Remove seeds by hand and crack the shells removing the kernels.

Propagation:

From cuttings, or seed.

Possible Pests & Diseases: Pests:

Stone pines have very few problems, check for caterpillars and sawfly. Spray with Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray – section ‘Pests & Diseases’ if you have any problems.

Diseases:

They can succumb to root fungal disease if grown in very wet soil, so grow them in dry well-drained ground. You can also sprinkle one handful of Trichoderma viride granules or powder into the planting hole, or spread granules around the feeding roots and water in, as a precaution.

SWEET CHESTNUTS (Castanea sativa)

If you have enough land to grow these large trees then go for it.

They are hardy, and deciduous, and grow to 10m (30ft) or more. Sweet Chestnuts are wide spreading trees that originated from around Turkey and the Black Sea region of southern Russia. 

Sweet Chestnut trees in fruit

The Romans loved their chestnuts and as a result they introduced them to most present day European countries where they have become naturalised, and today are a common part of the landscape in many regions.

They also provide valuable timber, given time.

Soil & Site:

Plant Sweet Chestnuts in full sun, on a free draining fertile soil, with an acid pH of around 5.5 to 6.5. Heavier, poorly drained soils are not suitable, as there is the likelihood of root rot problems (Phytophthora spp). They also prefer shelter from the prevailing winds to prevent windburn in late spring and early summer.

Chestnuts have been grown in countries with cold winters, but wherever you grow them, you have to remember that they require hot summers with maximum temperatures of at least 25-300C (77-860F), which are necessary to ripen the nuts.

Rootsocks:

Use seedling rootstocks that have been grown from chestnut seed of the same variety that is to be grafted onto the rootstock.

Pollination:

Chestnut trees require cross-pollination from a different compatible variety to ensure good nut production. This means planting at least two different pollen-producing varieties.

Varieties:

Marron de Lyon: An excellent French variety that produces very large dark Mahogany red nuts in just two to three years from planting. It is a very compact variety, although when fully grown will reach a height of about 9m (30ft).

Marigoule: An excellent French variety that produces very large dark Mahogany red nuts in just two to three years from planting. Nut size is medium to large. It is known for its resistance to root rot and blight. The nuts are easy to peel once they have cured for a few days. This is an ideal tree for a medium to large garden because it is a slightly smaller tree than most cultivars.

Marron de Lyon varieties can grow to around 9m and produce nuts after 2-3 years, whilst Marigoule varieties will fruit in 2-4 years. Both these cultivars bear fruits with a single large kernel, rather than the usual two to four smaller kernels.

Planting:

To give your trees a good start – (see the section ‘Growing Tree Fruit’ - PLANTING TREE FRUIT).

Planting is best carried out in late autumn-early spring. Always plant so the grafting union is above the level of the soil. Plant the trees 7 x 7 metres (23 x 23ft) apart.

Support & Training:

Stake newly planted young trees for the first two years. Remember that chestnut trees will get up to 20m (65ft) if you let them! As with all other nut trees I would suggest growing them in a ‘vase’ shape with 4 or 5 main branches growing out from a 2m (6½ft) high trunk and keeping the overall height down to around 5-6m (16-20ft).

Maintenance:

Regular rainfall over the summer and autumn months is important to produce decent sized nuts, so irrigation in a dry season might be necessary.

Mulching:

In its young years mulch down with 15cm (6in) spray-free straw, after that undersow with a red clover.

Feeding:

They need good supplies of nitrogen, potassium and magnesium in particular. Annual dressings of powdered seaweed, or fresh washed seaweed will supply both potassium and magnesium. Mulching annually with well-rotted compost or manure is usually sufficient in the first few years. After that, undersow with red clover, mowed regularly to release nitrogen for the trees.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Chestnuts fall in the autumn and ideally should be gathered every day over peak nut-fall because of their highly perishable nature and their susceptibility to predation by possums and rats that relish the nuts.

• Because of their highly perishable nature, freshly harvested chestnuts must be cool stored immediately at 0-2oC (32-35½oF). For small quantities keep the fresh chestnuts in the fridge, packed into ventilated plastic bags or the vegetable drawer, they should then keep for up to six months.

• For larger quantities, preserve the chestnuts for long-term storage by drying the shelled and de-skinned nuts (see below), quickly in a low oven so as to avoid moulding. Dried chestnuts need to be soaked in water before the can be used again.

• You can also cook them thoroughly, purée them in a food processor, then heat to boiling point for several minutes and poured into sterilised preserving jars and sealed.

• Cooked chestnuts, whole, chopped, or pureed, may be frozen in an airtight container and will keep up to 9 months.

Cooking: To get both the shells off and the inner brown skins, first firmly cut a cross through the shell on the flat side of the nut and then boil in a pan of water for 10 minutes, drain, run with cold water until comfortable to peel, and with a small kitchen knife peel off the shell. Do not try to peel off the inner skins at this point, because it will be difficult. Then boil them again for a further 10 minutes, then drain again and you will find it easier to peal off the inner skins with your fingers, or a small blunt kitchen knife, or back of a knife.

Cook them in boiling water for a further 10 minutes until firm but tender, or pat dry and place on an oven tray and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and cook at 200oC (392oF) for about 15 minutes. Another way to eat them is to add the cooked and peeled chestnuts to a pan of boiling water with Brussels sprouts 50/50, cooked for 5 minutes only, then serve with a good knob of butter – one of my favourite ways of eating both chestnuts and Brussels sprouts.

Propagation:

For those that have the land to grow sweet chestnuts, don’t be tempted to grow some from seed unless you intend to graft selected cultivars onto the seedling rootstocks. A tree grown from seed may take 20 years or more before it bears fruits, but a grafted cultivar such as 'Marron de Lyon' or ' Marigoule ' may start production within 2 to 4 years of being planted. Chestnut varieties are propagated by grafting or budding onto a seedling rootstock. To help minimise graft rejection, it is recommended that trees are grafted or budded onto seedling rootstocks that have been grown from chestnut seed of the same variety as those being propagated.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Root Rot: caused by the soil-based fungal disease Phytophthora cinnamomi which usually kills the tree, (at any age), and is more prevalent on heavier soil types. As already said, grow them on free draining soil to avoid this problem. As a precaution you can sprinkle one handful of Trichoderma viride granules or powder into the planting hole or sprinkle Trichoderma around the feeding roots of an established tree and water in.

Possums & Squirrels: in some areas can be especially damaging, eating the bark, leaves and breaking branches and eating the nuts when they fall to the ground at harvest. Training the main trunk to at least 2m (6½ft) and tying stainless steel sheet tree guards around the main trunk will stop them climbing the trees.

Rabbits & Hares: will eat the bark of young trees. Attach tree guards if this is a problem.

WALNUTS (Juglans regia)

Walnuts (Juglans spp) are native to Asia and America. As well as eating walnuts, they can be pressed to extract the oil or can be pickled when young. The timber is also very valuable, but will take forty years to produce. Juglans regia is the “traditional” walnut tree in many countries.

Soil & Site: Walnuts are not entirely frost hardy, and should not be grown in areas susceptible to severe frosts. 

WALNUT ORCHARD

A freely draining soil is best on a site, which receives plenty of sun. As with all trees for fruit or timber production, sites with high wind exposure are best avoided. High winds can interfere with pollination in a young orchard where pollen may be blown away or catkins blown off the tree.

Rootstocks:

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), or the Californian black walnut (Juglans hindsii)

Varieties:

Although walnuts are, in theory, self-fertile - if you are growing more than one tree it is a good idea to grow at least two varieties to improve pollination.

Broadview: is one of the earliest and best all round fruiting cultivars, fruiting within three to four years. It is self fertile with a slightly pointed nut.

Chandler: The Chandler walnut is large, smooth, and oval shaped. Chandler walnuts has one of the highest kernel yields of any variety.

Fernor: An excellent new French variety, has many flowers, and is blight tolerant. Late ripening, large nuts of excellent quality, with easily extracted kernels that store well and have excellent flavour. Average vigour and semi erect habit.

Lara: is a French variety, good fruit quality, highly productive. Early ripening. Average vigour.

Rita: This variety is of Carpathian origin. This variety bares heavy crop of thin-shelled nuts. It is a smaller than average tree. For this reason it is ideal for more compact gardens.

Planting:

To give your trees a good start – (see the section ‘How to Grow Fruit’ - PLANTING TREE FRUIT).

Planting is best carried out during winter. If you are planting several, space at 9m (30ft) apart.

Support & Training:

They will not need support. The best way to train them is to form them into an open bush or ‘vase’ shape, with five main branches with an open centre, on a 1 to 2 metre (3-6ft) leg.

Maintenance:

For first five or six years, they will not bear fruit, however it is essential to ensure they have adequate water during this time.

Mulching:

In its young years mulch down with 15-20cm (6-8in) spray-free straw, after that sow a grass/red clover mix, which should be cut regularly and left as mulch around the feeding roots.

Feeding:

Mulching annually with well-rotted compost or manure is usually sufficient in the first few years. After that feeding should not be necessary.

Pruning:

Apart from initial training, and annual cutting out dead, diseased and crossed wood – that’s about it.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Harvesting is generally by hand. If nuts are allowed to fall to the ground it is essential to pick them up daily or they will be damaged by mould, and the kernels will darken and spoil rapidly and may also be eaten by possums and rats. Pick the nuts when they are at peak quality, which is when the tissue, which fills the space between the kernel and the shell, has turned brown in autumn.

The young walnuts can also be picked green in their green husks and pickled:

Ingredients:

• 1 kg (2 pounds) fresh green walnuts

• 1 cup cooking salt

• 10 cups water

• 5 cups malt vinegar

• 1⅔ cups brown sugar

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon pickling spice

• 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

• ½ teaspoon cloves

Method:

1. Pick the walnuts in early summer while they are still green, and before the shells have begun to form. To protect your hands while preparing them, wear disposable plastic gloves. Walnut stains are persistent and difficult to remove.

2. Test the walnuts by pricking them with a darning needle – they should be soft. Discard any that are firm and resist the needle as this means that the shell has started to form.

3. Prick the selected walnuts all over with a fork and put them in a large bowl. Dissolve half of the salt in half of the water and pour over the walnuts, making sure that they are covered with the brine. If necessary, place a clean plate on top to keep the walnuts submerged. Cover the bowl with a plate for seven days and leave to soak, stirring occasionally. 4. After seven days, drain, cover with fresh brine made with the remaining salt and water, and leave for seven more days, stirring occasionally.

5. Drain the walnuts well and spread them, in single layers, on dishes. Leave them outside in the open air, preferably in the sunshine, for a couple of days until they are black. (Take them in each night.)

6. Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a stainless steel or enamel saucepan and add the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, pickling spice, black peppercorns and cloves. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and boil on low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to cool.

7. Pack the blackened walnuts in clean, dry jars. Strain the spiced vinegar into an enamel or stainless steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the vinegar over the walnuts, making sure that they are well covered. Cover the jars with vinegar-proof lids, label and store. Let the pickled walnuts mature in a cool, dark cupboard for one month before eating.

Propagation:

Graft named varieties onto Black, or Californian black walnut.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Walnut blight (Xanthomonas juglandis): As with Hazels, copper is the common spray for this infection. My choice would be to use a strong garlic, chilli and ginger spray - Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray spring and autumn, which is natural bactericide – (see the section: ‘Pests & Diseases’).