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Growing Nut Trees
It’s said that you don’t plant nut trees for yourself; you plant them for generations to come. But you may not have to wait long to enjoy your crop—some grafted trees start bearing fruit within one year of planting. Once nut trees are established, their generally low maintenance makes them an attractive addition to any hobby farm.
Success with nut trees depends on factors that include topography and climate; the type, pH and fertility of your soil; the availability of moisture; and the prevalence of pests and diseases in your region—even the whims of local squirrels, chipmunks and jays, who can decimate your orchard but leave your neighbor’s untouched.
Before purchasing and planting nut trees, ask yourself these questions:How much space do you have?
How impatient are you to taste your first crop?
How quickly can you harvest more than a handful of nuts?
How much work are you prepared to do throughout the year to keep your trees healthy and pests at bay, and how much work at harvest time?
What’s your favorite nut?
In addition to answering these questions, Sandra Anagnostakis, PhD, a chestnut scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, suggests, “Find out what kinds of trees will grow in your climate and in your soil. Look around to see what grows well in your area.”
A local soil-testing lab can test your soil’s pH (your county extension agency might be able to, too), and employees at state departments of agriculture and agricultural colleges might be able to offer advice and share their enthusiasm for their favorite trees.
Nut-tree breeders shipping across the U.S., as well as your local nursery, should know what nut-tree varieties perform well in your region. Nonprofit organizations, such as the Arbor Day Foundation and the Northern Nut Growers Association, provide news about the latest cultivars (plant varieties that have been deliberately selected for specific desirable characteristics) and information on the best techniques for planting and successful cultivation.
Preventing Pests in Nut Trees
Nut kernels go from liquid to jelly to a dough-like stage when they’re still green—mid-July for walnuts and mid-August for pecans. That’s when squirrels start cutting them down from the trees.
“But if you have one or two dogs that run free,” says Molnar, “that’ll do the trick.” Cats can also help with a squirrel problem.
Playing recorded bird distress calls or predator cries in your orchard will help scare away blue jays, which also love nuts.
Copyright 2009 BowTie Inc.