NORTHERN NUT GROWERS ASSOCIATION, INC.
By Sandra L. Anagnostakis, The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, and Greg Miller, Empire Chestnut Company
E-mail Addresses: Sandra.Anagnostakis@ct.gov, and firstname.lastname@example.org
The authors of this page have received numerous questions via our Experts Page. The contents of this page contain answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Why grow chestnuts?
A few acres of land can yield nuts for your own enjoyment, or for sale at the side of the road or to your local market. Chestnuts are a good food, as shown in this table:
Calories per ounce
This is a guide for choosing the right chestnut species, choosing the right planting site, and anticipating the care that is needed. For a few trees for your own use, you would do well to get two or three cultivars and plant them near each other (within 100 feet) for optimal cross-pollination. If you are starting an orchard for commercial production, you would be better off with a lot of trees of a few cultivars and a couple of seedling trees to provide pollen. The advantage of a uniform orchard is that the nuts all ripen at the same time, and will be fairly uniform in size and appearance (something consumers seem to think is important). The other point to remember for selling the nuts is that "bigger is worth more" even though smaller nuts frequently taste better!
All species of chestnuts can pollinate each other, but hybrids often produce no pollen (are "male sterile") and this must be determined when planning your orchard. Chestnut blight disease must be considered in the eastern U.S., Ink Disease (caused by Phytophthora) may be a problem in the south or in areas with poor drainage, Chestnut Gall Wasp is slowly moving north from Georgia, Alabama, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee, and drought tolerance will make a big difference in the west.
The initial investment will include purchase of trees, tree shelters to protect them, and installation of an irrigation system.
"Named cultivars" are clones of trees whose characteristics are known. Since they are identical, and chestnuts will not self-pollinate, two or more cultivars (or some seedlings, which are all different) must be planted to provide pollen for each other. Cultivars are grafted onto compatible rootstocks, and they usually cost about $15 each (see 1999 "sources" list appended). The choice of cultivar must be made for your own environmental conditions and taste, and some guidelines can be found in our list of cultivars (e-mail for a copy). Information on nut size has not been systematically collected in all of the U.S. growing regions for cultivars, so the following is only to provide a general range of the sizes available:
Number of Nuts
'Colossal' 14-18 'Bouche de Betizac' 15 'Willamette' 18-22 'Revival' 24-32 'Skookum' 32-34 'Sleeping Giant' 34-38 'Nanking' 35 'Eaton' 35 'AU Homestead' 39 'Kuling' 40
Tree shelters can be made of wire or plastic, or can be as simple as piled brush to protect the trees from deer. The plastic tubes cost about $3.00 each and are easy to install, but must be lifted each fall to allow the trees to harden off properly. They frequently harbor wasps, and provide a nice environment for rodents who then eat the tree bark. A better shelter may be a stiff plastic net now being tested by some companies.
An irrigation system is essential for a commercial orchard, even if you live in a region where rainfall is fairly dependable.
Plant your trees in well-drained sandy loam, better drained than apples require. Sites with clay may be tolerated if there is good surface drainage (slope). Chestnuts need a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5 and absolutely won't tolerate limestone soils. If your soil pH is much higher than this, consider another crop.
Space the trees at 40 feet apart, or start at 25 feet apart and remove trees, as they mature, to 35 feet apart.
Fertilize (SPRING ONLY) with one pound of 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 per year of tree age, or one pound per inch of tree trunk diameter.
Pruning should be done only when it is hot and dry, in early summer. This reduces the chance of infection.
The area around the trees should be kept mowed, and a circle about three feet wider than the diameter of the trees should be kept weed-free. Mulch can be applied to help with water retention, but should not be deeper than two inches, and should not be up against the trunks (allowing easy access by rodents in the winter).
The value of the nuts is directly related to the size, but is usually at least $1.50 per pound wholesale and up to $5.00 per pound retail. Yield will start to be significant after the trees are 10 years old, and yields have been reported of from 14 pounds per tree to 138 pounds per tree.
The traditional method of harvest is to allow the nuts to fall to the ground, and employ people to pick them up. For a few nuts for your own table this is not a bad system, but commercial orchards need more efficient methods. Nets can be suspended under the bottom branches of the trees to collect the nuts (they should be removed from the nets every day), or some of the marketed ground-collection systems can be used (see advertisements in the Northern Nut Growers Newsletter).
The most serious problem for all U.S. chestnut growers is the presence of chestnut weevils which lay their eggs in the ripening nuts. When the nuts fall to the ground the eggs hatch, and the larvae eat their way out of the nuts and burrow into the ground. They stay there until the following year (Large Chestnut Weevil) or the second year (Small Chestnut Weevil) when they emerge to mate and lay more eggs. Only the adult weevils are controllable with insecticides (Sevin is registered for this use), and care must be taken to spray the burs weekly for the last month before nuts are released. An "organic" control that has proved reasonably effective is the deployment of chickens or Guinea fowl under the trees to eat the larvae and pupae of the weevils. After several years of this control, few weevils will remain. As soon as nuts are collected they can be treated in hot water (120*F = 49*C) for 20 minutes to kill weevil eggs and larvae but not the nuts. Then the nuts should be refrigerated. Keep them moist, in plastic bags, in the refrigerator (over the winter) if you are planning to plant them, or a little dryer for eating. Nuts can also be par-boiled as soon as they are harvested and stored (frozen) in plastic bags until needed. This kills the eggs (or very small larvae) before they can damage the nuts but also kills the nuts.
Marketing chestnuts is easy if you already have a farm stand for selling produce, but if you have to sell them to local food stores, you will have to work a little harder. Nuts should never be allowed to dry out, and markets MUST be convinced to display and store them in plastic bags in refrigerated cases.
The future of the chestnut industry in this country will depend on the development of better weevil control methods, better harvesting techniques, and development of "ready for use products." Peeled, dried nuts, or chips that can be added directly to foods being prepared will allow cooks to experiment, and may interest large, prepared-food manufacturers to include chestnuts in their products.
SOURCES OF CHESTNUT TREES
Browse the list below. You may also click here to obtain nursery catalogs on our marketplace page.
P.O. Box 227, Holt, MO 64048
American seedlings (blight FREE, not "resistant" as stated in catalog), grafted 'Colossal' Chinese seedlings, Japanese seedlings (Korean) , Allegheny chinquapin seedlings
Via M. Tonello 17, 12100 Cuneo, ITALY
Marrone di Chiusa Pesio, Marrone di Marradi, Marrone di Castle del Rio, Marrone di San Mauro Saline, Marrone di Susa, Marrone di Viterbo, Marrone Belle Epine, Marron Comballe, Castagna della Madonna, Bracalla, Primato, Precoce Migoule, Bouche de Betizac, Marsol, Vignols, Colossal, Marigoule, Tanzawa, Ginyose. Import permit required (three year post-entry quarantine)
Bay Laurel Garden Center
2500 El Camino Real, Atascadero, California 93422
Call for prices.
Bear Creek Nursery,
P.O. Box 411, Northport, WA 99157
'Colossal', 'Skioka'. 'Skookum', 'Douglas #2', Meader's New Hampshire #4 (Koreans), various seedlings, American seedlings
Burnt Ridge Nursery,
432 Burnt Ridge Rd., Onalaska, WA 98570
Colossal, Nevada, Bisalta #3, Marron du Var, Layeroka, Skioka, Skookum, Marissard, Marigoule, Maraval, Precoce Migoule, grafted cultivars: Chinese chestnuts, American chestnuts, European chestnuts, Golden Chinkapin (Chryseolepsis sempervirens) seedlings
RR1. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada LOS 1JO
Cascade Forestry Nursery, 22033 Fillmore Rd., Cascade, IA 52033
Chestnut Hill Nursery,
Rt. 1, Box 341, Alachua, Florida 32615
`Revival' `Carolina' `Willamette' `Heritage' `Carpenter' `Alachua' grafted cultivars, Dunstan and Chinese seedlings, $200 minimum
Connecticut State Nursery,
Pachaug State Forest Tree Nursery,
Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection,
23A Sheldon Rd., RFD #1 Box 23A, Voluntown, CT 06384
seedling Chinese from an orchard of PI #58602
Grimo Nut Nursery,
RR#3, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario LOS-1JO, Canada
voice at 1-905-YEH-NUTS (934-6887), or fax at 1-905-934-9463
Web Site: http://www.grimonut.com (Complete Catalog is on Web site)
`Grimo 142 Q' `Layeroka' `Campbell #1' `Douglas #1' Douglas #2' `Douglas Manchurian' `Simpson', American seedlings
Empire Chestnut Company,
3276 Empire Rd SW, Carrollton, OH 44615
'Eaton', 'Sleeping Giant', 'AU-Homestead', 'Carr', 'Crane', 'Nanking', 'Orrin', 'Paragon' and others grafted $8.00 to $12.00, Chinese seedlings $2.15 to $5.45
525 Fowler Rd., Newcastle, CA 95658
'Colossal', 'Nevada', 'Silverleaf', 'Linden' seedlings
Gurney's Seed and Nursery Co,
110 Capital, Yankton, South Dakota 57079
"Sweetheart" seedlings, Chinese seedlings
950 Highway 200 West, Plains, Montana 59859
406-826-3881, fax. 406-826-5700
seed only of Chinese and American chestnut, $5 and $12 per pound
P.O. Box 18 Hatsukaichi, 309-3 Myyauchi Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima-Ken, 738 JAPAN
(81) 0829-39-6000, fax (81) 0829-39-1800
Shiho, Tsukuba, Ganne, Kunimi, Ishizuchi
(three year post-entry quarantine)
4975 Grand River Rd., Owosso, MI 48867
seedling Chinese, $5 to $20
Nolin River Nut Tree Nursery,
797 Port Wooden Rd., Upton, Kentucky 42784
`Armstrong' `Crane' `Eaton' `Ford's Sweet' `Meiling' `Mossbarger' `Orrin' `Sleeping Giant'
Northwoods Wholesale Nursery
28696 S. Cramer, Molalla, Oregon 97038
seedling Chinese and Japanese X European chestnuts, $2.10 to $8.00
Nursery Street Greenhouses,
61591 30th Street, Lawton, Michigan 49065
616-624-1806 or 616-624-6054,
rooted cuttings of 'Colossal' 'Nevada' 'Skookum' several Grimo clones, several Higgins clones, and several Adkins clones, $12 each
School Farm, Onneley Nr. Crewe, Cheshire, CW3 9QJ ENGLAND
(44) 1782-750913, fax. (44) 1782-750913
Belle Epine, Bouche de BEtizac, Bournette, Comballe, LaguEpie, Marigoule, Marron de Lyon, Marsol, PrEcose Migoule, Verdale, 6 to 7.5f plus shipping and import forms (three year post-entry quarantine)
Oikos Tree Crops,
P.O. Box 19425, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49019-0425
616-624-6233, FAX 616-624-4019
seedlings: Chinese hybrids (Douglas), American, Japanese X European hybrids (Colossal)
Le Sorpt, 19600 Chasteaux, FRANCE
(33) 5-55-85-34-21, fax. (33) 5-55-85-42-28
Bouche de BEtizac, PrEcoce Migoule, Marron Goujounac, Marron de Lyon, Bournette, Bouche Rouge, Belle Epine, Marron d'Orlagues, Marigoule, Marsol, Maraval, Marlhac, 29F to 89F plus shipping and import forms (three year post-entry quarantine)
PEpiniEres du Pondaillan
Rue du Pondaillan, 46200 Souillac, FRANCE
(33) 5-65-37-83-17, fax. (33) 5-65-32-6a23
Bournette, Bouche de BEtizac, Goujounac, PrEcoce Migoule, Belle Epine, Lara, Fernor, Fernor, Fernette, Marigoule, Marsol, Marlhac, Maraval, Ferosacre, 36F to 90F plus shipping and import forms (three year post-entry quarantine)
64240 Mendionde, FRANCE
(33) 5-59-29-62-54, fax. (33) 5-59-29-10-89
Belle Epine, Bouche Rouge, Camberoune, Combale, Doree de lyon, Herria, Laguepie, Marron d'Olargues, Marron de Redon, Rousse de Nay, Marron de Goujounac, Montagne, Precoce des Vans, Merle, Sardonne, Ederra, Ipharra, Marki, Bouche de BEtizac, Bournette, Maridonne, Marigoule, Marsol, Precoce de Migoule, Vignoles, $12 plus shipping and import forms (three year post-entry quarantine)
Shady Grove Orchards, 183 Shady Grove Rd., Onalaska, Washington 98570
Web Site: http://landru.myhome.net/shadygrove/
American Chestnut Seedlings (Castanea dentata) - not blight resistent, not recommended for growing east of the Mississippi
Superior Trees, Inc., Lee Nursery,
P.O. Box 9325, U.S. 90 East, Lee, Florida 32059
Allegheny chinquapin seedlings price varies by number ordered
Wexford Soil and Water Conservation District,
7192 East 34 Rd., Cadillac, Michigan 49601
American chestnut seedlings
1128 Colleton Ave., Aiken, SC 29801
seedling Chinese chestnuts $10.00, seedling chinquapins, of several species (including type "Herschel") $11.00 or $12.00
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