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Chestnut on Oak graft for dwarfing

 
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I've got a small (1/4 acre) yard in urban Seattle, and have always wanted to grow a chestnut, well, because we can, and I feel like it's a shame to pass the opportunity up. However, being a Seattlite, I've got to be frugal with sunlight, and the prospect of planting a 60 foot tall, 30 foot wide tree seems like a ridiculous move in this regard.

Chinkapin http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=CAPU9 is an option, but with three significant problems. First, it's nuts are about 1/2 - 1/4 the size of a chestnut, which is fine, but means a significant hit in production. Second, Chinkapin is a shrubbish thing which doesn't lend itself optimally to being an anchor plant in a guild (but could certainly be a part of something else useful).

Most problematically, Chinkapin can host the chestnut blight fungus, and I can't find a source for plants west of the rockies -- and I'd really rather not be the one who brings the fungus to seattle!!!

So, after reading this article http://www.chestnutsonline.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=1099 and finding reference to grafting of chestnut scions onto oak rootstocks, I started wondering whether you might be able to create a dwarf chestnut through grafting. There are now many cultivars of chestnut which are blight resistant, and so can be valuable to permaculturalists east of the rockies. However, there hasn't been much exploration of variation in these awesome trees other than in producing resistance along with palatable nuts.

I'm going to do some experiments this winter with whatever saplings I can find around seattle, but if anyone has suggestions, or have had success in the past, I'd love to hear about it.
 
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Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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Cool about grafting to oak.

Japanese chestnuts tend to be much smaller plants, maybe 30ft vs. 60ft for some chestnuts. Japanese chestnuts are plenty productive with large, delicious nuts. In addition, they are well adapted to humid temperate climate.
 
                          
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The ones I've seen on Spanish chesnuts were not small. Some of the Asian chesnuts are small trees ... I would graft on those to reduce size and leave oak grafting to high ph areas, quite dry areas etc ...
 
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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What about if you had a bunch of oak trees already grwoing, and wanted to turn tem into food forest fast? would it make sense to graft chestnut onto them in that case? This is east coast US, Northeast. Thanks.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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http://www.acf.org/pdfs/resources/journal/Spring%20Summer%20Journal%2009.pdf

Sober, a farmer in the early 1900s, grafted onto oak and had a thriving chestnut business until the blight hit.
 
garden master
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I am enamored of this notion. I really need to find me a grafting class in my local area to learn the basic mechanics.
 
gardener
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Found this whilst googling.
I was investigating grafting scions from larger chestnuts  onto a Allegheny Chinkapin.

Now I'm wondering if I I could grow Dwarf Chinkapin Oaks, and graft large fruit chestnuts onto them.
Add some roses and grapes for a nice 4 way, Cincinnati  style😏?
 
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Location: Kachemak Bay, Alaska (usda zone 6, ahs heat zone 1, lat 59 N, coastal, koppen Dfc)
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Castanea dentata was a traditional coppice crop.  This might be another avenue to getting chestnuts while avoiding having a large tree.  (Grafting onto oaks seems like a great idea too, particularly if you already have the oaks!)
 
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Location: Youngstown, Ohio
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William Bronson wrote:
Add some roses and grapes for a nice 4 way, Cincinnati  style😏?



Sounds way better than the usual 4 way Cincinnati style, yuck.    And hello from Youngstown!
 
William Bronson
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Cris, you don't like greek spaghetti sauce?
Next thing you will tell me you don't want play Cornhole!
😂
So, any room for an urban food forest in Youngstown?
 
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:http://www.acf.org/pdfs/resources/journal/Spring%20Summer%20Journal%2009.pdf

Sober, a farmer in the early 1900s, grafted onto oak and had a thriving chestnut business until the blight hit.



Hey, the link is broken, and I'm not seeing any posts about this having actually been done successfully; Dominic, any successes to report? Anyone else ever seen this work? We sure do have a lot of oaks here!
 
William Bronson
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https://www.acf.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Spring-Summer-Journal-09.pdf?x16387


C.K. Sober’s Chestnut Grove Stock Farm:
A Native Chestnut Culture ‘Paragon’
By William H. Sober Sr.
Transcribed and Edited by Louis Bedor III, TACF Publications Director
William H. Sober Sr. is an active member of the PA-TACF chapter and is the great-grandson of
C.K. Sober, the main person in the story below.
I
n 1896 in Northumberland County, PA, C.K. Sober turned
400 acres of a wasted and unproductive piece of lumbered-
off, mountainous terrain into permanent usefulness as a
chestnut farm.
The steep ground surrounding Sober’s childhood farm was
loaded with wild chestnut. As a boy, he watched the landscape
around his farm change as different areas of chestnut were cut
down, only to be reborn again. Walking in the woods one day
sometime after some chestnut trees were cut down, he noticed
a luxurious second-growth appearing where a mighty chestnut
tree once stood. Sober continued walking until he stood in
front of one particular unusual-sized chestnut located at the
edge of his farm. His thoughts drifted to the possibilities of
grafting.
Sober learned how to graft from his father at age 18 while helping to graft apple trees.
Grafting was found to be successful between nearly related plants such as: apple-quince,
peach-plum, almond-apricot—therefore, the chestnut should graft successfully to oak
or beech, so he thought. He took his father’s teachings and applied them to chestnut,
grafting scions upon other native trees. The shoots from the old chestnut stumps were
allowed to grow until reaching 1 or 2 years-old and were then grafted to red oak and
scarlet oak.
His idea was new and his father laughed at him and asked, “Who ever heard of grafting
chestnuts?”
Sober remained undaunted as the years passed and he continued trying to perfect his
method. Finally, in 1896, his dream of owning his own farm became a reality as he
purchased his father’s farm and renamed it Chestnut Grove Stock Farm, which was located Memories
in the beautiful Irish Valley, about seven miles from Shamokin, PA.
Sober’s original ‘Paragon’ tree was grown in Germantown, PA by W. H. Shaffer, from a
nut brought to this country from Europe. The nuts falling from the tree were of excellent
quality and compared favorably in sweetness and flavor to the native chestnuts in the area,
so Sober took some to his property and planted them. The nuts themselves were found to
be between 3-4 inches in circumference while the occasional nut grew to a size where it
would cover a silver dollar. When collected, approximately thirty-two nuts weighed one
pound and forty-eight average nuts filled a one-quart measure. The nuts ripened in the
last week of September or in the first week of October, and there were three to five nuts
per bur. Most burs were of immense size, often reaching five inches in diameter or more,
with spines reaching lengths of one inch or more.
Most of the ‘Paragon’ scions were grafted on red oak sprouts, but the sprouts were not free
from insects. Amazingly enough, the ‘Paragon’ sprouts seemed to be less affected by the
weevil than other varieties of nuts, but the grafts were not attaching well.
In 1898, Sober began using professional grafters and the
forthcoming results were discouraging: less than 5% of
the scions grafted lived. The imperfect wedge grafts they
applied allowed only a small number to grow. The rapid
growth of the scion, made possible by the stock’s good
root system, was too much for the young shoots. The
weight of the leaves made them top-heavy and the grafts
would fall apart with the lightest wind.
In 1899, Sober continued his experiments on grafting and, finally, devised methods
to reduce failures by grafting on chestnut. Beginning in February and March, Sober
collected his scions and stored them in an ice-house, packed in damp sand or moss
and surrounded by ice cakes. Once grafting season started in May, Sober hired some
15-20 extra workers and out-planted his grafted scions, using the whip or tongue graft
technique. The grafting material Sober used was common resin, bees wax, beef tallow, and
strips of muslin cut to a desired size and length and wrapped around the callus (the union
between the stock and the graft) to protect it during growth. Then, all summer long,
Sober and his team kept the grounds around the grafted trees clean by mowing by sheep
or burning. With these new methods, 75% of the scions grafted in 1900 lived.
From then on, most of the grafting was done in the spring. The chestnut sprouts were
left to grow one year before grafting was started. The second-year graft survivors were cut back to assure a good top and replanted in an area where they could begin to fully
develop. These trees grew rapidly and at age 2-3 years, they began bearing nuts. Trees
only 4 years old were known to bear up to 300 burs.
After five years of growth, the best trees would be left standing and the others were used
to furnish new scions. The sheep had a dual purpose: they kept the area clear around the
grafts and they also provided liquid and solid manure for the farm to use. As trees got
larger Sober added cattle to the pasture, making a total of 500 livestock on the property.
Sober then rearranged his plantings to create his chestnut orchard, with trees planted
15-30 feet apart on cultivated land and, finally, fencing it all in, using over seven miles of
wire.
Sober and his team hand-harvested the nuts using long
wooden-poles to knock the burs from the tree. The
burs were collected and transported to either a shed
or an open patch of field to dry, allowing the bur to
open. Finally, the nuts were either removed by hand or
by the machine Sober built (pictured right). The nuts
were sorted into bags and taken to market and sold for
prices initially ranging from $5-$12 a bushel, due to the
demand. Prices soon dropped to $2.50 per bushel, but
that price was still more than a bushel of wheat.
At that time, it was said one acre of land will grow 35 bushels of wheat in one year.
Sober’s chestnut trees produced as many bushels, many times over in one year, and
required no cultivation, replanting, or fertilization. The spring rains, the summer
droughts, and the fall frosts made no injury on the trees or their fruit. Apparently, Sober
was a very smart man indeed!
Chestnut Grove Stock Farm ran successfully as a thriving chestnut farm from 1896 until
1913, when the blight hit the area.
Additional Reading
Davis, N. F. (1904). Chestnut Culture in Pennsylvania. [Harrisburg]: W.S. Ray, State Printer of Pennsylvania.
 
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