I am in zone five front range Colorado, with an average of 130 frost free days, though it is highly variable; we can get a lot more or a lot less. Days in the summer are fairly hot, nights are relatively cool, ( low sixties.)
The catalogues say I should be able to plant hardy pecans in this climate and actually get nuts. I have a good site along the banks of an irrigation channel. Since they are supposed to be stream bank trees, I think they should like this.
Has anybody successfully grown hardy pecans in a climate like this?
I have tried. The pecan trees, hardy pecans ordered from Grimo in Ontario, Canada, are still technically alive. They dont really grow here though. They put out a leaf or two each year, it has been five years now. They survive, but look tremendously unimpressed with Colorado. We have about 150 days growing season, and a very well irrigated lush site, fwiw. I think it would be absolutely miraculous if they were to ever bear a nut here. My sense is that the nights are too cold for them to grow well. That, and our soils stay cool too late in the spring, so the trees wake up late. I had high hopes, but have pretty much given up now.
I have neighbors who grow almonds successfully here, in a zone 5/6 context. They dont get nuts every year, but often enough to be worthwhile. There are also many enormous English Walnut trees in town that bear huge crops. Hazelnuts, hickories, and pecans, I have never heard of succeeding. Nut trees are an awesome concept. I still havent given up.
Back in the late 70's, the Northern Nut Growers Assn. rescued some cold hardy pecans (I believe from WI). They had offered them to growers in cold regions, in an attempt to spread these nuts around. They had several successful growers. Perhaps by now, they have a reliable source for this cultivar. Here is a clip from a Mother Earth News article regarding the NNGA program.
The owner of Grimo Nut Nursey, Ernie Grimo, is very involved with the Northern Nut Growers Assc. So all of the varietals that NNGA has found are now available through Grimo Nut Nursery. Grimo gets nuts up in the lake district of Ontario from their pecan trees, from several different varietals.
It seems like the hardiest pecan varietals will grow quite far north, in Eastern North America. The difficulty is getting them to perform West of the Rockies, which I am not aware of anybody through the Northern Nut Growers succeeding with. I used to be a member of NNGA, they are a great group, but primarily focused in the East.
Having given up on Pecans where I live, I am now overly-optimistically considering the Hicans (Pecan/Hickory hybrids) or Shagbark Hickories. I would bet against their success here, but you just cant stop an eternal optimist like me.
Almonds are about as hardy as peaches. The issue with them is that the bloom super early, even before apricots. And then they need a long season to ripen. The trees folks have around here are the standard Nonpareil variety. Recently some shorter season almonds have become available, through Burnt Ridge Nursery and others. They are from Hungary, and I am trying them as I think they would have to be a bit later blooming than the Nonpareil. I think you would need to be able to grow apricots well for almonds to have a chance.
I dont know anybody who has personally succeeded with hazelnuts. Though nobody seems to understand exactly why. The big commercial hazelnut area in the West is the Willamette Valley in Oregon, which has warmer and wetter winters than us, and a longer, more stable temperature growing season. My hazels pretty much died straight away, though again, I dont really understand why.
I'm just here to mention that pecans are problem weeds in my garden. Damn squirrels keep bringing nuts over from the neighbor's yard and bury them everywhere. Even if you clip them at ground level, sometimes they try to come back the following year.
Now before you get angry with me not being grateful that I'm blessed with a climate that you don't have, let me remind you of the things that I don't even try to grow because I don't have your climate: rhubarb, gooseberries, elderberries, cloudberries, cherries, cranberries, spruce, and Brussels sprouts. I'm sure that I could think of more, but the bottom line is the same: don't obsess over what you can't grow. The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence, and there are plenty of things you can grow inside your fence.