So I am looking for suggestions about different nuts I can plant now for natural stratification this winter. I have several large kiddie pools filled with compost that I plan on covering with tarps to keep the rodents out. So far I have some horse chestnut and a few black walnuts that I'm going to put in there and I'm thinking about Shag Bark Hickory and Hazelnuts(although I'm having a hard time finding a source of nuts from cold tolerant stock). I'm finding some really good deals on ebay, but many are from people in the south, and being a 'weak' zone 5, I'm concerned about getting genetics that won't hold up to the winters here. Any good suggestions for sources or other types of trees/shrubs to look into?
The more local you can get your seed, the better, unless perhaps it's from a similar climate far away. Have you heard of Northern Nut Growers Association? They might have some leads. Southern sources might do to try as well if you have the space, considering global warming. With some trees, such as pecan, the issue is not so much surviving a cold winter as having enough heat during the summer to mature the nuts.
Another thing to try, if you have enough seed and space to play, is to direct seed some where they are to grow. Many nuts are strongly taprooted....you can have a taproot 2-3 feet down within the first year, and breaking or frustrating this in the process of transplanting or containerizing might make for a less drought-hardy, well anchored tree later on. On the other hand maintaining small seedlings out in the landscape is often difficult and raising them in a nursery for a season or two has its own advantages. I've done both and had mixed success with both....
Ever come over to the west side of northern lower Michigan ... Cherry Festival maybe?
You need to take a look at the sweet chestnut (Castanea spp.) orchards planted over here in the late 80's and early 90's. Zone 5 has been just fine for strong growth and early production. We're into the third generation of site selected chestnut cultivars. Grown properly, some of these trees are producing as early as the third year from seed. By year 8-10 we're seeing some years produce 20-40 pounds per tree. Big 25 year old trees can produce hundreds of pounds.
As far as stratification, we like to put our best seed from the best trees in zip bags with enough peat moss to dust all the nuts and act as a mold inhibitor. Maybe thirty nuts to a bag or so. Bags are left slightly unsealed to allow for a bit of "breathing" and checked periodically to remove any moldy nuts (fairly rare). Bags are put in the vegetable crisper of the frig and will start sprouting there as early as February ... or whenever you bring them into room temperature. They seem to need 30-45 days of cold before ready to sprout. Germination rate is very high ... often 100% of the nuts in each bag.
If you'd like to try some of our favorites we can share them with you around November. Multiple sites have been planted and you can see several thousand producing trees now.
I bought nut trees from badgersett (Minnesota ) and fedco ( Maine) this year. I was particularly impressed with fedcos stock, but I'll give the badgersett tublings a few years to catch up.
From badgersett I bought wildlife hazelnuts with the intention of feeding chickens and ducks and placing a few in opportune spots near bowhunting tree stands. I also got a couple of hickory-pecan hybrids and 5 american chestnuts.
I would like to find some improved american chestnuts, but I've had a hard time finding them in stock anywhere.
Let us know how it goes! I'll try to get some pictures up of my work this spring.
The devil haunts a hungry man - Waylon Jennings
Christopher G Williams
Location: Ossineke, MI
posted 6 years ago
Jay: I do get over that way from time to time, although less in the summer which is our 'busy season'. I would actually love to get over there for one of the NW MI permaculture gatherings; my wife has them on her facebook and it seems like they have some interesting events. We have some friends over there too, one who actually was starting a mushroom CSA this year, although I haven't heard from him in a while...
I had no idea there were chestnut plantations, but knowing the area I'm not surprised... So often my wife and I imagine what could have been/what could be if we were running our business over on that side of the state. I don't know if you are familiar with the NE Lower, but the folks here are not known for their progressive attitudes, or for supporting local farms/businesses. At least not in the way they seem to over on the west side. But the grass always seems greener right?...
I ended up planting Chinese hybrid chestnuts, shagbark hickory, filberts, and horse chestnuts last fall. We had a bumper crop of acorns on our red oaks, so I assumed out of the several thousand nuts I planted around the property, at least a few dozen wouldn't be molested by the squirrels. I couldn't have been more wrong! So far all I have seen sprouting are a hand full of the horse chestnuts, which were the ones I least desired. I'm going to have to get a bit more creative this next fall in my rodent prevention strategy.
Check out Okios Tree Crops. They are in Michigan and have a bunch of really cool stuff. I found out about them from 1 of my PDC instructors who interned at Okios Tree crops. They are not shipping till fall but they have a lot of hard to find cold tolerant stuff. Some things are available as seedlings and others as seeds.
Thanks for mentioning them! I'm a big fan and customer of Okios! I can(and have) spend(t) hours looking at their catalog. I didn't realize they were only shipping in the fall now; I ordered last summer just fine, although some of the items had to wait until fall when they were dormant...