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Protecting overwintering nut seeds from squirrels and mice.

 
Michael Longfield
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Location: Southern IL zone 6B
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I'm starting a nursery this fall. I'm direct seeding large amounts of hazelnut and chestnut seeds into outdoor nursery beds to cold stratify in place. The trees will then be dug up, bare root, at 1-2 years old. One issue other tree nursery folks warn about is your nuts being stolen from mice and squirrels. I'm brain storming ways to protect the seeds. Any ideas and experience?

An article talking about what mark shepard does, and some other folks experiences in the comments... https://littlehouseontheurbanprairie.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/chestnuts-and-hazels-for-the-future/

I will sum up the recommendations from the article...
- plant in 5 gallon buckets, with hardware cloth on the top and bottom.(mark shepard)
- plant in large rectangular wooden raised beds, with hardware cloth on the top and bottom.(mark shepard)
- put fresh manure as mulch on the exposed (no hardware cloth), nursery beds, to fertilize and discourage thieves.(commenter)
- Put a tree tube above where you plant the nut. Supposedly worked 100%. I don't know how this would translate to a bed where 1,000s of seeds are planted. (commenter)

My own thoughts.
-non toxic rodent deterrents that are used in barns.
- cats and dogs
- mouse traps
-cold stratifying in the fridge over winter. Then planting in the spring once they begin germinating in the fridge. This takes up your fridge space, especially if you are working with lots of nuts.

I'm thinking of using a combination of these strategies, but I wonder if I am not doing enough. I would love to hear from someone with more experience. I would hate to lose lots of my crop.

Right now my plan is....
I'm planting the seeds in long raised beds, where the soil from the path is piled up on the bed, roughly on contour. I will mulch with as much manure as I can get my hands on. right now I just have some chicken manure. Will try to get pig manure asap. Then I'm laying hardware cloth on the beds. This is not secured like Mark Shepard recommends. I'm essentially mimicking the tree tube strategy. Then some non toxic rodent deterents. I have 3 cats and a dog. and I will bust out the mouse traps if I need to. I wonder if stacking all these some what lacking strategies will give me the results I need.

I will save some in the fridge for planing in spring.

PEACE

 
Michael Longfield
Posts: 84
Location: Southern IL zone 6B
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I found this article on protecting bulbs from squirrels... http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2013/09/how-to-protect-bulbs-from-squirrels/
 
John Elliott
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My vote is for the liberal use of hardware cloth. Cayenne or other dried hot peppers also work, but you have to keep re-applying it because it gets washed away. And you never know if you have put down enough to burn squirrel noses into staying away.

I like the use of hardware cloth because it torments the nasty rodents like they torment me. They can smell those nice, tasty, juicy prizes, but they can't bite through and get at them. That'll teach 'em!
 
Michael Longfield
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How do you apply the hardware cloth? I was going to lay it on my raised beds, and then pile manure and mulch on top of it. It won't be fixed like the bucket method.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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The squirrels in my yard didn't bother hazelnut seeds in the 14 months between when they were planted and when they germinated. I planted in plain old soil and stomped them in well. So the seeds would have had to been dug up one by one from compacted soil. There was plenty of other food for the squirrels such as walnuts and dried corn.

 
John Elliott
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Michael Longfield wrote:How do you apply the hardware cloth?


I use the hardware cloth to cover pots where I am sprouting seedlings. On open ground, you may want to do something like fold down the sides so you have a box of hardware cloth and keep it in place (until it can be removed) with spikes or bricks.
 
Michael Longfield
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Last year I tried applying the hardware cloth directly on the soil, and then holding it down with lots of mulch.  It did not work.  90% of my hazelnuts were eaten.  Most of my chestnuts, covered by hardware cloth and uncovered were fine.    I guess they prefer hazelnuts.

I have since seen people have lots of mice traps around their nursery beds.

My plan this year is I'm cold stratifying my seeds in the fridge, and once they sprout I will plant them in the beds.   This will eliminate the amount of time that the critters have available to eat them.  I will also use traps. 
 
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