Growing Nut Trees
Introduction to Nut Trees
There are all kinds of nuts, that make great ornamental trees as well as productive ones, that give us plentiful harvests. Some don’t produce nuts in this climate as well as others, but there are some like hazelnuts and filberts that suit the UK climate just fine.
Planting Nut Trees
Choose a site which is well-drained and in a position which benefits from good sunlight. Avoid planting in a part of the garden that is prone to frosts- opened flowers and fruitlets are susceptible to frost damage. Also, avoid planting in an exposed or windy position as this will both discourage pollinating insects and cause stem and subsequently crop damage.
Avoid planting near larger or overhanging trees. To reduce the possibility of carrying over any dormant disease, do not plant where an old fruit tree has recently been removed. If your garden or allotment is visited by rabbits, then adequate protection must be given to the tree trunks using wire netting or plastic tree guards.
Although grown primarily for their crops, in a domestic garden fruit trees should be regarded as ornamental as well as useful, especially during the spring when they are covered in blossom. So, if possible, pick a position where you can see the blossom in its full glory and, later on, of the ripening fruit.
Planting Bare-Rooted Nut Trees
Planting time: November to March
Preparing the soil: The soil should be thoroughly dug and, at the same time, incorporate some bulky compost or Organic Extra Manure, and a feed of Fish, Blood & Bone or Light & Easy garden compost. Make sure any deep rooted perennial weeds are removed with a fork, or shallow-rooted weeds which you can remove with a hoe.
Planting method: Dig a planting hole 15cm (6in) wider than the root system once it has been spread out, and to a depth whereby the soil mark from the nursery on the stem of the young tree will be just covered. Fork into the sides of the hole which will encourage the roots to penetrate the surrounding soil and establish well.
If you want to add a tree-stake for stabilising the tree in a windy site, bang it into the hole before the tree is planted, so you don’t damage roots by tapping in the stake after the young tree has been planted.
After placing the tree in the hole, spread out the roots and add layers of soil, firming down with your foot. Repeat until you’ve filled the hole with soil. The tree should be firm enough in the soil that it does not up-root when you pull the main stem and it shows resistance.
Water the area generously after planting and add a layer of warming and moisture-locking mulch around the tree, making sure that the mulch does not come into direct contact with the main stem.
If you have added a stake, tie to the tree by means of a tree tie ensuring that it’s firmly attached but allows a small degree of movement.
Planting Containerised Nut Trees
Instructions (see bare-rooted, but note the following).
Planting time: All year round (though avoid high-summer and deep winter)
Planting method: Remove any weeds that may be growing on top of the container, and tease out some of the roots that are circling around the root ball. This will encourage the roots to penetrate the surrounding soil and establish well.
Feeding Nut Trees
Incorporating bulky compost and/ or manure into the soil before planting will increase nutrient levels in the soil and give the young nut tree a good start.
Until they produce catkins or petalled-flowers, feed with a general purpose fertiliser that you can add to water. Once the tree starts to flower in the form of catkins or more petalled flowers, change this to a feed high in potash, like tomato food, which encourages good flowering and fruiting.
Watering Nut Trees
While the nut tree is developing in the first and second month, water daily in the morning or evening, or both during a dry spell.
A layer of mulch added in spring will conserve much of the moisture in the soil.
Training Nut Trees
Patience is the key for growing nut trees. It may take up to five years for trees to produce fruiting nuts. While you are waiting for this though, the trees themselves are very attractive and make good garden plants.
The wind will do the work for you on catkin-producing fruit like hazelnuts, as the pollen from the catkins blow onto the female flowers that produce the nuts.
Training nut trees is really a matter of taking out dead, damaged or diseased stems to keep the plants healthy. Prune out of the nesting season though (spring and summer) so not to disturb bird families.
Harvesting and Storing Nuts
Harvest in the autumn as the leaves are turning. If the nuts are surrounded by hardened, modified petals called husks, prise these away, and the nut should fall out.
Dry them out for two to three days before storing or freezing by placing on newspaper in a cool, dry place like a garden shed or garage.
Best Nuts to Grow
Hazelnut ‘Webbs Prize’
Hazelnut ‘Red Majestic’
Walnut species Juglans maxima (only grow in large gardens)
Almond species Prunus dulcis
Pests and Diseases of Nut Trees