"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." We know this Christmas song. At the turn of the century, 60 percent of our Eastern forest was Chestnut trees. The nuts were a food source for people and wildlife. Loggers prized the 90 foot giants. Resistant to weather and rot, Chestnut was the wood for fence posts, railroad ties, and more. But, when is the last time you saw a Chestnut tree?
In 1904, a blight attacked and destroyed our native trees. Now, almost a century later, in the East, only a few remain. Attempts at the reintroduction of our native species fall victim to the blight. But new and encouraging breeding programs are making progress. The fight continues by many organizations dedicated to restoring the American Chestnut to its native habitat. If you are interested in learning more about restoration efforts, visit the American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation at http://www.angelfire.com/tn/americanchestnut.
But what if you want a Chestnut tree for your yard? Well, the good news is many nurseries carry blight resistant varieties of Chestnut trees for the homeowner. The Chinese is the most widely available. It's a small tree, seldom reaching 50 feet. The nuts are large and sweet. The trees are sterile, so plant two different varieties for good pollination. Hybrid trees are available. They vary in characteristic depending on type. Many are excellent in size and nut quality.
Chestnut Burr Opening
Nurseries usually sell nut trees in the spring. Shipped bare root, they require no special handling. Dig a large hole deep enough for the roots. Don't amend the soil or add fertilizers. Putting anything in the hole will encourage the roots to stay shallow. Plant the tree at the same depth it was planted at the nursery. To find this, look at the bark near the roots. You will see the different colors in the bark. Plant your tree, back filling the hole with the soil you dug out. Water generously. That eliminates air pockets and lets the roots grow. Keep your tree watered, 8-10 gallons of water a week during the growing season. After a few weeks fertilize with water soluble fertilizer. Mulch around your tree to a depth of 2-3 inches. Keep the mulch from touching the trunk of the tree.
Chestnuts will bear nuts at 5-7 years old. Your tree will continue to produce nuts for the next 50 years. Plenty of time to learn all the words to that familiar Christmas refrain, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..."
Our orchard does not sell chestnut trees. However, we do sell chestnut seeds for growing your own trees. These are available in the fall. If you would like to order chestnut seeds to grow your own trees, click HERE for payment options.
To learn more about chestnuts or other minor nuts, contact the Northern Nut Growers Association. They are the world's foremost independent source of information on growing nut trees. Their Web site is at http://www.nutgrowing.org.
Delaware Cooperative Extension System
Contact Nancy Petitt at Nancy@BuyChestnuts.com for questions relating to Chestnut trees or commercial production of chestnuts.