Chestnut Planting Guide

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Supplies

  • Chestnuts: A lot of nurseries sell nuts by units of 25-30 nuts for $6-$9.
  • Soil: You need about 6 cubic feet (30-40 gallons) of soil to put on top of the ground.
  • You may need additional supplies for squirrel protection (see below)

Steps

1) Plant nuts in loose raised beds so that they can be dug out easily in the future.

Loosen the soil, add like 6 inches of compost/soil (making sure it’s pretty well drained) and plant the nuts 8+ inches apart.

If the nuts have sprouted already, it’s really important to place them correctly. The root should go down and not bend against its will. If there is still a nut, it should be within the top inch. The edge between the root and shoot is a clear change in texture and should be at the surface.

There is the issue of protecting these from squirrels. You could try making a little protective frame of PVC pipe or bamboo and covering it with shade cloth, chicken wire, or plastic to keep squirrels out.

Mulch with straw or wood chips around them after a deep watering.

Sometime mid-summer it wouldn’t hurt to take a flat shovel and do a simple cut between the trees to prune the roots so that they’re not getting tangled.

2) Let them grow like that for a year, then dig them up in late winter and transplant them. If you plant them a little further apart, they can stay 2-3 years.

The best time to dig them up would be when they are dormant in the winter. They would probably be OK with spring digging, but if you dig them up while they’re still dormant, they’ll tolerate being wrapped in plastic with wet cardboard and moved.

If you decide to leave the trees in the nursery for 2-3 years, space them more like a foot or two apart and make sure to do root pruning.

3) Ultimately they can be transplanted and will eventually produce nuts as long as they have a pollinator friend close by.

In 20 years when they’re grown up, the trees will need to be between 25 and 60 feet apart. Closer is better. When it’s a long stretch like along a street, they can be more like 12 feet, but they need that other space to the sides to grow.

Alternatively, here’s our recommendation. In 3-4 years trees will start flowering. If they are really close to one another, they have a chance at producing nuts, and you never know whether trees will survive or not. So you might consider planting them 5 feet apart, as long as some trees are in the final location that you want for them. The idea would be to plant every 5 feet, harvest nuts early, and plan to thin and cut back many of them in 15 years. That also helps with the project of getting woody biomass, coppice, mushroom logs, firewood, useful poles, etc.

We learned a lot from watching Akiva Silver at Twisted Tree farm - we recommend checking out his videos.