The Organic Gardeners Go Nuts; Ordering Nut Trees Now

  • You haven't tasted a walnut until you've harvested your own. These are a variety called 'Livermore.' Photo: Courtesy Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.

Listen to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Doug Oster and Horticulturist Jessica Walliser talk about the best way to get fresh, wonderful and pesticide free nuts -- grow your own.

“There are actually a lot of really wonderful nut varieties that we can grow in our region,” says Walliser.  “Nut trees have fallen out of vogue because people see them as messy or because nuts are easy to buy.  But it’s quite easy to do on your own."

Now is the time to start planning for planting nut trees because they are purchased  “bare root”. Bare root means the trees come from companies without any soil on their roots. Trees should be ordered now so they arrive at the perfect time for planting.

Some nut trees grow to be very large.

“If you are talking about something like a hickory nut which is native here in the east, it takes a long time to mature and bear nuts. But they are a beautiful tree,” says Walliser.

But there are a lot of trees that will produce faster than a hickory nut.

A grafted hazelnut tree will produce nuts within two to three years of planting. There are smaller varieties so even an urban backyard can have hazelnut trees.

“With most nut trees you need two varieties of them because they need to cross pollinate,” says Walliser. “A good nursery will actually help you pick compatible varieties.”

Walnut and chestnut trees also grow well in this region.

“You know, the American chestnut, you’re not going to find those around anymore,” says Walliser. “So right now if you want to plant a chestnut, you should plant a Chinese or Japanese variety of chestnut.”

HARVESTING

Commercially, companies use a mechanical “shaker” to get the nuts from the trees. Most home gardeners will want to collect the nuts that have fallen to the ground. The husks should be removed and the nuts should be placed on a screen to dry in a space such as a garage.  After the nuts are dried, they can be eaten, frozen or stored.

Here are the Organic Gardeners' recommendations for supply sources: 

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply

Raintree Nursery

One Green World