I’m interested in beginning to grow some Chestnut trees around some of my property. I have been doing a lot of research and am hoping to gain as much information as possible before beginning this project. I live in South Alabama in zone 8b. Does anyone have some recommendations of what trees I should attempt to grow here? Looking for some that would be the best tasting as well as blight resistant. I’m open to buying some saplings as well as growing from nuts if possible. Recommendations on where to buy would be great as well as I purchased 3 trees from Walmart (Dunstan) and they were pricey. Thanks for the help!
My advice is to not grow chestnuts because they are a royal pain in the ass. Lol. They smell bad during bloom and they are a lot of maintenance during harvest season. And if you have dogs that will run around them you’ll have sore dog paws. They do make great shade trees though. And they are great if you are trying to attract deer. But unless you love the nuts that much I’d pass.
I am looking for shade trees and deer attraction, but I figured I would try to get one that had palatability for people as well. I would hate to have chestnuts everywhere in 15-20 years only to find out they were worthless in the food market. I’m also interested in black walnuts, but they seem much easier/more natural to this area
I grow a lot of chestnut trees from nuts. I start them indoors during the winter under lights using a Rootmaker container system, continue transplanting to larger containers and finally plant them from 3 gal Rootbuilder II containers in the fall. Mine are mostly for wildlife. I start them mostly from Dunstan nuts (hybrid) but I’ve also grown some Chinese. It takes seedlings quite a while to produce nuts, at least in my soil in zone 7a. This year I’m grafting some of my Dunstan trees in the field hoping to speed production over a seedling. I grow them like this because I wanted volume for my wildlife project. After setup costs are amortized, cost per tree is minimal. Taste is quite subjective, so I’ll leave that to others. I won’t know about my success in grafting for a while as I just started. There are many varieties out there, just keep in mind that a grafted variety can’t pollinate another tree grafted with that same variety and they are wind pollinated so they need to be fairly closely spaced. Seedlings can pollinate other chestnuts. In my area, protection is required because of deer.
I just planted my first 2 chestnuts this year…thanks for that encouraging post! haha. But I love the taste enough to put up with the other things you mentioned. I also planted them randomly in my front yard to serve as large shade trees. Also planted 4 pecans for the same reason in the same general area. Now that I have the edible bug, I just can’t make myself plant something like an oak tree or large maple or other non-edible!
@Jameson416 You didn’t mention pecans. I’m sure you’ve thought about them since they are quite popular in your neck of the woods. Why aren’t they on your list of wild-life attracting nuts that could also be eaten by people? Too much maintenance, spray, etc?
Front Yard! You poor poor man…And that poor Brittany pup of yours…
Just kidding. I hate them but one mans trash is another mans treasure. Good luck with them.
There is a field of pecan trees that my family owns right next to our propery. Like you said, pecans are common, so I was trying to think of something a little less common since several people have pecan groves around here. Pecans are also less attractive for deer than oak or chestnuts, and I’m fairly certain the wood is significantly less valuable at maturity.
I would be interested in buying seed (to reduce cost) and planting my own as well. Does anyone sell their seed or know of some quality dealers?
I was pretty happy with nuts from Dunstan trees I bought from Chestnut Ridge of Pike County. There is also a guy I know who is trying to get Chinese chestnuts shipped to all 50 states. He collects them and sends them to folks for the cost of shipping. He posts here: http://deerhunterforum.com/index.php?members/wbpdeer.3/
For a few trees, direct seeding will save money but you don’t really have the option to cull. The problem with using regular smooth containers is the circling/j-hooking roots on trees. A root pruning container system and an indoor lighting setup can be a bit expensive for just a few trees, but is does let you cull trees and pick the biggest and best for planting.
Here is a thread that shows that it is possible to get a 6’+ chestnut in a single growing season from a nut with this method: Maximizing Chestnut Seedling Growth
I’m not sure if this method is a fit for you, but it does work well.
I have several selected variety chestnuts, including a Dunston and several Chinese types, like Sleeping Giant. They are easy here in S.NY, with no pests in the 25 years I’ve grown them. Funky smelling blossoms, but most real gardeners don’t have weak stomachs and bloom time passes quickly. I’ve no dogs, but can see how the thorny husks could present problems, but they also stop squirrels from harvesting them before they are ripe most seasons. If you wake up before the squirrels you can gather those that fell during the night. I’m told if you dig shallow holes in the ground near the trees and cover with leaves, the squirrels will often gather them for you.
They are pretty tasty roasted and especially in bread stuffings loaded with broth and served with Turkey or red meat. Excellent for fattening up hogs- or so I’ve read. As stated, excellent wildlife forage as well.
my family has property in southeast West Virginia, right outside a small town named Hinton. The property is on Chestnut Mountain named because of the huge chestnut stands that used to be there… Unfortunately, years ago almost all of them were wiped out by blight. Back in the late 80’s, early 90’s, the man who was caretaking our property (a former biologist) was doing some experiments with the American Chestnut out there. He was a little nuts, but a genius when it came to trees. His goal was to reintroduce the American Chestnut to the area. I know he planted close to a hundred trees. He is long gone now and I’m not sure what if any of them survived. Haven’t been up to the property in 4 or 5 years, but I’m curious to find out.
This is good info from a couple that farms chestnuts commercially, albeit focused to Iowa and particularly concerned about hardiness.
Sounds like Chestnuts can have some problems with grafting…
One of the Restoration 1.0 chestnut trees I have planted at my property from TACF seeds. I donated hundreds of dollars to the foundation several years ago to get my hands on these. The most genetically advanced chestnuts yet. The result of decades of backcross breeding.
Photo taken today.
And just when you finally get some going from all the cross back work, they come out with a GMO version that is 100% with that one genetic change. It sure will be interesting to see that tree develop!
Hinton is a beautiful area, went to CC (now CU) in Athens. Worked at Pipestem for a couple of years after college.
You would want to grow Chinese trees or Chinese hybrids that are blight resistant. They should do very well for you in Alabama, which, climate-wise, closely resembles some of the best chestnut growing areas in China. Growing Chinese chestnuts in Alabama is as natural as you can get. Compared to growing most fruit trees, chestnut trees are a dream. Stronger trees and fewer disease and pest problems. Most people find the smell of the flowers inoffensive but even if you don’t like it, it only lasts for about a week. You also want to get the best quality seed nuts or seedlings you can find. Empire Chestnuts and Red Fern Farm are good places to start. I can send you seed nuts from some of the best Chinese chestnuts grown in the US. I don’t sell them and I don’t send out very many but they’re free and the quality is excellent.
First are Jenny nuts-
Emalyn’s Purple nuts-
Gillet nuts - these are European/Japanese but will be pollinated by Chinese so they might be blight resistant-
I bought a house in Z7 that has a pair of Chinese chestnut trees that were planted in 1953. Needless to say, they are massive and put out an astonishing amount of nuts every day for a month- at the peak I probably pick 2-3 gallons of nuts every day- and that’s what the wildlife leaves behind. It’s crazy. They produce every year, but heavier some years than others. Haven’t figured any rhyme or reason to it yet.
It is a deer and squirrel magnet! The seed pod spines are obscenely sharp, can’t ever walk in my yard barefoot.
I like them, they are beautiful trees, and the nuts are delicious. Need to get the early ones because the late ones are all shot through with worms.
Wow that is wonderful news to hear as I have just been unable to find much literature (outside of the American Chestnut foundation) regarding growth in my area. If you would be willing to send me seed of some varities to grow that would truly be a blessing. I’m not sure if there is a way I could private message you or email you on here but I would love to grow some of your suggestions. Thank you for your response
Just click on the big pink C before my screen name and a pop up will give you an option to message me.