Nut suggestions for northern New England?

Hi all; I just signed up here at the suggestion of Holly Gates, friend and co-conspirator in apples and bicycle-powered cidermaking. I live in coastal Maine and have about an acre in a variety of apples, peaches, and a few pears (haphazardly documented on a blog called Five Islands Orchard). Holly pointed me to great discussions here as I contemplate migrating from seedling and B118 rootstock for a quarter-acre of newground we opened up in the fall - hope I can pester folks here for some advice about that as I go along.

But this morning I’m poking around the Fedco Trees site and thinking about nuts. My only experience is planting some of Fedco’s hazelnut seedlings perhaps six years ago. They have grown and produced a few nuts once or twice, but I wouldn’t call it a success, though I haven’t lavished much attention or fertility on them and there’s some root competition from an oak tree to the north, so it could be my fault.

Anyway, I’d love to hear advice from anyone local to northern New England or a similar cold, damp place on specific nut varieties that work well for them - thanks so much!

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Welcome to the forum, great group of folks here, and even a few fellow Mainers!
Search function will get you to a few recent discussions that cover quite a few of the options if you type in ‘northern nut’.
I haven’t explored many of the options, some nut trees I’ve planted will take awhile to start bearing, in the meantime Ive been enjoying hybrid hazels plant the same year. Fedco’s hazelnut plants are most likely native hazels, if you seek out hybrid strains bred for production, blight immunity, hardiness, you will get better results as far as production goes.
I am liking the idea of hybrid chestnuts for a food crop, and hope to add some in the years to come.

I’m on PEI, just north of you. Here, Grimo 186-M is good, pollen sheds even after a bad winter. Het 3 crops well on 186-M pollen, and Farris 88-B is pretty good too. Geneva crops well, just a bit young yet, Lewis is pretty tender here, does crop but dies in a bad winter with no snow.
Yamhill and Santiam are good…try the PEI Soils and Crop assoc web page for the hazel trials. I think Farris B-17 is going to be good on PEI too.

Maybe some others will chime in if they are close to you.

Jesse, Jocelyn:

Thanks for your thoughtful replies with hazelnut species suggestions. I found an online outfit called Nutcracker Nursery offering some of these varieties - not sure if plant matter crosses the Canada>US border easily, but if so I will give it a shot. It’s just as much work to take care of indifferent stock as carefully-selected stuff, so I’m inclined to at least try some of these varieties that come with numbers instead of names.

I have a choice between planting on the island (zone 5b, but with frequent fog in the summer) and about 10 miles from the coast (zone 5a, and about 5F hotter in the summer) - do the hazelnuts benefit significantly from summer heat?

Any advice about other types of nuts? Any luck with walnuts in northern New England?

Thanks again - I really appreciate the forum!

I think the two best nuts for northern growers are chestnuts and hazelnuts. I’ve had good success with both. I’m not so interested in the named varieties, but am focused on planting lots of seedlings. They are easier to propagate, increase genetic diversity, and as far as chestnut/hazelnut, they produce nice useful nuts. I’ve seen each one begin producing as young as 3 years old.
Black walnuts and hybrid butternut/japanese walnut will be your best bets for walnuts, but they are not nearly as precocious or easy to use as chestnut/hazel.

I’d say that depends on your definition of “northern”. Here, native hazelnuts do very well but chestnuts are nowhere near winter hardy.

Zone 4 or 5?

If you’re asking me, I’m on the border of 4a and 3b

I was actually asking both of you but didn’t do it very well. 4a/3b is tough.

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I’m on the edge of zone 4/5. The chestnuts we’ve been growing here and at our friend’s mature orchard have not shown any winter damage over the last several decades. They withstood -25f

Burnt Ridge has a large selection of blight resistant hazelnut varieties…

Also, Oikos Tree Crops offers their own approach to blight resistant hazels. I’ve got a few from Oikos and my biggest problem, 10 years in, are scale and squirrels.

Love northern Maine…haven’t been in decades. Grew up in RI, transplanted to Michigan 20 years ago.


What variety(ies) of chestnuts are you/your friend growing?

I don’t think the hazels will need the heat. I’m on the north shore of PEI, and some of my fellow nut growers are in Nova Scotia, in several locations, and the hazels are doing well in alll of those locations. Seed from a commercial grower near you will give you lots of diversity and some will be hardy where you live. I have both named varieties and seedlings. Some of the seedlings have catkins this year…but whether they will prove to be winter hardy is not known yet. All is not lost if they aren’t, as the female floweras are hardier and they may crop well even if they don’t shed pollen. Still, one needs at least some kinds that shed pollen, or there will be no nuts. Something else, hazels are picky whose pollen they can make nuts with…too close related, same genes expressed in the pollen and female flowers and NO nuts.
Walnuts are more hit and miss. I have good lucky with Carpathian walnuts, J. regia, but some others south of me don’t. Butternuts and heartnuts do well here too, good crops, but some folks in Nova Scotia have troube with them. I don’t know whether my windswept location delays bloom, or it’s a seedlot effect. Most of mine are seedlings. I do have a Combe walnut graft and it’s hardy here. Most of my heartnuts have a butternut grandmother, and they may be more hardy from that.

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We’re actually in southern Maine, not far from Portland. PEI looks like zone 5, same as us, and it appears the summers are no hotter than ours, so it’s great to hear that you can grow Carpathian walnuts.

This investigation is the first I’ve heard of heartnuts; they sound cool so might plant some to see what happens.

Thanks to all for advice!