The possibility of growing a nut tree that will produce nuts in our area is not a straight yes or no answer. After the incredible fruit-producing year that we experienced this past season, I think we’re all excited to pick produce right from our own back yard tree, but our weather and soil conditions limit the number of nut trees that can grow here.
Walnut trees have always done fairly well in our area, and I know of some fantastic, big, mature walnut trees that are doing very well up on Spring Creek. English walnuts are a bit more cold hardy than Black walnuts, but they should both do well. Here comes the “however.” Walnut trees take about 10 years to produce. That’s not all bad though. The foliage and trunk make a pretty shade tree. With that said, another drawback is a disease known as “Thousand Canker Disease”, and yes, it is as bad as it sounds! The disease is devastating, causing the death of thousands of walnut trees, all because a small Walnut Twig Beetle carries the fungus that causes the disease. So far it hasn’t been a significant problem in our area, but it has the potential of killing all of the walnut trees if it ever gets ramped up here. So I don’t think I would recommend planting a walnut tree at this time.
Pecans also take about 10 years to produce and you’ll need two varieties to get nut production. They’re in a zone 5 category, and are picky about the soil they grow in, so the soil should be well amended far beyond the drip line of the tree. Even then it’s still risky growing them here and I wouldn’t expect nuts every year anymore than we do apricots.
Almonds are a close cousin to peach trees, so hardiness and care is similar. Like pecans, most almonds need a second variety for pollination though there are a few self-fertile varieties available. Because almonds usually bloom even earlier than apricots do and don’t really like alkaline soils, I don’t think I’d even try growing them here. However, if you really want to give it a try, Hall’s Hardy Almond is a Zone 5 tree and a bit more hardy than other varieties.
There’s a couple of gorgeous Horse Chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanum) in town but you should know that they may not fare well in poorly drained alkaline clay soils. They usually grow 40 to 70 feet tall and the fruit they produce is inedible. I wonder if the incredible flowers they produce in the spring are worth the mess that comes in the fall?
The Red Buckeye Tree (Aesculus pavia) will also grow here. This tree is a smaller tree, about 12 to 25 feet tall, so it can easily fit into a home landscape. Be aware though, all parts of this tree, even the fruit, are toxic if eaten!
When you think of nut trees for the area you might not think of Pinion pines. They’re native to our area and produce edible seeds (nuts) every few years when several pinions are planted on the property. Like most nut trees, it will take several years for them to reach nut-bearing age, but they’re attractive in the landscape. Because they like drier, well-drained native soils, they’re a great addition to a xeriscape setting. I think the biggest drawback with pinion nuts is that they’re so difficult to get out of the shell. I know the Native Americans did this with ease, but it’s still a challenge for me.
I think the idea of home grown nuts for the holidays is an enticing idea but for most of us it’s probably going to remain on our Christmas wish list.
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