Nuts for Harvest.
Once, no well stocked garden would be without a nut tree. They have now fallen from favour, but you can revive this tradition by planting a tree that will yield a hearty crop for decades to come.
The mighty walnut
An act of faith in the future: A walnut does not produce its first nuts for 15 to 20 years and achieves its best yields only after about 60 years. It can live to the grand old age of 300 -quite a legacy for any gardener to leave behind. Trees grafted onto the American walnut tree, or hickory produce nuts more rapidly but their life expectancy is no more than 30 years.
Harvesting walnuts: For pickling, gather the nuts in autumn, before they harden. Otherwise, gather nuts after they drop then remove the husk, clean the nuts carefully and dry in an airy room. Store in containers, between layers of sand or sprinkled with salt.
- To avoid getting stained by the husks when you harvest walnuts, spread sacking under the tree then knock down the nuts with a pole. You will then without touching it.
- The time-honoured way of removing walnuts from their husks is to pile them on hard soil and rake through them every day. It will not be long before the husks split and fall off. Then simply spread the walnuts out in the sun to dry.
A grand old tree: If you inherit an old walnut tree that's in bad shape, remove damaged branches with a sharp saw to avoid introducing pests and diseases. It is important to note, especially in a small garden, that walnut tree roots produce a toxic chemical that will poison nearby fruit trees. This explains why in very old gardens, it may be the only tree remaining. But this is no reason to cut down such an ancient tree - walnuts were roasted in the Neolithic period 8000 years ago, and the dark juice of the nut has been used to dye wool for centuries. Just site other fruit trees at a distance.
Well-timed pruning: Choose the right time, and prune only lightly. If branches are cut off in autumn or winter, the wounds heal badly and start to rot. If the tree is pruned in spring, its wounds weep large amounts of sap. But there is a 'window' between June and August when pruning is possible.
Growing from seed: Believe it or not, one of the easiest ways of propagating walnuts is by seed - that is, by sowing the nut itself. However, the tree produced is very often not quite the same as the tree that bore the fruit, although the new one usually provides good crops.
Take care of fragile roots: The walnut tree grows well and it seems that only high altitude and extreme summer drought can trouble it. However, it is seldom a good idea to transplant a tree grown from a seed, because its taproot system means that it is not certain to recover. It is better to leave seed-grown trees in place, so the taproot can dig deep down into the soil.
Frost strikes Twice.
When a walnut tree is damaged by a spring frost, the gardener loses not only that year’s crop but the following year’s as well. The reason for this lies in the tree’s unusual way of producing blossoms; the female flowers – the future walnuts – grow at the end of the year’s shoots, while the male catkins appear on wood that is one year old. The tree needs male and female flowers to produce fruit, so by destroying that year’s young shoots and the future one-year old wood, the frost takes two years’ fruits.