Summary of What You Need to do For Have a Successful Hazelnut Orchard
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By Jeff and Dawn of Z’s Nutty Ridge 2018'
The list below is a short summary of the topics that our book will cover for successful hazelnut orchard. For each summary topic below the chapter that details the information is also listed for quick access. Take the steps outlined by each topic below in the order listed and you will minimize: your efforts, your risks and your costs, while maximizing the chances of your success.
- USDA zone map will tell you what hardiness zone you are in to aid in your tree selections. Locate your field on the USDA interactive zone map. Are you in zones 4b or higher? Compare the USDA hardiness zone of your land with the USDA zone hardiness of the tree selection available. There are fewer selections of hazelnuts that will do well in USDA 4 and 5 then there is for USDA zones 6/7/8. It is important to not buy the wrong tree for your zone.
- GIS soil survey needs to be reviewed as to the type of soil do you have? Look up your field on GIS soil survey web site. Hazels will do well in most all soil types except acid soils below 5.4pH and heavy clay soils. However, if the soil type is acidic through and through you will be better off to find a different field. Soils with some clay are okay. However, heavy clay soils will not drain and hazels like most trees will not do well, without extraordinary effort on your part and it is best to find another field to grow hazels.
- Soil test is needed to see what it will take to grow healthy strong hazelnut trees. A soil test from Dairy One or your local Cooperative Extension Service, will tell you if you need to add lime and how much. The surface of the soil is often low pH, if it hasn’t been farmed in a few years and that can be corrected with some lime. Most land requires liming every few years and it is to be expected. The soil test will tell you if the soil is deficient in any of the macro or micro nutrients and how much to add. Making adjustments is important, as a tree can only grow as well as the most deficient nutrient allows. These previous three steps should be taken before any planting endeavor not just hazelnuts.
- Prepare the land early in the planning stages, if possible the year before planting trees to make the recommended adjustments to your soil and land. This mean the orchard floor needs to be cleared of brush and rocks. The lime if needed will need to be worked in the soil. Lime only moves ½ inch per year on its own and the more you can incorporate it by rototilling or disking it in the better. You will need to also add in any recommended amendments, purchased from your local farm store. You can start out just adjusting a strip where you plan to plant the trees, say typically 4 feet wide along the row with a walk behind rototiller. However, over time as the roots grow the whole field will need to be adjusted.
Orchard type and harvesting requires planning once you know your options. As bushes, hazel are often less than 10 feet and as trees less than 16 feet, so managing them is relatively easy. Are you planning to harvest a few trees or have a U-pick operation or a full blown commercial orchard? Do you want to grow bushes or single stem trees? These two questions combine to give options if planned properly. For proper spacing and more information on orchard types see Chapter 3.
- If you are going to be hand picking or a U-pick operation you will want to grow your trees as a bush. In bush form that are American hazelnuts or hybrids of American hazelnuts (Corylus americana) the branches generally remain flexible throughout their life and can easily be bent for easy picking.
- If you are planning a full blown mechanized orchard, the bush type hazels can be harvested with machine picking using an aronia berry harvester. The harvester bends the branches over and beats the nuts off the tree where they are conveyed into a bin.
- Most European hazels (Corylus avellana) along with some American X European hybrids will grow taller and the branches become too stiff to allow bending for a safe U-pick operation or harvesting with an aronia berry picker. For this type of tree you have two options. You can allow the hazels to form a bush and just coppice (cut out) the larger central leaders every few years to keep the branches flexible. This is easily done with the large pruners called loppers. Alternatively, you can grow the tree as a single stem by cutting away any side shoots that grow. When growing the taller tree form of orchard, the nuts are harvested once the nuts drop to the ground. You can pick up the nuts by hand or using a sweeper in combination with a vacuum or just a vacuum. Once you know the type of orchard you want, find the tree type needed for your USDA zone. Don’t let the coppicing bother you as any tree requires some pruning every so often. Harvesting methods based on tree form is detailed in chapter 6.
- Maintenance requires that you diligently make sure the young trees have enough water for the first two years and keep all weeds away from the base of the tree. Since you made sure the soil was adjusted you won’t need to do any fertilization the first two years. You should only have to watch for leaf eating bugs like Japanese beetles, tent caterpillars or army worms. Japanese beetles can be greatly reduced by putting a couple of Japanese beetle traps outside of your orchard and monitor. Generally, you won’t have to worry about any pests until the trees produce nuts. Even then when the tree starts producing nuts, we do not have any insects to date that reduce production or quality of the crop only birds and rodents. How to handle birds and rodents is in chapter 4. The orchard floor needs to be maintained for weed control, rodent control and enable harvesting. When the tree starts producing nuts a leaf analysis will let you know how well you are doing with fertilization and nutrients as described in Chapter 5.
- Protection of your newly planted trees is most important for survivability and fast growth. We recommend putting up a fence to keep the larger rodents and deer from munching on your trees. If you have field mice and voles then a hardware cloth tree tube around the base of the tree will protect them from having the bark chewed off your tree in the winter time. If you are only planting a few trees, instead of building a fence, you can encircle your tree with four or five foot high metal fence. The diameter of fence needs to be the overall tree width plus two feet beyond the branch tips, to keep the tree from the reach of deer browsing. Fencing is covered in chapter 4.
- Repeat schedule on a yearly basis according to tasks based on the month of year. A month by month yearly calendar reminding you what to do when is detailed in Chapter 5.
- Business plan for any adventure should be known ahead of time. Planning is always a great way to make sure you have the necessary time and money to see your project through to success, as you define it. Chapter 7 details the cost and expected sales for a well-managed orchard.
- Chestnuts, Walnuts and other nut orchards are conceptually just variants of a hazelnut orchard. We will detail what changes are needed for chestnuts and touch on walnuts, heartnuts, hickories pecans and their hybrids in chapter 8.
- References on where to find information, procure hardware, trees, equipment and soil amendments to get you started in the right direction without wasting time or effort or guess work is located in the reference section.
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