Timely Tip

Timely Tip #20

For the Week of September 29 – October 6

Time to order trees for next fall delivery and planting.  Three  things to know and do:

#1.  Order Forrest Keeling trees. If you don’t order Forrest Keeling Nursery trees, your trees may come looking like those in the photos below. These trees will never catch up to the larger, more robust Forrest Keeling trees in the bottom photos.  To produce thousands of trees that look as good as Forrest Keeling Nursery trees is a sign of a great nursery.

#2. Call Forrest Keeling Nursery to place order immediately for next fall delivery and planting.    800-356-2401 

#3. Below the photos….

Below  are common examples of grafted chestnut trees from “out west nurseries”.  These are very common examples taken from Michigan orchards of what you get. The most important concept to take away is that these trees will NEVER catch up with the Forrest Keeling Nursery trees.  These examples are less than one foot tall and the girth of the the stems are very small.  You can see the toe of my shoe in the last photo of this series and that is perhaps 3 to 4 inches.  These trees will suffer for many years in Michigan.  

Compare the trees in the photos above to the trees in the photos below.   You can see what they look like coming off the truck, what they look like a year later. They grow, are ready to produce pollen or female flowers or both.  Even though the cultivars at two different nurseries have the same names, they are not the same type of tree.

Trees arriving at Clarksville distribution; most were over 4 feet and some were 5 feet tall.  Many were trimmed since they were so tall

Forrest Keeling Nursery trees arriving at Clarksville distribution this past September.  Most are over 4 feet tall and many were over 5 feet tall.  Most were cut before being placed on the truck.  Bottom photo is of a typical two-year-old tree in the orchard near Dowagiac, MI. 


#3.  Read the 10 guidelines below and make sure you can follow the Chestnut Orchard Solutions guide.  

10 Guidelines to Follow to Become a Commercial Chestnut Grower

Before you take one more step, ask yourself if you are capable of or willing to do the following minimum actions

  1. Site—Find the proper site conditions including proper soil type. A good site is well drained for both water and spring frosts; soil pH must be acidic and stay acidic = 5.5 – 6.0. Do not default to a site because that was the only place available.
  2. Cultivars—The foundation to any successful agriculture endeavor is the germplasm or choice of genetic material. You need to have the ability to purchase high quality, grafted chestnut cultivars—NOT SEEDLINGS. Seedlings will fail you as a commercial chestnut grower. You will not be able to make predications or assign value to your trees or the nuts. Do not fall for this cheaper method of planting.
  3. Mammals—Deer and rodents must be controlled from the first day of planting. Do not use plastic growth tubes to keep deer off the young plants. These tubes will keep the trees too green in the fall and winter temperatures will harm growth.
  4. Pests—You must take care to manage insect and mite problems that will develop in commercial orchards. You must have commercial spray rigs or have access to them (you will have to manage three to five insect pests depending on your location and the year).
  5. Weeds—You must have a plan for weed control.
  6. Water—Irrigation must be present (when needed, such as for newly planted trees and mature trees during severe droughts.
  7. Fertilizer—You must fertilize and you must be willing to take soil and tissue tests.
  8. Sunscald—You must prevent serious damage to the bark caused by sunscald injury (southwest disease) by painting trunks of trees with a 50% white latex paint.
  9. Harvest—Although machine harvesting is possible, most growers still harvest the nuts by picking them up by hand from the orchard floor. Michigan State University now owns a dedicated chestnut harvester and research is underway for machine harvests.
  10. Resources—Finally, you need to have the financial resources to endure the costs of the nine guidelines above as well as the loss of trees due to unforeseen environmental conditions. Go into commercial chestnut production with your eyes wide open.   Get smart, current, objective and public information.  If answers are not known, it should be presented that way—not presented as if it is known.

*Ask yourself, are you willing to meet the necessary requirements for your investment?  If you cannot see yourself dealing with each of the issues above in a professional manner, then chestnut growing may not be something you wish to attempt.