Go­ing nuts

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - Peter Cundall

YEARS ago I planted a se­lec­tion of hazel­nut trees and, although vir­tu­ally com­pletely ne­glected and never wa­tered, they’ve now grown mar­vel­lously.

I’m glad I bought named va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing Amer­i­can White, Wan­liss Pride and Lam­bert be­cause they are in­fin­itely more re­li­able and pro­duc­tive than seedlings.

In fact, about 30 years ago there was a brief, rather trendy up­surge in hazel­nut plant­ing in Tas­ma­nia, but far too many trees were just un­named seedlings. Most ei­ther cropped poorly or pro­duced in­signif­i­cant nuts.

At the moment our trees are al­most bend­ing to the ground with the weight of nuts. This is be­cause of ex­cel­lent cross- pol­li­na­tion.

A soli­tary hazel­nut tree will not bear nuts be­cause th­ese plants are not self- fer­tile and need the pollen from an­other hazel to set fruit.

This pol­li­na­tion takes place in late win­ter when the trees are cov­ered with at­trac­tive male catkins. The fe­male flower is just a tiny, in­con­spic­u­ous red­dish tuft that ap­pears later.

Air move­ment causes male pollen to drift be­tween ad­join­ing hazel­nut trees.

The rea­son why hazel­nut crops are so heavy at this stage is be­cause they are still full of mois­ture. Within a few weeks this mois­ture will be grad­u­ally re­placed with oil, light­en­ing the load and al­low­ing the branches to lift to a more up­right po­si­tion. That’s when the ripe nuts start fall­ing and lit­ter­ing the ground.

I’ve al­ready made prepa­ra­tions for this har­vest by hard- mow­ing the grass be­neath and around the trees, vir­tu­ally scalp­ing the soil. This cre­ates per­fectly bare ar­eas so all fallen nuts can be eas­ily raked into piles.

Two years ago I tried an ex­per­i­ment with my favourite hazel, the Amer­i­can White tree. I love th­ese nuts be­cause they are un­usu­ally large, hang in thick clus­ters and taste de­li­cious.

My ex­per­i­ment was in the form of a kind of ‘‘ ma­nure and newsprint sand­wich’’. I chose this par­tic­u­lar tree be­cause it had stopped grow­ing at head height and over the years had pro­duced great nuts but poor yields.

In late win­ter I mowed the grass be­neath the canopy down hard, and then sprin­kled a gen­er­ous layer of sheep ma­nure with blood and bone over the al­most bare soil. This was com­pletely cov­ered with dozens of thick, over­lap­ping news­pa­pers and wa­tered heav­ily.

Then an­other layer of ma­nure and fer­tiliser was spread and the lot buried un­der a thick, wet, 200mm deep mulch of spoilt hay.

That first spring the tree took off and grew with as­ton­ish­ing speed. The crop was min­i­mal but the qual­ity of the few nuts har­vested was out­stand­ing.

This year the Amer­i­can White tree, now cov­ered with a dense mass of huge, deep-green leaves, has shot up to 3m and an even greater spread. And the branches are loaded with big nut clus­ters which should be ready for har­vest­ing in about a month.

Hazel­nut trees are not grafted but are grown on their own roots. They rarely need prun­ing, apart from the re­moval of dead branches, a job that can be car­ried out at any time.

The trees – big, leafy shrubs, really – need to be planted close enough to­gether to en­sure good cross- pol­li­na­tion. That means spac­ing no greater than 15m apart.

In low rain­fall dis­tricts, es­pe­cially parts of the East Coast and around Ho­bart, th­ese trees will need an oc­ca­sional deep soaking dur­ing sum­mer, es­pe­cially as nut clus­ters are form­ing.

Hazel­nut trees grow in a wide range of slightly acidic soils, in­clud­ing light clay.

They have few pest and disease prob­lems in Aus­tralia, thanks to our very strict quar­an­tine reg­u­la­tions. And they make ex­cel­lent or­na­men­tal trees that rarely get out of hand.

MULCH ADO: Peter Cundall with his favourite hazel­nut tree two years af­ter mulching and, in­set, the Amer­i­can white hazel­nut har­vest.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.