|I recently received a number of American chestnuts and would like to know how to start them and plant them properly.
|First, make sure that they're raw and not roasted chestnuts! Roasted chestnuts are good for eating, but not for planting.
Freshly harvested seeds from Castanea dentata, the American chestnut, need to go through a dormancy period before they'll germinate. Usually just storing them outdoors in moist potting soil will do the trick, or simply plant them outside where you want them to grow. When the soil and air temperature warm, they'll begin to germinate and grow.
Sow the seeds one to two inches deep. If you're planting in containers, space them 3-4 inches apart. In the spring you can remove the seedlings and transplant them to the garden. Just so you know, the American Chestnut tree is highly succeptible to a fungal canker disease that has all but wiped out the tree in North America. If your main interest is growing a healthy, long-lived shade tree, purchase the disease resistant hybrid Chestnut (available from Stark Brother's Nursery, Box 10, Louisiana, MO 63353; ph# 800/325-4180). If your're more interested in the experience of growing a tree from seed, enjoy your experiment!