Growing Black Walnut from Seed - Knowledgebase Question

W. Fairlee, VT
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Question by dogstar
April 23, 1998
I have about 20 gal. of black walnut seeds from two trees in NYC area. They've over wintered here in VT, some just in buckets, some in a hole in the ground. I'd like to plant them on land in Western part of Newbury on S or SE facing hill. The land seems to have hardpan at varying depths. Elevation is from about 1100' to 1200' or 1300'. In NY they were about the last thing to bloom & 1st to lose their leaves. I'd like to know a) how to plant them so they sprout (how deep,...); how to protect the young trees (assuming I get any) from deer; whether I'm wasting my time; is there any advantage to digging thru the hardpan; should I have them widely separated from each other by other trees on the land or do they like company of their own kind (there were 3 close by in NY)? Any other advice?

Answer from NGA
April 23, 1998
According to the literature, the deck is stacked against you at this point. Local seed (no more than 200 miles to the south) is best in terms of lending hardiness, and black walnut is not as hardy (to Zone 4) as its cousin the butternut (zone 3). The benefits may be that disease and insect pests aren't as likely to be around if walnuts haven't been grown in the area before. I always advise gardeners to at least experiment, because that's half the fun, anyway! If you're serious about nut or lumber production, you're better off planting tried and true cultivars available from nurseries. To maximize your success, plant in fertile, moist yet well-drained, neutral (rather than acidic) soil, in full sun. I'd choose the nuts you buried as the more likey to sprout. Start your experimental nursery of walnuts in a bed of sand and peat, or other soil medium that drains well and retains moisture. Cover seeds with several inches of medium and keep the be moist. This should result in a strong, fibrous root system that will take transplanting with less shock. It's a good idea to cover the bed with chicken wire to keep critters from exhuming the nuts. As for breaking through the hardpan, anything you do to improve the trees' chances of success is helpful. If you want to find out if anyone else has tried and succeeded/failed at walnut culture in your area, contact your county or regional forester. Hope this helps!

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