( Originally Published Early 1900's )
In California the almond and the English walnut are grown commercially, and in the South the pecan has been planted in extensive groves within the last 15 or 20 years. In many of the states the chestnut has been growing in favor for commercial purposes, and, in a few cases, hardy English walnuts have proved profitable. The American and European varieties of chestnuts are generally considered superior in flavor to the Japanese varieties. The Europeans, though larger, are not of as high quality as our best American sorts. These varieties may be secured from nurserymen at moderate cost.
Chestnuts, as a rule, do well on light soil. They are rapid growers and make magnificent shade trees if given plenty of room. It is advisable to plant in groves or avenues to insure fertilization of the blossoms. They should be planted not less than 50 feet apart. Many of the varieties come into bearing under ten years, and some of them will even bear a few nuts at five years. They add considerably to the beauty of the home grounds if well placed, and also pay a tribute in the forni of nuts, which, in many places, can be sold very readily.
"I have been raising chestnuts for some years," writes Horace Roberts of Burlington county, New Jersey. " When I was a very young man the business was new, so I began in a small way, not putting money in it at all. Such a thing as grafting chestnuts was rare at that time. I went into the pine woods where there were seedling chestnuts, cut trees out of the way, put a fence around a ten-acre plot and let the cattle come in to help do the trimming, in this way working at a minimum expense.
"Where one can raise apples or peaches or nice fruits I think it is not worth while to plant chestnut trees. There is more money in the fruits. My land was not paying anything, so the little care I gave it at that time produced a nice chestnut grove, which makes the farm more attractive and at the same time brings in revenue. Chestnut trees are worth a good deal to the farm as a home maker, because conditions in the farmyard seem to suit them ; chickens destroy the weevils and nothing will make a child more attached to its home than to gather chestnuts as one of the ways to earn a little pin money.
"I have practiced only one form of grafting, the ordinary cleft, the same as is used in grafting the apple. The twigs are cut early in February and put in the icehouse so as to be held back. By April 2o, when we are done with other grafting, we start with chestnuts. Many scions die back, but we keep working away year after year until we get a stand. The chestnuts have always paid. I enjoyed the work at once and began to sell wood for grafting, and very soon began to derive revenue from the nuts. The sprouts on which grafting is done are cut about as high up as my eyes; at that height they are about as thick as my two fingers. This size heals over much more readily than larger. sizes. In this respect the chestnut is more difficult to graft than apples. I care for my chestnut trees at odd times with ordinary farm help. I was able to buy a large orchard adjoining me a few years ago for a good deal less than the owner had spent on it. It has paid me well.
"Up to the present time we do not understand how to keep or cure the nuts, but are learning. One of our great troubles is the worm. I found in treating the nuts with carbon disulphide it did the work. As soon as gathered the nuts are put in a barrel and a saucer with four or five tablespoonfuls of liquid placed at the top of the barrel, which is then closed up tight. After three or four hours the barrel is opened and the nuts dumped on the packing house floor to air. To be sure, the worms are there just the same, but the buyers do not object, because the worms do not come out and crawl all over their stores.
"By treating and packing the nuts at once the worms do not seem to develop. That simple remedy costs less than 2 cents a bushel as we apply it. Customers come back to us now for more chestnuts even at advanced prices. They are very much encouraged over the business. Last year the revenue would make a good rent for the farm they grew on and a minimum expense on land where I cannot raise anything else. Some neighbors who have gone into the business as a specialty have not succeeded so well. It is much better to feel one's way in this business than to embark in it largely.
"At first the new Japanese chestnuts were a novelty and the bigger they were the better they sold. Bitter nuts sold just as well as the other kind on account of size, but people have learned better, and large nuts are now hard to sell. Our chief varieties are Cooper, Paragon, Numbo, and Scott. Most of my grafting has been with suckers, but if I wanted to start with nuts I would recommend home growing rather than buying nursery trees, because these frequently die. A nice way is to start the native sweet chestnuts in flower pots. Nut trees have tap roots which make them difficult to transplant, but by putting them in pots or kegs one can control the tap root ; besides the pots can be set in the garden in convenient places and protected easily during the first year, after which they may be put in their permanent positions."
Several varieties of English walnut have proved hardy in New Jersey, western New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and southward, as well as in California. Some of these varieties are listed by seedmen, but it is only recently that attention has been drawn to their hardiness. A. C. Pomeroy of Niagara county, New York, has several trees, more than 30 years old. These bring him a nice little sum of money each year. They are the most northerly successful trees the editor knows of.
ENGLISH WALNUTS IN NEW YORK
Mr. Pomeroy writes: " In 1876 my father, while visiting the Centennial Exposition, secured some fine English walnuts from a large tree at Philadelphia. These he planted on his return home. In due time they all produced shoots, and, though at first slowly, they grew into strong, wide-spreading trees which bear profitable crops. The older and full-grown trees bear an average of about 20 bushels annually. The largest of these measures 46 feet across. As walnuts retail at about 20 cents a pound, these crops are worth $125 each tree in the final market.
" The trees have glossy green leaves, and are cleanly at all times, thus forming beautiful and serviceable shade trees as well as profitable ones. Frost has not hurt our trees, as it does those grown from California or imported nuts. I know of such trees near here 30 years old that freeze back every severe winter. They are only Io or 12 feet high, and have not borne nuts yet. My brother and I have propagated this variety, which Prof. H. E. Van Deman named Norman Pomeroy in honor of my father. They have often stood temperatures of io to 15 degrees below zero without damage.
" Preferably the nuts are planted in autumn. The sprouts will grow about a foot the first year, and for the first three years grow slowly. The first year is the best for transplanting, as when older, the growth becomes much more rapid. Up to three years of age they rarely exceed 4 feet.
"When set in the orchard they should be set 40 to 50 feet apart each way, and the ground planted to some cultivated crop such as corn or potatoes.. Peaches or plums may be used to advantage as fillers. The best time to prune is between fall and spring. Only such branches should be removed from the main trunk as would interfere with till-age. Removal of these will keep the young tree growing erect, and should be continued only until the trunk is 6 or 7 feet high without limbs. If planted in the lawn the ground should be kept spaded 3 feet around the base of the trunk, and during the first summer in very dry weather the soil should be drenched in the evening with water two or three times a week. In the morning the surface should be raked to break the crust. Ordinarily bearing starts at five or six years and continues annually. Transplanted trees start to bear when three or four years set. In my experience trees bear sooner and oftener if planted in groups of three to six. This is probably because the pollen has a better chance to reach the pistils. The staminate blossoms on individual trees open at slightly different times and thus insure better fertilization of the pistillate blossoms."
Hazel nuts are scarcely ever cultivated in America. They are generally allowed to grow in the fence rows where they yield sufficient nuts to supply home needs. They do best on dry, sandy soil, not too rich.
Hickories of various kinds, butternuts, and American walnuts are rarely. cultivated. They all make useful and valuable trees for ornamental purposes or for timber and yield more or less nuts each year. They are rather slow in growth, but are well worth having to beautify the place as well as to add to the variety of fruit for the home table. These nuts all have more or less value in the markets, so that any surplus can easily be disposed of.