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Brody Ekberg
Post     Subject: Chestnut tree advice

Thanks for the response, and I agree, I totally need to quit worrying. I found out yesterday that they are seedlings, not grafted, so all the suckers are true to type. Also, the nursery I got them from said they are hardy to at least -30, but we got a little colder than that last winter and damage is expected.

As of now, here’s my plan: pull the weeds, put a thin paper and woodchip mulch layer and wait until fall. Once the trees are dormant, I’ll prune off whatever is dead and either prune off the suckers for a new leader, or leave the suckers for a bushier tree. Also, depending on how they fare this summer, I may replant them in the fall once they are dormant. But if this summer goes well for them I may just leave them as is. My biggest concern is root rot, but I’ll be very sparing with mulch and water and hope for the best.
Han Kop
Post     Subject: Chestnut tree advice

okay, first of all,  just let nature take its course and stop worrying

if they're struggling,. don't replant them now since you might kill them of by doing so. and if they are already dead, you've wasted time. First let them sprout and do their thing. chestnuts are very hardy [once established] and can be coppiced to the ground back and will happily come back.

if you than later decide to replant, which i think the chestnuts will not like, then the only thing that would make sense to me is to dig out one cubic meter of clay, mix half a cubic meter with sand and then put back, and put them on a mound of like 30 cm to help drainage. but that seems like a hell of a job. it's all about drainage with chestnuts, which is why they don't like stagnant valleys but grow mid-slope.  

you see in EU there is a lot of disease, mainly the blight and the ink disease, and chestnut groves in clay soil they are completely wiped out. on their natural turf they have much more resistance. whatever you may have heard, there is no such chestnut that is 100% resistant to blight or ink disease. At least this is what the Aveyron Conservatoire Régional du Châtaignier, which seems to be the only conservatory in the EU (although you would have thought there would be some in the Ardeche or Cevenne), told me when i visited a few days ago.  

by the way, I'm assuming you are talking about some american/chinese hybrid?

Also, I'm talking from the point of view of my knowledge of the european chestnut, the sativa, and their japanese hybrids, but I'm assuming the information would equally apply.

A final point, sometimes trees just don't work out, maybe it was the plants, maybe your place, maybe some untimely event. Don't worry, just try again and investigate what might have been wrong.

edit: okay now i see, they are leaving out already. good, don't move them now. normally comfrey really won't be a problem for a chestnut, but you can always cut comfrey back for some mulch.
Brody Ekberg
Post     Subject: Chestnut tree advice

Han Kop wrote:I don't see a reason for replanting them
What is your soil ph.
Chestnuts on clay is a bad idea to start with. If its also basic soil you can forget it. They like acid. They like slopes, well draining soil, fertile sandy loam.



The reason for replanting would be because they’re struggling and we didn’t plant them correctly the first time. I feel like they would be better off with a wider planting hole, loosen the roots and the surrounding soil a bit, possibly add some coarse sand, and get them a couple inches above grade compared to level like they are now.

And I know Chestnuts don’t generally like clay, but I’ve read of successful orchards of them on clay, so I know it’s possible. Proper planting probably would help...

Our soil ph 2 or 3 years ago when I last checked was either 6.5 or 6.8 if I remember correctly.

And yes, some of them still have a few of last years leaves clinging on.
Han Kop
Post     Subject: Chestnut tree advice

Are those leaves from last year still on?
Han Kop
Post     Subject: Chestnut tree advice

I don't see a reason for replanting them
What is your soil ph.
Chestnuts on clay is a bad idea to start with. If its also basic soil you can forget it. They like acid. They like slopes, well draining soil, fertile sandy loam.
Brody Ekberg
Post     Subject: Chestnut tree advice

greg mosser wrote:we’ve got a couple acres of chestnuts growing in dense clay soil on what was a badly overgrazed pasture....i don’t recognize the issue you’re describing (delayed leafing out?)...but it’s definitely possible to grow chestnuts in heavier soil. don’t know what to recommend. the main thing that sticks out to me is watering. beyond the initial planting, how much did they get watered? were  these potted or bareroot? also, top dressing with compost (under mulch is best) may be better than compost in the hole, especially in clay - you don’t want a super-rich little space that the tree isn’t motivated to reach out from.

the main danger in clay soils is digging a hole that doesn’t drain water well. how big were the holes compared to what was planted? was the soil packed down?

i think an advantage of our planting here was that it was from seed. small holes with original soil packed in on top. there was no way for the holes to become soup pots. they were slow to grow the first couple years but have been picking up steam as the used-to-be-pasture heals. our main danger is deer browse.



Alrighty, I’m going to load you up with some specifics in hopes that you can lend some advice...

I realized today that we really didn’t put these trees off to a good start. I read you want well draining soil, a shallow but wide planting hole, dont amend the soil in the hole but maybe a little compost around the perimeter or on top of the soil, and for the tree to be at least a couple inches above grade.

Wish we would have read all that before planting! We dug deeper, narrower holes, added compost to the bottom, planted them level with the grade (of course they settled and are now maybe 1/2” below). Plus the comfrey is planted too close to the trees. I haven’t watered them in a week and a half, they’re in full sun, and the soil is still very damp... Lots of biological activity under the mulch, but far from well draining. There are suckers and some fresh growth down low where the comfrey shaded it. Still almost no signs of life on the top half of the trees though.

So here’s my dilemma: it’s supposed to be around 90 degrees all week. I was intending on replanting them this week the correct way to try to save their life but now that I see suckers and fresh growth down low, I dont know what to do. I considered doing a very hard pruning, or just leaving them until fall and hope that they’re still alive enough then to replant.

Any advice is appreciated!
Brody Ekberg
Post     Subject: Chestnut tree advice

They were grown in pots, under heavy mulch with drip irrigation. When we planted them, they seemed a bit root bound. I honestly don’t remember how big of holes we dug, but I’m guessing maybe 2 times the diameter of the root ball. Maybe there is a soup bowl effect going on like you mentioned. I tried to water them about once a week last summer and they seemed fine up until now. I wonder if the comfrey could be out competing them. They’re surrounded by it and it’s half as tall as the little trees are.
greg mosser
Post     Subject: Chestnut tree advice

we’ve got a couple acres of chestnuts growing in dense clay soil on what was a badly overgrazed pasture....i don’t recognize the issue you’re describing (delayed leafing out?)...but it’s definitely possible to grow chestnuts in heavier soil. don’t know what to recommend. the main thing that sticks out to me is watering. beyond the initial planting, how much did they get watered? were  these potted or bareroot? also, top dressing with compost (under mulch is best) may be better than compost in the hole, especially in clay - you don’t want a super-rich little space that the tree isn’t motivated to reach out from.

the main danger in clay soils is digging a hole that doesn’t drain water well. how big were the holes compared to what was planted? was the soil packed down?

i think an advantage of our planting here was that it was from seed. small holes with original soil packed in on top. there was no way for the holes to become soup pots. they were slow to grow the first couple years but have been picking up steam as the used-to-be-pasture heals. our main danger is deer browse.
Brody Ekberg
Post     Subject: Chestnut tree advice

My wife and I made a 300 mile round trip last spring to a nursery to buy these 4 hybrid chestnuts among other things. Of all the things I’ve planted here... flowers, herbs, vegetables, berries, other trees, the chestnuts were what I was most excited about. They were the planned canopy of our food forest in progress. They were the main calorie crop to be grown at home. They were something that would last for generations and feed more people than I would ever meet. And I think they’re all dying...

As of now, they have tiny little buds. No leaves, no buds opening, no buds swelling, just stuck as tiny little bumps. I did some reading and see that they do pretty poorly in heavy clay soils, which we have here. Didnt know that when we planted them. We added compost to the holes, mulched with woodchips, planted comfrey around, fenced them in and kept them watered. Im so bummed that this isn’t working for them.

Does anyone know if there’s any hope for the trees or if theres any reasonable way to grow chestnuts in a heavier soil?
Gray Henon
Post     Subject: Chestnut tree advice

My goats demolished a couple chestnut saplings.  On one, they ripped the bark off clean down one side.  The tree survived and healed over the wound quite well.  Not sure what it will mean 20 years down the road when the tree weighs several tons, but for now, it seems okay.
Brody Ekberg
Post     Subject: Chestnut tree advice

So, this a hybrid chestnut that we planted last spring. Recently I noticed this spot on the bark where it looks like a limb must have gotten ripped off. I’m almost certain we didn’t do it, so maybe we bought it like that making it at least a year old wound.

My question is, do I do anything about this? I considered giving it a hard prune below that spot or seeing if theres some sort of natural way to help bark to heal. Or should I just let nature take its course and stop worrying?