I just bought a regular suburban house with a 1/3 acre lot. The property has one very large tree in the center of the back yard. Now that the leaves are coming out it looks to be a black walnut tree. Ugh! My plan was to have an Arborist come out and heavily prune it but now that I know it's a black walnut I am thinking of having it cut down. My plan for the back yard was to plant dwarf fruit, nut trees and berry bushes around the edge of the property and work my way in as funds allowed. There is one other tree in the backyard on the edge, a standard pear tree and it's doing fine. I am worried about the juglone damaging my future forest garden. Any suggestions on what you would do? If I do cut it down would you still use the wood for a huglebed? I have read mixed reports on if the wood is filled with the juglone even after seasoning it for a year? D@%N that juglone!! lol I have been studying the effects of juglone on which plants/trees are tolerant of it. Just looking for opinions and expierences on what you would do in my shoes?
Juglone is nothing that actively metabolizing fungi can't break down. The word to stress here is actively. If you don't want to see juglone's effects, then you need mulches and composts that are filled with white threads of hyphae. If you plant a bush or a tree, the hole needs to have a good 6" of fuzzy white mulch at the bottom. Might throw a few mushrooms down there just on principle.
And cutting down a black walnut to make a hugelbed is just crazy. Do you know how much black walnut wood sells for? If that's a mature tree, you could have several thousand dollars worth of furniture wood there. Any black walnut branch bigger than 2" diameter would bring good money from a woodworker. The leaves and the small branches, pile them up and keep pouring mushroom inoculate on them, and next year you can use them for hugelbeds or mulch.
Location: Mansfield, Ohio Zone 5b percip 44"
posted 6 years ago
Thanks John, that is great advice about the fungi! The juglone scare just threw me for a loop last night when I found it was a black walnut tree. I was afraid this would kill my dream of finally growing a forest garden.
"I - am a thoughtful guy. I think alotta thoughts; about alotta things." Rhett and Link
I feel your pain. I've been fighting our walnut trees since we moved here. They did a number on my tomatoes and rhubarb. They're a beautiful part of the yard, but I'm leaning towards cutting them down and selling them. Until then, I'll be doing raised beds for most of my stuff.
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
posted 6 years ago
the wood and the husks of the nuts make very lovely dye and the nuts are delicious. I know they cause all sorts of difficulty growing things but I really want a black walnut tree. I have 5.5 acres though I would probably not want a very large one if I had less land. They are very nice trees though.
Interesting list. Apparently the volunteers growing like weeds under my neighbor's black walnut haven't gotten the news: Dogwood, chokecherries, apples, wild plums, golden currants, honeysuckle, white ash, aspen, and alder, all growing within spitting distance or even directly under it.
I'd personally leave the tree and design around it. If you're going for a food forest that tree alone give you a 20 year head start.
You can use tolerant plants around the tree to serve as a buffer for less tolerate species as you work your way out from the walnut. I have some at the front of my property and I'm growing goumi under it now, and plan on planting some daffodils and other tolerate bulbs to turn the area into a focal piece (it's in the front yard). Currently I only have goumi and lambs ear (great homemade bandages) but there's a wide variety of plants that will tolerate the juglone, and contribute to the system you're building.
Doesn't hurt to have a reliable source of nuts either as nut trees take wayyyy longer to be productive than fruit trees do.
EDIT: I should also add cutting the tree down won't help as much as you think. The roots have very high concentrations of juglone, and it will remain in the soil quite awhile. Unless you dig out the roots (have fun if you do) you'll still have to design around it.
Blake Wheeler wrote:I'd personally leave the tree and design around it. If you're going for a food forest that tree alone give you a 20 year head start.
This, so much this.
So many people are struggling to build up food forests from grass, pasture, and weeds. The value of existing food trees cannot be overstated.
If the goal is a food forest, step one is virtually never going to be "cut down the existing food trees and..."
Also, in my experience the problem of juglone is overstated. All of the black walnut trees around here have thriving plant communities under them. It's a design challenge, not a sweeping expanse of toxic death.
Juglone is very real, but I think it's impact gets exaggerated just a bit. There's more than few black walnut trees in my area and there's usually something growing around, or under it which technically shouldn't be there. I kinda look at like the old bumblebee debate, for ages science couldn't figure out how bumblebees could fly, no one seemed to explain it to the bees because they kept flying anyway lol.
Now things may not grow as fast, or as well, under a walnut, and some may even die, but too much weight is put into the juglone debate. Obviously I wouldn't risk expensive trees/plants, but there's a way around it if you look hard enough.
My property is circled in black walnuts. If you are willing to work with them, there are lots of other positives not mentioned yet with walnut trees.
- If mature, black walnuts produce a lot of nuts some years (you might consider wearing a helmet when they are dropping)
- walnuts are good eating for people and for wildlife too
- certain things grow better under walnuts (currants and other berries)
- though an overstory tree, the shade they produce is dappled, so you can still grow understory plants under them and get enough light
- they are one of the last trees to get leaves in the spring, and one of the first to lose them, so extra light at ground level in the spring and fall
- they are pretty nice-looking trees (at least to me)