SONG News January 2000 no. 57
In this Issue...

Annual Fall Meeting

This years annual Fall Harvest meeting was held at Elton Papple's Farm at Cainsville Ontario. The day was great, fantastic weather and there was a very good turnout of approx. 60-70 people. Elton gave us a synopsis of what he has been doing on his farm for the last 60 odd years, and a great tour of some old and very established nut trees.

Elton joked about not getting any nuts from some of the trees because of his "neighbours". The four footed, with bushy tail kind. There were still lots of trees that were loaded with nuts and Elton being the gracious host he is allowed everyone to pick up as many nuts as they wanted before his "neighbours" got them all. Martin Hodgson brought his truck filled with this years harvest of garlic and nuts. He also brought a portable cracker for hazelnuts and gave us a demonstration of a blower and collector for getting your nuts from under your trees. We carried Martin's backpack blower to the large heart nut trees and he proceeded to blow lots of nuts out of the grass and debris that we had all overlooked in our searches. All in all it was a great day.

President's Message
Chris Cunliffe

My experience as a nut grower began in 1990. Living almost my whole life in the city, I never saw any nut trees. Working outdoors as a pool service man for ten years, I visited almost one thousand homes and drove several thousand miles throughout Mississauga, Burlington, Oakville and Toronto. In fact, my early career ambitions involved designing new subdivisions and paving rural land for industrial parks and shopping malls. Then one day I 'saw the light', a new obsession evolved; plant trees and grow plants. I became a dedicated, if not entirely successful, grower. I started to read every book I could get my hands on regarding horticulture, finally finding 'nut culture' to be the most fascinating. Until that time, I had rarely visited a public library.

Nut trees had many redeeming qualities and natural range throughout Southern Ontario. Nuts were the original 'canned' food. Native people and animals collected nuts and found them to be a good source of needed nutrients during the winter months, when most perishable vegetables were no longer available.

I had been trying to grow every type of tree or shrub that I could obtain seed and after my first year with the Mississauga Parks and Recreation Department, I noticed a couple of nut trees in a local park. I went rummaging through the grass and leaves, trying to find seed for these magnificent trees, but found nothing but a squirrel's dirty dishes. However, I was very determined and would not be denied, although I would not soon be fulfilled either.

The creation of Earth Day probably gave rise to the decision to preserve the woodlots in all new neighbourhoods. Seeing an opportunity to collect nut seed, I began touring these woods. I had developed a better eye for identifying what I wanted, but I still only found a few specimens. Some of the areas that seemed undisturbed contained a good share of nut trees, but I was mostly disappointed by how few there were to be found.

I started to wonder about nut trees. What was the percentage of nut trees in the virgin forest? Where did they all go? What percentage of trees planted today are nut trees? Why don't the local nurseries carry them? I found that many people are amazed (or skeptical) when they pass the SONG booth. They always ask, "Did these really grow in Ontario?" It seems people think nuts come from Brazil or Italy or Georgia or California. The public doesn't have much use for buffalo skins or lanterns that burn whale oil. Even the Inuit have retired their dog sleds in favour of their Arctic Cats. However, people still enjoy nuts, or appreciate how eating them fits into a healthy lifestyle.

The recent trend towards naturalizing some public open spaces and parks should be applauded. Animal habitat and bio-diversity are recognized as being important in this day and age. But this effort is not enough for the nut tree. They seem to be trapped in a few isolated pockets and are becoming rare. We see them as we would see an animal in a zoo! We can naturalize areas, but the nut tree population may never return.

As you know, nuts don't travel far by themselves. They do not 'fly' like the wind-blown seed of poplar, willow, birch, elm, maple, ash, spruce and pine. So in the event of a forest fire, abandoned field or any naturalized area, it is the seeds that move the fastest and the farthest that will populate. If there are no surviving nut trees in the area, there may never be again.

SONG is here to help change this. No, we can't make nuts fly, but we can certainly help by planting superior cul-rivars. If you already have nut trees, I applaud you and hope to see them some day. If, however, you do not, you better get cracking. For those who lack the land, consider giving a tree as a gift, help the recipient plant and care for their gift. Give, give, give and we will all reap the rewards through cleaner air, an abundant food supply and knowing we have done our part in restoring the natural balance of our woodlots. '

The Commercial Growing Season -1999

Spring of 1999 came mercifully earlier than average to the farms of southern Ontario. Winter had not been too severe with only 2 major storms dating back to the first 2 weeks in January 1999, Although spring was early, It did not quite measure up to the global warming champion of 199S. However the dates of ripening of the nut trees In 1999 were early, only 2-3 days behind those of 1995. Many hazels were ripening In August; heart-nuts were mature In the first week of September and chestnuts started falling about September 15.

The 1999 season was kind enough that just about all cultlvars and seedlings of pecan In sunny Kent ripened up to perfection. Several hundred pounds were harvested. Some of the Golden, plump kernels were converted immediately into PECAN PIE. The results were appreciated by all. In a few short years several tons of pecans nuts will be harvested right here In sunny Ontario. Just think of how this development will change the profitability of those river/creek flat areas, which are a bit risky for growing Soya beans and corn.

Note: Pecans can withstand several days/weeks of flooding right during the growing season and after are even better for it. The 1999 growing season was pleasantly long and In the southern fringes of Ontario the season extended a bit into November... for tree level crops. Mind you there was a bit of ground frost In the tobacco growing areas as early as September 21. All of this shows how different season lengths are for different crops.

1999 was a better than average year for chestnuts. Those who irrigated their trees In mid-summer had great quantities of large well-filled nuts, It was true that some parts of Ontario had long periods of drought. Without irrigation, nut size suffered in these areas, however, a droughty year shows up the differences between 1st class nut trees soil and the other kinds. Some species such as black walnut and pecan had a great year in spite of the drought ...with or without irrigation. Pecan is especially tolerant of many weeks of dry weather.

The internal breakdown problem in chestnut was much less severe in 1999 than it was in 1996 and 1997...perhaps as little as 50% of the previous years. Nevertheless, the problem was there even If In reduced numbers. This condition Is a quality challenge for chestnut sales because a customer who has the occasional bad taste Is not a happy customer. It would appear that our only control for chestnut internal breakdown is to choose cultlvars I seedlings which are resistant to the problem.

"Layeroka" types seem to be among the susceptible group whereas "Abundance" typed are relatively resistant. Certain of the totally Chinese types are just about 100% resistant. Unfortunately, the nuts of the latter category sometimes tend to be a little small. -Oh well... it's hard to have everything.

Chestnut Marketing
Sales for Canadian grown chestnuts were brisk throughout the fall of 1999 in spite of shipments of Italian chestnuts coming In as early as the 1st of October! The first Italian chestnuts to arrive were selling at $2.50 a pound. However, Ontario grown nuts sold at prices from $1.50 to $3.00 a pound depending on size... with an average price of about $2.50 per pound.

It was noted that the Italian chestnuts had about 20% of the nuts with wormholes! Generally, the quality of the Ontario grown nuts was preferred to the imported product. When prices were compared with yields of up to 2000 pounds per acre, it can be seen that profits can be made from chestnuts...and keep in mind that these are only 7 and 8 year old plantings.

Northern Pecans
The growing of pecans has come a long way since the days when the common wisdom was... "Well, you can't do that sort of thing in Ontario"! Some of the cultivars such as "nc-4", "nc-14", and "Colby" are producing nuts which were well filled and ranging into the 60-80 nuts per pound category. This is getting fairly close to the "Southern" pecan size and of course "Northern" pecans have a better flavour. It could make you wonder how long before Ontario is major competition in the pecan industry?

Executive Meeting

An executive meeting was held on Jan. 05/ 00 at the home of Bruce & Irene Thurston. Once again a great meal was provided, with Caesar salad, Lasagna, and chicken wings. Following this sumptuous repast we had coffee and a delicious nut covered 5 layer cake. We discussed the years meeting schedule, and a motion was put forth to possibly provide a free membership for the year that anyone serves on the executive. This motion will be discussed and voted on at the summer meeting on July 29/00.

John Brown Inducted to Pioneer Hall of Fame

John Price Erichsen Brown (1906-1997) is the first member of SONG to be inducted into the Waterloo County Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be held on Mother's Day, 2000 at Doon Heritage Crossroads, Kitchener. Brown, who was bom in Gait (now Cambridge) graduated from the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall. He practiced law in Toronto and Ottawa before a distinguished career in the Department of External Affairs (1948-66). He was a member of the Canadian Delegation to the United Nations (1950-52), Counselor in the Canadian Embassy in Belgium (1953) and was appointed Canadian Commissioner on the International Control Commission for Vietnam. In 1960 he was posted to New York. After retiring from the department he became senior solicitor with the Ontario Water Resources Commission. In 1972 he went to Afghanistan as legal member of a Canadian engineering company building a water and sewage system in Kabul. He was also a beef farmer and nut grower at his farm in King Township near Toronto.

Happy New Year, Kathryn Lamb, member of SONG and member of the Waterloo County hall of Fame Pioneer Builders Committee.
Ed. Note: if anyone knows the whereabouts of the family please contact the writer.

Cajun Spiced Pecans
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 c pecan halves
1/2 c light brown sugar
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp powdered chile
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1/4 c cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 375 F. Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the pecans and saute until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar and cook until caramelized. Stir in the paprika, chile powder and cumin. Add the vinegar and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt. Spread the pecans on a cookie sheet and bake in an oven until crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes. Can be served warm or cooled. Enjoy.

Banana Walnut Loaf
1/3 c shortening
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs .
1-3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c bananas; ripe, mashed
1/2 c walnuts
Cream together shortening and sugar, add eggs and beat well. Sift dry ingredients, add to creamed mixture alternately with banana, blending well after each addition. Stir in nuts. Pour into well-greased 4 to 6 cup mold. Cover with foil and tie. Pour 2 cups hot water in slow cooker. Place mold on rack or trivet in pot. Cover and bake on high 2 to 3 hours or until bread is done. Serve warm or cool, with butter. Yield: 10 Servings

Nut Growing on the Very Small Property
Douglas Campbell

Since more than 97% of our population lives in urban settings, it is useful to know the options for growing nut trees on small properties. In most cities the predatory animals are numerous and not easily subject to control. For example, if squirrels are abundant, chestnuts may be one of the few items for which the grower may get a reasonable share of the nuts. Also when grown in small numbers, good pollination is often a challenge. The size of the trees may be critical to lot dimensions and to avoid excessive shading of houses/vegetable gardens/ flowers. Tree roots may be a problem for pools/drains and foundations. Interference with overhead utility lines is a consideration. Some trees drop more debris than others do; lower branches may have to be pruned off to allow for sufficient headroom. All of these considerations and others are discussed in the following.

The soils in subdivisions have often been disturbed/regraded etc. with few trees doing well in subsoil materials. Planting sites may have to be improved with organic matter/ sand/soil mixes.

Tree Spacings
The full sized trees such as pecan, walnut, and hickory should have a space allowance of at least 30 feet in diameter. The bush forms of hazel require a diameter of 15 feet and almonds have similar requirements.

Most urban lots are fairly well drained so this is not usually a problem. However, nut trees should not be planted where there is standing water for more than 2 days after a rainstorm.

Squirrels raccoons, birds, rodents, etc all enjoy eating nuts. The animals will start taking the nuts even before ripeness. The smaller trees may be caged for protection otherwise the animals will get most if not all the crop. Chestnuts are different in this respect because the nuts are protected by the burrs. Usually, the animals don't start eating chestnuts until the nuts have fallen on the ground.

Most nut tree species require 3-5 different trees of the same species in order to achieve good cross-pollination for best production. Note: Two trees of the same culti-var's are really only one tree for the purpose of pollination. Otherwise, isolated/single trees usually bear just the occasional nuts. On very small lots, nuts may be planted in clumps of three to achieve pollination. The technique is similar to planting a clump of three white birch trees.

Shading /Toxicity / Competition etc.
Most of the trees are competitive for nutrients/moisture/light. Few vegetables/flowers etc. do well under the drip line of major trees.

Landscape Nut Trees
A few of the nut trees such as pecan, hickory, beech, walnut, ginkgo, etc. make very large trees, which are useful for shade and ornamentation. These trees are sturdy, long lived, and drop relatively few branches. The small leaves of pecan melt away into the soil quite soon after fall leaf drop.

Invasive Roots
Tree roots may invade drains, pools, foundations, and create quite a nuisance. Black walnut, white oak, pecan and shellbark hickory may require at least 30 feet to drains etc. in order to prevent root invasions.

Overhead Interferences
The full sized trees such as walnut can reach heights of up to 120 feet at maturity. Allowance of 30 feet from tree to power line is a reasonable precaution to avoid interference and the need for management pruning in the Middle Ages of the nut trees. Some of the bush nut trees such as hazel which reach perhaps a maximum 25 feet may be safely planted under power lines.

Dropping Debris
All trees produce some droppings of nut husks, leaves, twigs, and things. Black walnuts may be more noticeable in this regard than others such as male ginkgo, and pecan trees. Chestnuts might be avoided for planting in highly traveled areas because of the spiny husks.

Most nut trees require little pruning to grow upright in an attractive tree form. Heartnuts may require more attention in this respect, as the trees tend to produce many low growing branches of major size. Trees on lawns should be pruned up at the trunks to allow for comfortable headroom for people walking under the frees. Remember that when the trees are heavy with harvest or the leaves are wet, that the branches will bend down more than usual.

Sun Exposure
Most nut trees require full sun to produce satisfactory crops. Shady lots may not be very productive. Remember too that trees from adjacent lots get bigger with time, and produce ever-increasing amounts of shade. Hazels generally require less sun than some of the other nut trees.

The use of chemical sprays in urban areas may be problematic, and the Carpathian walnut maybe difficult to manage in this respect for production of quality nuts. The Chinese chestnut might be chosen as a species of choice to avoid chestnut blight. Hazel types, which are resistant to filbert blight, should be chosen. Otherwise, nut trees, as a class are not especially prone to disease/insect problems and can be grown without the necessity of a detailed spray program.

Nut trees in the city require many of the same considerations for nurture as on the farm... i.e. moisture, fertilizers, mulch, tree protectors, cultivars, seedlings and all the other good things. Please refer to references for the general requirements for tree growing to cover these details.

Provided by SONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.