SONG News June 2002 no. 63
In this Issue... Bates Heartnut

Bates Heartnut - A Bumper Crop in 2001

This 22 year old Bates backyard heartnut tree produced 262 pounds of cleaned nuts last fall at the Grimo homestead in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This is equivalent to 3.5 tons of nuts per acre. Other younger varieties produced well too. This bodes well for the heartnut in Ontario.

Spring May Come

Usually by the first week In May, the spring season is fairly well established. This implies a fairly full leafing of trees and the view to the horizon should be fairly green! It is less than so in May of 2002. Perhaps spring may come ... or may not ... before the first of June! The planting of the beans may have to wait some time before the 15-20 degree soil temperatures are upon us. For those with a bit of memory, all of this is disappointing. We think back to the 25C plus days in march of 2002 and most of us were ready to start the growing season by the 1st of April. It did seem a bit early but ... who knows ... maybe global warming slipped into overdrive when we were not looking. There were some odd observations this spring. Some of the fruit trees burst into bloom on the same dates in Ottawa as they did in the Niagara area. Now, that does not happen very often. Also, all of the various fruits from peaches to apples were out in bloom at about the same time. Small heat unit requirement differences don't mean much when you are getting these 30C days. That doesn't happen very often either.

Just like ENRON the spring bubble of 2002 came to an end about April 22. Global warming retreated to its cave, freezes and ground frosts spread throughout Ontario. Even the Niagara peninsula experienced some serious ground frosts. It was hard on nursery stock ... very hard. Many young trees will have to start out again from the secondary leaf buds. Most will make it but there will be a bit of setback. Most of the Carpathian walnuts will have a very thin crop this year. It doesn't take much frost after buds start to "move" to book the flower buds on this species. They'll leaf out O.K. but there just won't be much crop. Even some of the pecans/persimmons/paw paws took a little bit of frost this year. It is not often that pecans experience a bit of leaf bud damage from frost, but such was the spring of 2O02.

It is difficult to predict what the hazels will do this year. There certainly were a few frosts during the bloom season for the hazels ... nonetheless, hazels have a remarkable history for producing even In frosty years. Maybe they will be able to do it again. Miracles are welcome! Once again ... almonds are the wild card. First full bloom occurred on April 10/02 in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Petals were falling by the time April 22 came along. In spite of it all, it appears that there may be a crop of almonds. Once again, a bit of frost resistance proves Its worth.

The mild winter of 2001-02 was favorable to a bit of mouse damage to young trees. Cotton-tall rabbits were out In the planting doing their thing. Tree colls and vigilant patrolling had a good payoff. Quite a few young nut trees fell to the sharp teeth, but survival was sufficient ... and many trees will advance not to maturity.
Douglas Campbell

Spring Auction Meeting Was a Success

The Annual SONG Auction Meeting held on April 20 at the Civic Garden Centre (Edwards Gardens) was a great success. Several contributors provided items to be auctioned off ranging from seeds to trees and even honey and Jerusalem artichokes. Numerous bargains were to be had for the bidding. SONG's share of the proceeds amounted to $546.25. After the hall rental fee of $214, there was a net profit of $332.25. This very popular event has added funds to our coffers, providing money that can be channeled to support nut research projects and continues to keep us in the black. It is one of the reasons we have not had to increase our membership fees for the last 11 years. Come out and support this event and bring something for us to auction off. Thanks go to our auction volunteers; Marion Grimo, Marilinda Cunliffe, Chris Cunliffe, Andre Flys, Jim Harvey, who greeted our members and guests and helped distribute the sold items. Thanks also to Secretary John Flys and member Linda Brigham who kept track of the sales, and to Ernie Grimo our auctioneer. A good time was had by all.

A New Northern Pecan

It takes several years to confirm the worth of a new nut tree. Some nut trees make it easier to decide about quality. NO 14 has proven to have consistently large nuts ... high kernel percentage and one of the most regular in production. There have been enough crops of well-filled nuts that several large populations of seedling have been produced of NO 14 background. The trees are vigorous and fast growing. Since NO 14 gives nuts of a size and quality of the Texas class, this group of emerging pecans gives an opportunity for a significant pecan industry in Ontario.

A Sweet Taste of Success

Nut trees are famous for their several forms of benefit. Of course there are the tasty nuts. There's the timber. There are conservation values for preserving soils and providing windbreaks. A "sleeper" in all the benefits Is the matter of the nut syrups. Yes, competitors tap the famous Canadian maple trees. Yes ... nut trees produce sap which can be boiled down to pretty good syrup. All the usual methods of tapping sugar trees can be used with the nut trees. Walnuts are particularly good for producing sap. Any tree that "bleeds" is a candidate for tapping. In fact, the experience from grafting gives a unique insight on how to get sap from a tree. On mid-sized trees, you can weigh down the lower branches with bricks. Then cut off the ends of the branches and watch the sap bleed out into palls ... you might say, a living siphon! This is a way of tapping trees without even boring a hole in the valuable trunk wood. It takes somewhere between 20-40 litres of sap to make one litre of finished syrup. It Is clear that a nut grove Is not going to turn the syrup market upside down ... but the nut syrup makers will experience some of the best taste in town. Now, some growers may be a little surprised that nut trees can be "retrained" to produce syrups. It reminds me of a circus performer who once said: "I always thought of myself as a trainer of my tigers ... never a tamer. I taught them to listen ... but to never forget that they were tigers!"
Douglas Campbell

Nut Growing for Beginners
David Johnson

Evaluating Your Land
Many nutgrowers own some land and wish to plant nut trees on the land. Sometimes after making a large investment in tree plantings, it turns out that the land is not suited to the particular crop, and the money is lost. There are a couple of good ways to evaluate your land and decide if you should spend money on plantings.

The Methodical Way
The thoughtful nut grower might prefer to evaluate the land component by component to decide what to plant. Begin by evaluating the macroclimate. First the average winter lows (which are featured on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map), perhaps augmented by a heat-unit map (for example, pecans need higher heat-units to fill nuts.) A simple way to decide if your macroclimate is suitable for a particular nut is to look at a tree identification book - these typically have maps showing where native trees grow. If the tree is native to your area, your macroclimate is probably suitable to that species, and possibly to closely related species. Next you should investigate your microclimate - the ways in which your local area may differ from the general macro-climate. For example, nearby tempering bodies of water make your microclimate warmer. South-facing slopes will warm up sooner in the spring and will lengthen your growing season. That will be a plus if you are growing a crop which only has a marginally long-enough growing season. That could be a minus if you are trying to grow a crop like Persian walnuts or almonds which tend to break bud too early in the spring and suffer damage from late frosts. These might do better on a north-facing slope that might warm up more slowly in the spring. Areas at the bottom of a slope might be "frost pockets" which could cause frost damage later than the average for your region. Nearby trees or hills could protect your land from the prevailing wind thus making it relatively warmer. Shading hills or buildings could make your land too shady for nut trees to grow well.

Evaluate your water environment.
This includes the upstream catchment area, which if large, could lead to flash floods washing out your plantings. Downstream overflow flood risk from nearby streams could kill flood intolerant species. Consider the water table -a shallow water table will tend to kill walnuts. Finally consider the availability of water for irrigation.

Evaluate your soil.
Consider the depth of the soil and the ability of the soil to drain excess water (called internal drainage). Nut trees generally need deep well-drained soils but especially walnuts. Also consider toxic pollutants that might be in your soil. Also consider the physical limits of your land such as overhead and underground utilities that might limit the size trees you could grow. Finally consider the physical obstacles that might impede your access for planting or mowing. These might include boulders or stumps on the site that could be difficult to remove. Based on your knowledge of these facts, you can decide what to try - specially if you have a nearby nut grower to help you evaluate the site. The ultimate test is to plant trees and to see if they grow. It is much cheaper to plant seedlings for these trials than to plant grafted trees for the trials. (The grafted trees will be a larger loss if they die.) The seedlings can be used for rootstock later if they grow well.

The Pragmatic Way
Pragmatists will simply plant nut trees and see what grows well in different areas. Divide your property into different zones that appear to have similar soils and elevation and slope. In each zone, plant a couple each of the following seedling trees (which should be cheaper to acquire): almond, beech, black walnut (rootstock for all walnuts), Chinese chestnut, ginkgo, Turkish trees hazel (rootstock for all hazels), Korean pine or pinion pine, pecan (rootstock for pecans and hickories) and white oak. Fertilize the trees two or three times each spring and control the weeds. After a couple of years, decide which species grow the best in each area and plant more of those that thrive. Then graft the vigorously growing rootstocks to preferred cultivars as you desire. Once you have discovered what nut trees grow well on you property, plant to your heart's content with reasonable confidence that you won't be wasting money.
Reprinted from the NNGA newsletter Novice Column

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