On Tuesday, Indo and I drove to the back field with a very special mission: plant 10 chestnut trees. Now, for those of you reading this on the east coast, no, none of these trees are American Chestnuts. Even though blight is not a major threat out west, yet, the chestnuts are still grafted onto rootstock, and therefor cannot be called American Chestnuts. There are several other cultivated varieties, five of which will be featured at Leafhopper Farm.
Six Colossal Chestnuts are a base for the grove. These trees get their name from the large, healthy crown they grow, leading to many fine nuts at harvest. The downside to these trees being cultivated so large, with such a focus on production, means they had to compromise on something else and so, these trees are sterile. Eliminating pollen production puts more into the buds. But the trees still need to get pollinated! That’s where the mixing fun begins!
Our other four trees are all pollinators, and all different. We’ve got a Marigoule, which is a European x Japanese hybrid. It is germinated from an actual Marigoule seed, then grafted onto rootstock from the mother tree. Our Marival is grown in much the same way as it’s Marigoule cousin, and also a European x Japanese hybrid. It is the heaviest pollen producer in the chestnut family. The Marrone di Marradi chestnut is the most valuable nut, and of Italian origin, as the name might suggest. Though it produces less pound for pound than it’s European x Japanese hybrid cousins, the size of the nut is unsurpassed, and the flavor is said to be the sweetest. Last but not least, a Prococe Migoule. This chestnut tree has the best rot resistant root, but needs a few other species of cultivar to successfully fruit. Luckily, there are three other pollinator trees to help out.
The truck is loaded up with T-posts, shovels, mulch, straw, and the baby trees in that bag to the right. A second load of fencing and water come later to finish establishing our baby trees with protection against deer and voles, as well as a good root soaking in their new soil home. I chose to site the trees in the upper quarter of the back field, where there is higher ground, the best soil, and great drainage, as chestnuts do not like being wet for too long.
The planting took most of the day, and luckily, it’s a sunny one, so the work was enjoyable and the trees happy to be back in the soil again. Each tree as at least 35 feet of space around it, for optimal growth space. All the trees are in good sun for most of the day, and up on high points to prevent sopping wet soil during the rains. With luck, we’ll have a harvest starting in 4-5 years. In the mean time, these babes will grow and grow with lots of love and support from this land.