Growing nuts in your garden provides the family with good fats and loads of nourishing vitamins and minerals.
However, it isn’t always wise to grow huge trees near the house so a solution is at hand! Nature usually provides for our needs and hazels are perfect for an average sized garden.
Apart from considering the size of your trees, all deciduous plants will drop leaves in the autumn, and, although very pretty for a few days, after a couple of rainfalls, the leaves get slippery underfoot and not particularly nice to look at. Avoid growing nuts too near paths, unless you don’t mind the raking.
Generally, you should choose a sunny position, but check on the recommended growing instructions when you buy your tree. Your local garden centre should have a few varieties. If you’re in the UK, you might like the varieties at Thompson and Morgan online.
This one is a Kentish Cob Hazelnut
Growing hazelnuts – Planting:
Buy your trees from a reputable garden centre or nursery and make sure they come with growing recommendations when you buy. Or go for the recommended online suppliers above. Different varieties have different growing needs. Are your trees going to grow huge? Can you buy dwarf varieties?
You could be growing nuts in a hedgerow! Hazels can be grown as a hedgerow and take up much less space than a large tree. Larger trees tend to spread their roots far and wide and can pull the moisture and nourishment from a large expanse of growing ground.
I’ve started many hazel trees from cuttings. Cuttings should be at least 24 inches (60cm.) in length. Push them into the ground, cut end down, in the autumn. Plant as many as you can, leaving about 12 inches (30cm) between them. The following spring, some will produce leaf and some won’t. At the end of the summer, discard those that haven’t shown any sign of growth. In the autumn carefully transplant the others to where you want them.
Prepare the ground well, whether you are planting trees from a nursery, or your own plants you have started from cuttings. Dig in plenty of well-rotted compost, and gently tease the roots out into a fairly deeply dug hole. Hold the tree in place while you fill in the earth around it. Firm down with your heel. If you need to stake your tree do it while planting, to avoid the risk of damaging the roots later. Water well after planting.
Growing Hazelnuts – Caring for your trees:
As long as they get plenty of water in the first few years of growth, trees tend to look after themselves. Don’t water during the wet or cold months, while the tree is resting, or the roots may get waterlogged.
After three or four years, hazel trees usually start producing nuts, although most trees will take up to ten years to produce a good crop. (Growing nuts does need a little patience!) If you have squirrels in the neighbourhood, you will need to protect your trees. They take the nuts before they are ripe. It’s good to leave one or two trees to encourage them, but net the rest. Honestly squirrels are clever and adorable creatures, but if you are growing nuts to eat yourself, precautions have to be taken!
Prune back every autumn/winter, and always check for any signs of disease.
After harvesting, check over all the nuts for signs of damage, mould or little holes that may indicate a bug is inside. Try putting them in a bowl of water – any nuts with holes in should rise to the top. Dry well before storing.
As long as they are sound they will keep well for months, in some conditions up to a year. Keep in a dark place, free from damp, but not too dry. In a very warm dry environment the nut inside the shell will shrivel.
Store in net bags or in wooden trays. Don’t keep too many in one place, in case you missed a baddie when you were checking them.