Stark Bro's Plant Manual for Stark® Choice Chestnut

Getting Started

Acclimate

Plants grown in a greenhouse must be acclimated carefully before planting or placing them outdoors. This is especially true in hot or sunny locations. Many species should never be grown in full sun. Before purchasing a plant, learn about its sun requirements. Knowing the plants requirements can avoid any damage to the plant by incorrectly giving it the wrong conditions.

If your plant has been grown in a greenhouse, here are a few steps we recommend you follow:

  • After purchasing your plant, place it outside in a sheltered, shady spot or on your back porch.
  • Leave it there for 3-4 hours and gradually increase the time spent outside by 1-2 hours per day.
  • Bring the plants back indoors each night.
  • Water it regularly to keep the plant moist.
  • Occasionally spray the leaves with water.
  • After 2-3 days, move the plants from their shady spot into morning sun, returning them to the shade in the afternoon.
  • After 7 days, the plants should be able to handle the outdoor temperatures, if they stay around 50 degress F.
  • After 7-10 days, your plant is ready to be planted in its permanent location. Try to do this on a cloudy day and be sure to water the plant well.
  • Observe foliage daily. If any type of leaf discoloration occurs, put the plant back into filtered light and attempt this step at a later date.
  • Special care must be taken to avoid burning the leaves.

These are general guide recommendations. Some plants take longer than others to acclimate.

Location

The best way to succeed is to plan before you plant. Let’s discuss location: Do you know where you want to plant your new nut trees? Avoid many future problems by considering all aspects of the planting spot, such as:

  • Cross-pollination
  • Sun and good soil
  • Check out the surroundings
  • Space wisely
  • Leave space for future planting

Cross-Pollination

Is a pollinator variety present? Cross-pollination by a different variety, of the same type of tree, is key to the success of many nut trees. In most cases, its absence is why trees don’t bear nuts or produce poorly. Some nut trees are self-pollinating, but will yield a larger crop if pollinated with another variety.

Sun and Good Soil

Your tree would love a sunny place with well-drained, fertile soil. But it will be quite satisfied with six to eight hours of sunlight. Good drainage is required to keep your trees “happy.” If your soil has high clay content, use our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium or add one-third peat to the soil at planting time.

Surroundings

If you’d like your tree to become a landscaping asset, choose the planting place with this in mind. Imagine it as a full-grown tree and check everything out: Wires overhead? Sidewalk underneath? Does it obstruct something you want to see? Can you keep an eye on it from the house? Will other trees be in the way, allowing for their additional growth in the meantime?
Even a year or two after planting, your tree will be very difficult to transplant. So take the time to plant it in just the right place.

Space Wisely

We are asked about recommended planting distances from patios, sewer lines, water pipes and so on. Ordinarily, patios will not be a problem because the soil beneath them will be dry and compacted. Therefore, the roots will not grow into this area as much. You might not expect sewer and water lines to be affected since they are buried so deeply. But, since sewer and water lines tend to be wet, roots will grow to them and around them if the tree is planted too close. By planting your trees far enough away from these items, you can avoid this problem.

Space for Future Plantings

Once you’ve found out firsthand about the goodness of growing nuts, you’ll want to expand your home orchard. It’s important to plan for tree spacing so that the future growth areas will be ready when you are.

Planting

Successfully establishing a young nut tree in your yard starts with your planting site and method. Once a tree is established, it needs little assistance to grow and produce; but you’ll want to make sure you give your tree the best foundation possible.

Nut trees require fertile soil for good growth, so before you plant, check your soil nutrients and pH. Contact your local County Extension Office for information about soil testing in your area, or purchase one of our digital meters for quick and accurate results. For chestnuts, your ideal soil pH should be 6.0-7.0. Steer clear of soils that are extremely heavy or poorly drained.

Planting

  • Space your chestnut trees 35’ to 40’ apart.
  • Dig a hole wide and deep enough to accommodate the root system.
  • Wet the roots thoroughly before planting.
  • Many nut trees have just one main root, almost like a giant skinny carrot. With most nut trees, this taproot should not be trimmed or bent when planted.
  • Spread the roots out in the hole to prevent matting. Do not bend or trim main taproot.
  • Plant at the same depth as they were grown at the nursery. Bare root trees will have a noticeable color difference between the roots and the trunk--plant at the depth of this color difference. Place a potted tree the same depth it was growing in the pot.
  • Refill hole with enhanced soil. Tamp soil firmly about roots as you add each shovel of dirt.
  • When hole is ¾ full, add two buckets of water, the last bucket should be treated with Stark® Tre-Pep® Fertilizer and let soak in. (If planting in the fall, wait to fertilize until spring for best results.)
  • Finish filling hole.

After Planting

  • Prune your new bare root tree by cutting off at least one-third to one-half of the top (but not below the bud/graft union). This is essential. This forces your tree to grow a strong sprout that will become the main trunk. Take our word for it: severe pruning at planting time gets your new tree off to the best possible start. Potted nut trees do not need pruning.
  • Paint trunk with a white latex paint and/or wrap trunk within 4” of top using Stark® Tree Guards to prevent rodent injury and sun scald.
  • Mulch about June 1. Keep all weeds away from trees the first few years with mulch or regular cultivation.

Soil Preparation

Preparing your soil before you plant will greatly improve your tree’s performance and promote healthy, vigorous growth. It is a good idea to have your soil tested to determine if it is lacking in any essential minerals and nutrients. This can be done through your County Extension Office or with one of our digital meters.

The goal of soil preparation is to replenish vital minerals and nutrients, as well as break up and loosen any compacted soil.

When To Prepare Your Soil

Soil preparation can be done at any time that the ground is not too wet or frozen. Your trees may be planted even when temperatures are quite cool. If a hard frost is expected, it is advisable to delay planting for a while until temperatures become more moderate. Generally, as long as your soil is workable, it is fine to plant.

How To Prepare Your Soil

  • Roots grow faster when they’re spread out. Dig the hole deep and wide enough so the root system has plenty of room to easily expand. Keep the topsoil in a separate pile so you can put it in the bottom of the hole, where it’ll do the most good.
  • To loosen the soil, mix dehydrated cow manure, garden compost or peat moss (up to 1/3 concentration) into your pile of topsoil. Make sure the peat moss you get is either baled sphagnum or granular peat. You can also add our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium or 2 or more inches of organic material and work in evenly with the existing soil.

Your lawn can provide you with ideal organic materials such as grass clippings and shredded leaves. Not only will the grass and leaves break down to provide soil nutrients, but they will help loosen the soil as well. You can gather these in the fall with spring planting in mind.

Common soil amendments:

  • compost
  • sand
  • manure
  • lime
  • peat moss

Adding organic materials, such as our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium and compost will improve most every soil type. Organic materials bind sandy soil particles so they retain moisture and nutrients better. They also break apart clay and silt particles, so that water can infiltrate and roots can spread.

Soil Types

  • Clay and silt soils are made of very small particles. They feel slick and sticky when wet. Clay and silt hold moisture well, but resist water infiltration, especially when they are dry. Often puddles form on clay or silt soils, and they easily become compacted.
  • Loam soil is a mix of sand, silt or clay, and organic matter. Loam soils are loose and look rich. When squeezed in your fist, moist loam will form a ball, which crumbles when poked with a finger. Loam soils normally absorb water and store moisture well. Loam soils can be sandy or clay based, and will vary in moisture absorption and retention accordingly.
  • Sandy soils contain large particles that are visible to the unaided eye, and are usually light in color. Sand feels coarse when wet or dry, and will not form a ball when squeezed in your fist. Sandy soils stay loose and allow moisture to penetrate easily, but do not retain it for long-term use.

Care & Maintenance

Fertilizing

Fertilize your tree in the spring with a well-balanced fertilizer. Sprinkle the fertilizer at the drip line of the tree.

Insects and Diseases

Every tree has the future potential for disease and insect damage. Factors such as location and weather will play a part in which issues your tree encounters. If available, disease-resistant trees are the best option for easy care; and for all trees, proper maintenance (such as watering, fertilizing, pruning, spraying, weeding, and fall cleanup) can help keep most insects and diseases at bay.

Gall Wasp

This small wasp is a serious problem in the southern United States. It causes galls to form on growing shoot tips, stopping nut production.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Weevil

The adult lays eggs in the developing nuts. Larvae hatch and feed on developing kernels. Over winters in fallen nuts. NOTE: fall clean up is essential.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Powdery Mildew

Whitish-gray powdery mold or felt like patches on leaves and nuts. Leaves may drop early, weakening the tree. Nuts may have ‘shuck split’ and shriveled kernels.

Natural Control

  • Serenade® Garden Disease Control

Japanese Beetle

Adult is metallic green beetle, which skeletonizes leaves. Larvae are a grub, which feeds on turf roots. Check turf product labels for timing of control of grubs. This is more of the problem is east of the Mississippi river.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Shothole Borer

Small reddish-purple spots appear on young leaves then enlarge and eventually dropping out of the leaf blade leaving a “shot hole.” It appears on fruit, usually in clustered as light brown spots or lesions with dark purple margins.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Chestnut Blight

Small orange brown area appears on the bark of a branch. Sunken canker may appear and the bark may split. Yellowish-orange tissue breaks through the bark of the canker. The canker spreads around the branch causing it to wilt and die.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Phytophthora Root Rot

It causes weak plant growth and the development of small yellow leaves. Terminal growth may be stunted or die back. Plants often collapse and die during hot weather.

Natural Control

  • Serenade® Garden Disease Control

Tent Caterpillar

Hairy caterpillars that enclose large areas in webbing and feed on enclosed leaves. Remove web with rake and burn. Caterpillars are pulled out with webs.

Chemical Control

  • Bonide® Total Pest Control

Pruning

Most potted nut trees need very little initial pruning, but as the trees get older, corrective pruning may be necessary. Keep these pointers in mind:

  • When the tree is dormant, corrective pruning consists of removing broken, interfering, dead, or disease branches.
  • Remove branches that are growing toward the middle of the tree.
  • If any branches are crossing, remove one of them.
  • Prune low limbs that may interfere with sprays or irrigation.
  • Remove limbs and vigorous shoots growing through the center, to allow light and air to penetrate.
  • In the early years, if secondary limbs show narrow angles, you should remove them.

Spraying

Spraying is important to the survival of your trees. To handle potential diseases and pests, reference the guidelines below to know what you should spray, and when you should use it.

Before you begin, read and follow all instructions on labels.

When To Spray

At the First Sign of:

  • Serenade® Garden Disease Control for powdery mildew and phytophthora root rot.
  • Bonide® Total Pest Control for tent caterpillars.

Watering

Except in times of drought, you probably won’t need to water after your tree is established. Until then, follow these guidelines to get your new trees off to a great start.

General Guidelines

  • If summer brings about an inch of rainfall every 10 days or so, you won’t need to use the hose. But if it gets really dry, you can give your new tree a good, thorough soaking. The best way to do this is to let your garden hose trickle slowly. This gives the water a chance to soak in instead of running off. You can also use a soaker hose to water several trees at once. Give your tree enough water to soak the ground all around the roots.

Harvesting

Are you ready to enjoy delicious homegrown nuts? Harvest is the time to enjoy the results of your hard work. Keep a few things in consideration as you reap the the benefits of your labor: the best time to pick nuts from your tree, and how to store the nuts.

When to Harvest

Under good conditions, a chestnut tree will have its first worthwhile yield 4 to 5 years after planting. It could take a few years longer under less than ideal conditions due to disease, insects, drought, etc.

It is best to harvest every other day for 3 to 4 weeks to maintain nut quality. For the best quality and size, chestnuts should be left on the tree to fall naturally soon after burs split open and then harvest promptly. This usually occurs from September through October.

Gloves should be worn unless tongs are used to pick from the ground. Remove the nuts from the burrs as soon as possible after harvesting. Discard any with wormholes or other signs of damage. Do not shake or knock the nuts from the tree until the nutshells have turned brown. They are subject to animal depredation and may dry excessively if left lying on the ground too long after they fall.

Storage

Fresh chestnuts (in shell) can be kept in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place for several months. For long-term storage you will need to dry them first, then refrigerator or freeze. When drying nuts good air circulation is important. They need to dry between 2 to 4 days depending on the temperature. Nuts will be hard when dry and can be rehydrated in boiling water. Store in tightly sealed containers.