The Farm Log for the Year 2009
The "Green on Green Grafting" technique we developed last year is presented
in full this year. The purpose of the green on green grafting technique is to
shorten the period between when a new seedling is started until the seedling
produces its first chestnut, normally between 3 and 8 years. The full article
is presented on this web page Green on Green
Mid Winter 2009
This year we have expanded our efforts to raise our own trees from seedlings.
The nuts used for seed were purchased from a California grower. The chestnuts
were processed using several methods to help keep the nuts from rotting. Some
of the nuts received no processing at all. Half of the chestnuts were stored
in a refrigerator and the other half were store in a metal box in a warehouse.
The results of the different processing methods were not good. Not all of the
poor results were from the processing. Almost all of the chestnuts stored in
the refrigerator were exposed to temperatures at or below 20 degrees F. When
chestnuts get exposed to these temperatures for extended periods the kernels
die. The half that were stored in the warehouse did well. There were still
problems with the nuts rotting. Of those chestnuts stored in the warehouse,
more than 50% germinated. The 50% germination rate is not good enough for us.
Several experts were contacted about the germination problems. Both made
1.Do not perform any type of post harvest processing other than to remove
dirt for the chestnuts
2.Let the nuts fall to the ground - this makes sure the nuts are mature
3.Make sure the container used for storing the chestnuts has holes so the
chestnuts can breath
4.Pack the chestnuts with moist moss making sure the chestnuts do not touch
5.Starting in late January check the chestnuts for rot - remove any
chestnuts showing rot
Early Spring 2009
The newly emerging seedlings are doing very good. Of the chestnuts placed in
to containers with potting soil about 95% are completing the germination
process. The 5% that are not coming up failed due to chestnut seed rot. In
prior years we have used 1 gallon containers recycled from plants purchased. In
each one of the 1 gallon containers we would place 3 -4 chestnut seeds. Overall
this worked well except some of the roots would be lost when the seedlings were
seperated when transplanting. This year we purchased containers that are 9
inches deep by 2 3/4 square. We were able to start 25 seedlings in an 18
square inch tray. Our goal is to start 500 trees in the fall/winter of 2009-
Late Spring 2009
Our spring started out cold, with day time tempertures about 10 degrees F below
normal. Rainfall was close to normal or just a little on the dry side, perfect
for chestnut trees in Northwest Washington. The last 10 days of April were very
nice with clear days with normal day time high temperatures. The clear nights
were cold with temperatures cooling off to the high 20's. If the night time
temperatures dropped any more, frost would damage the emerging buds and leaves.
With an almost perfect spring, the farm looked like it might have a very nice
growing year. From May 1, 2009 until May 13, 2009 the farm received 4 1/2
inches of rain. This rainfall was a local record for the first 2 weeks of May
(the most on record - since the 1850's).
This changed the soil conditions from close to perfect to
completely saturated. Soil that is saturated with water kills chestnut trees.
Trees that survived last years spring did not survive this years wet soils. It
is sad seeing so many trees die after 2 - 3 years of good performance. This
clearly demonstrates the need for a chestnut root stock that will perform well
in heavy wet soils. There are 3 cultivars we have identified as having much
more tolerance to wet soils. These cultivars are Marisol, Marival, and
Marigoule with Marisol showing the greatest tolerance to water saturated soil
during the growing season.
Late May Early June
The day time high temps are above 70 so grafting of chestnut trees was the
task for the week. Grafted Marigoule on seedlings from plantings in 2006 and
2007. The bark grafting technique was used for all grafts. Some of the grafts
were placed on new growth from this year. The scion wood taken from trees in
February was grafted onto green new growth on the understock/rootstock. We have
found the success rate of grafts on chestnuts increases substatualy when
grafting onto green wood.
Early Fall 2009
The chestnut trees started blooming in mid June this year. The bloom continued
until late July. This is an unusually long bloom. The weather from mid May
through July is warmer than normal with less than normal rainfall. Nut set on
the chestnut trees looks good. The rest of the summer wil be spent cutting
grass and installing an electic deer fence and preparing for the fall harvest.
The orchard will be open for u-pick starting October 17th. Prices have not
been set for u-pick yet. Check back in late September for pricing and harvest
The chestnuts started falling on September 24th, 2009. This is early for NW
Washington state. Our harvest usually does not start until the second week of
October. The nuts are large and well formed. The warm summer helped a lot.
This summer we had several weeks where the temperatures were into the 90's.
Most summers we are lucking to see several weeks with highs in the mid 80's.
It has been a very dry summer too. From the first of July through then end of
September less than 3" of ran fell. We would normally receive about 4-6 inches
of rain over the same period most years. After the 2008 summer where it was
the coldest summer on record, this was a great summer. After the nuts are
done falling it will be time to put the chestnut trees to bed for the winter.
Usual chores during this time is cleaning up loose debris and preparing seed
nuts for their stratification period.
Early Winter 2009
s fall we started testing different methods of cleaning
the chestnuts to help reduce the occurrence of rotting nuts. The testing
involved 2 methods of post harvest processing of the chestnuts. The results
were inconclusive of any reduction in the percent of rotting nuts (our goal was
no rot on any nuts) remain unchanged when compared to chestnuts that only
received a water wash. During the testing period we did find that the chestnuts
did change to where rot was almost gone from all the nuts. The change was
associated with the moisture content of the chestnuts. We found that the lower
the moisture content of the chestnuts the less likely the chestnuts are going
to have rot. Next harvest season we will continue our research on post harvest
processing techniques to find better ways to keep chestnuts at their best for
the longest time possible.
For most consumers who would like to have chestnuts for a
longer period than from the start of the harvest season (Late September) to the
middle of December, they will need to dry the chestnuts at least to where the
moisture content drops by about 50%. The way to find the 50% target is to weigh
the chestnuts as soon as they arrive. Then place the chestnuts in a well
ventilated location making sure the chestnuts are loosely laid out to dry.
Chestnuts are about 50% water so you will want to remove about 25% of the
weight. For example, you have 4 lbs of chestnuts you want to keep for longer
than a week or so. When the weight of the chestnut is about 3 lbs the
chestnuts should be dry enough to place in the refrigerator for several weeks
before being consumed. If you want you can remove the shell before storing in a
plastic bag in the refrigerator.