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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 Grafting Technique.

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 these recommendations:

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- 2010.

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.

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 details.

Early Fall 2009

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.