Chestnut Grower Guidelines for Spring

With the arrival of Spring, we are getting more calls about planting times and best practices for growing.  Orchard Manager, Stephen Hoy shared these general guidelines below:

Starting Seeds and Transplanting 

Chestnut seeds should be sown indoors anytime in March and April and outdoors between March and May. While most seeds will remain dormant in the fridge it is not uncommon to find radicles emerging before the seeds are planted. With a little extra care, the seed should still be planted, radicle down, and a stem will emerge in 4 weeks for indoor plantings. If planting directly outdoors be sure to protect your seed from the many animals hoping for a delicious snack. Seeds planted directly in the ground outside will take longer to germinate based on the local weather conditions.

Bareroot seedlings can be planted as early as the soil can be worked because seedlings are dormant when lifted at the nursery. Be aware, bareroots can dry out quickly if not properly watered and stored while awaiting planting. It is recommended to soak the root system in a bucket of water for several hours or overnight prior to planting.

Containerized seedlings should be hardened off at least two weeks prior to planting if they are fully leafed out. This requires the seedlings to be gradually exposed to the environment so they can better handle the wind, sun, and rain after planting. Here at Penn State, the chestnut orchard plantings occur between May 15-25. Containerized seedlings can be safely planted into June as long as seedlings can be watered consistently for the month following planting.

There are many websites where you can find your average last frost date, examples include weather.gov, plantmaps.com, almanac.com.

Fertilizer: There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to fertilizer. For best results, growers should purchase a soil test and apply based on that data. Chestnuts prefer more acidic conditions so if planting in a higher pH area it may be wise to amend the soil prior to planting with sulfur. Here at Penn State, we do not use fertilizer the year trees are planted. When fertilizer is applied we use a slow-release (6 months) fertilizer

Ambrosia Beetle: Now is the time of year to construct and deploy traps to monitor for the granulate Ambrosia beetle. Follow this link.