How to Grow Walnuts – REGENERATIVE.com

How to Grow Walnuts

It is often claimed that walnuts were one of the first food crops to be cultivated by human beings. Their history is certainly a long one, with its roots reaching back to ancient Persia. The Romans regarded the nuts as food of the Gods, while when first imported into the United Kingdom walnuts were reserved for royalty alone. In the U.S. walnut cultivation is thought to date back to the late 1700s.

And it’s not just history that walnuts are rich in. They are also nutritious, being one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 acids, which help the brain function. They also contain good levels of fiber, protein and antioxidants.

Growing your own walnut tree can seem a little daunting, as they are long living – with some having the potential to last up to 200 years – and don’t produce a reliable harvest for about a decade. But planting a walnut tree brings other benefits to the site, with its tall, broad canopy attractive to wildlife and capable of significant windbreak and shade capacity. The walnut is also an attractive tree, setting small bright flowers in spring. Furthermore, planting a walnut tree is an investment in the future. It is a refutation of the ‘more, now, quicker’ society in which many people live, and a contribution to both the biodiversity and food production potential of the site for many years to come.

Species
There are tow main types of walnut that are cultivated by both commercial farms and gardeners: the Black walnut and the English walnut. The Black varieties are more common in the U.S. while the English version is more often found in Europe, particularly around the Mediterranean. There are hundreds of cultivar varieties within each of these types. Research native varieties and visit local growers to see which are suited to your soil and climate conditions.

Position
Depending on the species, walnut trees can grow up to 25 meters tall, and most have broad, spreading canopies. Ensure that you leave enough room for the mature tree to grow into. As a general rule, leave at least 12 meters between specimens. Walnuts like a protected site that does not experience strong winds or frosts, but which gets several hours of full sun. Walnut trees prefer temperate climates that do not have too high temperatures during the summer, but which experience a reasonably cold winter. The leaves that fall from a walnut tree have chemicals within them that can be toxic to other plants, including grass, so avoid planting where the canopy will overhang other species.

Soil
Walnuts are quite hardy and will tolerate most soils, but do best on soils that are rich in organic matter to a deep level – to help the long-lasting roots anchor the tree – and well drained. The ideal soil pH for a walnut tree is neutral.

Planting
Plant in the fall or winter. You can plant either seeds or a juvenile tree. Seeds must be sourced from an organic supplier – you can’t simply plant a nut from the supermarket. Seeds can be planted three inches below the surface, while a young tree should be planted in a hole three times as wide as the root ball, and backfilled so that no soil covers the trunk. It can be useful to stake a juvenile tree for the first year or two to promote good establishment.

Care
Apply organic compost in early spring, and mulch with straw or bark chips to help preserve soil moisture. Avoid adding compost during the summer as this can encourage late growth that will then be susceptible to winter frosts. Water juvenile trees whenever they need it during the spring and summer (check the soil six inches below the surface, and if dry and crumbly, irrigate). If you want to encourage your walnut tree to bush rather than attain height, prune the leader branch in early fall to encourage secondary growth. Remove any dead or decaying branches whenever you spot them.

Harvest
Most walnut trees will not provide any harvestable crop until somewhere between the eight and tenth year of growth. At this early stage in their development, the crop will not be especially plentiful; it is only really after the twentieth year that the walnut tree enters full production. The height of a mature tree effectively means that you will be harvesting walnuts that have fallen to the ground – this helps to protect the branches from damage, and the protective casing of the nuts mean they are not damaged by the fall. Walnuts grow surrounded by a leathery, fibrous casing that is green in the first instance but which turns black or brown when ripe, depending on the species. And you want to look for fallen nuts that have splits in the casing. Test a few – wearing gloves as ripe walnuts can stain skin and clothes – to check whether the nut inside is fully formed and comes away easily from the casing when broken open. If so, the majority of the nuts on the ground are likely to be ready for harvest.

Wearing rubber gloves to prevent staining of the skin, remove all trace of the fibrous coating – a wire brush can be useful for this task – then grow walnutsrinse the nuts well in water to remove the tart tannins. Dry the nuts, either in a very cool oven for 24 hours or so, or in a warm, well-ventilated place for a couple of weeks. Once dry, store the nuts in an airtight container.

Tip
It can be tempting to throw the walnut shells into the compost pile or use them as mulch on garden beds. However, caution is advised as walnuts contain a chemical called juglone, which can be toxic to some fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes. While a few shells shouldn’t cause a problem, if you have a large harvest, you should seek another form of disposal. Walnut shells are often used in industrial cleaning products, so you may seek to contact an organic producer to sell your shells.

111 comments

Blake Stanley

David Howard

Stephanie Leonard-Taylor Mahle

Jacqueline Korynas

about to start soaking them and or sprouting because It must be the phytic acid that hurts my tummy.

I could use the help.

Kashmir is walnut capitol…they also make the best cricket bats from Walnut trees.

My 14 year old kid dropped a couple of the walnuts he had gotten from a store into our back yard back in 1997. They sprouted and I transplanted them to be further apart. They now produce abundant walnuts!

~PARSIA…OR PERSIA?

I’ve got a beautiful walnut tree in my front yard!

They don’t like lilies or the family though – so no garlic within 50ft.

Oooh, ooh, ooh! I know! You grow them very carefully. 😀

So that’s why they look like miniature brains lol

The activity of shelling the nuts as you eat them makes it impossible to just sit and gulp them down. It is a slow, grazing action.

With all the squirrels in my urban neighborhood, I will ALWAYS have walnuts on my tiny plot.

we used to have them on the old place.

Black walnuts growcwild here and there are several within walking distance.

We pleated the walnut tree. severely. Walnut trees emit toxins to destroy competition, that is the stuff that makes it a good astringent, in other words it is the Tree of Death to a garden. Don’t ever plant them near your food production, poor plan, not good companion plants. If you want the walnuts, move your garden, it won’t do well near the walnut which has shed into the soil it’s toxins. This is an example of pleating, it was done to keep the enormous tree from sucking up all the water and not kill it.

Yes but in the last few years they have gotten a virus that decreases their crop and causes the leaves to fall off early 🙁

I would recommend referencing this article prior to consideration of planting walnuts: http://www.wvu.edu/~agexten/hortcult/fruits/blkwalnt.htm

And if you do choose to plant them I would refer you to this nursery for purchasing your new tree, easily the highest quality walnut yearlings I’ve encountered: http://www.fknursery.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/plants.plantDetail/plant_ID/2186/index.htm They have a variety of walnut cultivars that have different profiles depending on if you are growing for shade, flavor, etc.

Yes, I have a huge black walnut tree in my front yard. It was very prolific last year. 🙂

I wish I had…have had them and years ago my Uncle had an orchard,never sprayed his trees this was in the 30’s and used lady bugs ,clovers bee hives…. all gone now was in the Santa Clara Valley now silcon valley,was a garden…now a parking lot….

And the FDA is now claiming WALNUTS ARE A DRUG !! ALONG WITH COCONUT OIL ….we know who the ‘nut’ is……

I have been claiming the FDA is a joke for years, and needs to be shut down. But I am nobody so no one listens.

We are blessed with 3 black walnuts in the wooded area of our property that we bought 3 years ago. Fortunately, they are far enough away from our cultivated crops that they pose no problem for us. We also discovered 2 mulberry trees this year, which is a little unusual for our area of the country.

In our 3rd year of our organic herb farm, this will be the year of nut trees and more fruit trees. Thanks for this good info.

place dried walnut leaves under your bed if your pets have fleas, and all fleas run away

i got walnut trees.a lot of volunteer.i have to keep some area free from walnut.so many thing won’t grow next or under walnut trees.

We are getting rid of our 3 black walnut trees.
They are so annoying. Walnut saplings shoot up everywhere, thanks squirrels! The nuts damage the mower and tiller. They keep other plants from growing, or flowering. Harvesting them is a mess.

We’re replacing them with persimmons. And we’re adding in northern pecans, chestnuts, and hazel nuts instead.
Also, putting in pawpaw, pears, apples and apricots….

are pecan trees hard to grow?

wouldn’t mind to have just one

Have Walnut and Pecan. The Pecan do not produce very well…

Yes I do and 3 black walnuts over 150 yrs old

oh my, sounds like they can cause trouble, and I was thinking of planting one if I ever get a few acres like I’m hoping to. They are so beneficial medicinally. Maybe I’ll simply continue to buy them and the tincture :p

We’ve got em on our homestead near Asheville, NC

My husband’s grandfather planted black walnut trees almost 100 years ago. A couple are stil alive. 🙂

I think I will plant a couple across the street in the abandoned lot. Useful, beautiful, squirrel nurturing and not in my garden space. 🙂

No, but we grow pecans! Yum.

We have a delicious (nut & shade) English Walnut tree in our south facing back yard. Starting on Pg. 193 of Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemenway discusses the Walnut Guild work of Az Permaculture Designer Tim Murphy. ‘Seems that lots of food bearing stuff will grow well under & around a walnut tree. I’ll add comfrey to Tim’s list of hackberry, wolf berry, current, elderberry, mulberry, tomato & pepper. I tried tomato and pepper plants under the walnut drip edge and got some production despite just 4hrs of direct sunlight/day. https://books.google.com/books?id=gxW0MGXha6cC&pg=PA194&lpg=PA194&dq=toby+hemenway+walnut+guild&source=bl&ots=w0qbbW1jQ4&sig=iAqdpz7d3NV5T23ZG4qzlspLOpU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=kWuoVPPHNInzoASm-4KoAg&ved=0CEoQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=toby%20hemenway%20walnut%20guild&f=false

They are messy and not easy to clean for eating and storage. If they were on the outskirts of our property, they’d be fine, but they’re near the house and our best open space sunny growing area. If I had planted them, they’d be far from the house and garden

The northern pecan is a beautiful tree, easy to grow where I am, prolific, with a nice wood, but it’s a smaller nut than what you find in the store.

No but I want some!!!!

I had both English and black walnut trees grow beautifully and FAST here in western Oregon. Planted by bluejays in mint hay!

I have several Black Walnut trees and several varietys of Pecans !

Carpathian Walnuts do great in this area. The squirrels love them and plant them all over my yard, so I seldom get to taste them.

Have lots of walnut trees

Nut trees don’t grow in my area.

One black walnut, but no clue as to how to harvest and prep then

I already had black walnuts on my property when I moved i

I PLANT HUNDREDS OF THEM EVER YEAR……

The FDA considers walnuts a ‘controlled substance’ ?

Had an old black walnut tree in my backyard growing up. Had no idea what it was, we called the nuts in their green coating “monkey balls”

20 plus black Walnuts

i have a walnut tree , dont plant them they are a pain. the leaves stain everything , it attracts lots of wildlife who break into my house to hide their nuts . the woodpeckers poke holes in them and sap drips out all winter . dont park under the tree youll be sorry. in the spring everything is yellow with pollen

definately has always been my favourite nut

And now your Government who hires Monsanto, says they are bad for you!

My parents in Wisconsin had a black walnut tree…very messy, very hard to extract, glorious nuts! My dad gave me a quart bag of nuts he had gathered, cracked and picked for Christmas several years ago. I have squirreled them away in my deep freeze. He passed this last October, and I will think of him every time I bake with them.

Livermore Walnuts before and after.

We need to find a way to transfer information on what’s good for us via private..

LOVE walnuts…sharing on my FB page “Refueling Your Fork in Sync with the Seasons”! Love your page and site. keep all the great info coming!

Plus don’t plant near a garden as the roots kill/stun various plants.

There are perhaps 100 or so black walnuts here (home) and I planted three varieties of English walnuts in 2014.

I don’t remember if I told you but I have more bags for you Danny

were do you live 🙂 love them

Sorry, hate walnuts.

Catina Keck Winkler

Would love a walnut! I have cleared property that doesn’t need mowing so no worries about the nuts destroying the mower.

Maybe English but black walnuts grow woild here evreywhere,free nuts

it makes older woman feel more sexy, or so it seems.

In a study done by Gary Fraser, Ph.D, professor of Medicine at Loma Linda(California) University…that in a study of 31,208, he found that walnuts stood out as the number-one food among those who did not suffer heart attacks. Those that munched on nuts as least five times a week had roughly half the chance of heart attack and coronary deaths as those who ate nuts less than once a week. Also, some of the highest concentration of Omega-3, in plant food are in walnuts. Thanks for sharing.

…did the article mention they are a messy tree? So talk your neighbor into planting one then mooch the walnuts.

we used to have english walnut trees as well as filbert (hazel) nut bushes when I was growing up. Waiting until my next move before doing new permaculture planning

Colleen Gary

Rub a walnut on dark wood scratches in furniture – or at least that’s what I’ve heard.

to avoid gaining weight use the nut rather than the nut oil. the fiber of the nut slowes the absorption of the fat.

Black walnuts in neighbors yard & they are very damaging to my garden

Black walnuts are bad for a garden…

Love black walnuts,so many in Missouri laying on the ground they get wasted

At least a hundred

but they a lot of water to grow

Plant a tree

Several neighbors have them but their next door neighbors hate those trees. Not sure why but I do hear about them and not in a good way 😉

This is from the tree service in Missouri. They have some different nut trees pecan trees are on this page.

Thanks Jaysin, this is a good website!

Have several, have been approached many times waitng for Strum Ruger to approach me about selling my black walnut trees. 60ft high probably several hundred years old. Any suggestions for uses, any buyers?

Except if they send you into anaphylactic shock, then they’re not so good for you 🙂

Looks like s brain

Planted one in NH. Deer devoured leaves and branches … Lesson learned.

Can they grow in NB

Walnut trees create a toxic environment underneath for other plants. You cannot grow plants under them as plants will not live. Just an interesting note regarding culture.

We’ve got a big old walnut tree in our garden (in England) but the squirrels snaffle all the nuts before they’re ripe

We have tons of walnut and hickory, over 50 years old. We do nothing but harvest lol

They actually release toxins in the soil from their roots which kill other plants. Some trees like Paw Paw are immune to the toxin and thrive under Walnut.

My wife made me cut it down

The sap harvested during spring sap flow is also very tasty. We have many black walnuts (hard to shell), I’ve planted three types of English walnuts and will plant pecan trees this spring.

MrsRobertKeeney

The article didn’t even mention juglone, the herbicide that walnuts excrete into the soil around them which poisons everything that isn’t juglone resistant. There is totally a place for walnuts in a permaculture system, but it takes thought and planning to create juglone resistant guilds in the buffer space between these trees and the more sensitive parts of your system.

Josephine Cubbard-D’Ors

The post should be ‘How to stop the cockies eating them all before you do” I had a beautiful walnut tree, huge and plentiful. Did,t get one….

Sara Hamburger

We totally need to plant a walnut tree asap Devon Blomquist Jordan Blomquist

Nooooo…..I’m trying to quit

Buy a walnut tree 😜

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