When it comes to nuts, one of the most popular is hazelnut or hazelnut. Used in baked goods, spreads and desserts in combination with chocolate, you can't beat the buttery flavor of American hazelnuts. And you (yes, you!) can grow your own hazelnut tree at home.
In this article, we'll cover three members of the Corylus genus: Corylus americana, C. avellana, and C. maxima. Although there are many varieties of hazelnut, these three are the most common in North America. Knowing how to tend these hazelnut trees will result in bountiful harvests of tasty nuts.
While gardening these nut trees in containers isn't the best option, those who have the space can plant the trees in an area with enough feet in between. That means even people with 20-by-20-foot outdoor spaces can grow multiple trees at once. And due to the need for cross-pollination, they would do well too!
So, let's cover the ins and outs of growing hazelnuts at home!
Good products on Amazon for growing hazelnuts:
Quick care instructions
A hazelnut tree produces tasty nuts every autumn. Source: carminka
|Common name(s)||Hazelnut, Hazelnut, American Hazelnut, Common Hazelnut|
|Scientific name||Corylus americana, C. avellana, C. maxima|
|days until harvest||About 40 days after flowering|
|Bright||Full sun to part shade|
|water||1 to 2 inches per week|
|floor||Light, slightly alkaline, well drained|
|fertilizer||Slowly released nitrogen in spring|
|pests||Hazelnut worm, nut weevil, squirrel, ruffed grouse|
|Diseases||Root rot, eastern hazel blight, bacterial rot, bacterial canker, hazelnut mosaic virus|
All about hazelnut trees
Hazelnut leaves are broad-leaved and can provide nice shade. Source: Willamette Biology
This piece also focuses on the three Corylus species: Americana, Avellana and Maxima. They are commonly known as American hazel, common hazel and hazelnut. In general, the hazel belongs to the birch family that is native to the northern hemisphere. Corylus americana is native to the central and eastern United States. Corylus avellana is native to western Asia and Europe. C. maxima is native to southwest Asia and southeastern Europe.
Hazelnut remains have been found in Stone Age archaeological sites from northern Europe to China. The tree is believed to have spread around the world during the Ice Age. The European tree made its way to North America in the 19th century during the horticultural boom. It then became an important tree for nut production. But we would be remiss not to mention that hazelnuts are a staple in Turkey, where 60-70% of the world's hazelnuts are produced.
The hazelnut tree is a deciduous multi-stemmed shrub that grows to 15 feet tall and spreads between 5 and 10 feet. C. maxima, or hazelnut trees, grow up to 30 feet tall. If you have less space, it is best to plant a Corylus americana or Corylus avellana species. The leaves of these shrubby fruit trees are green and rounded, with serrated margins that are 1 to 3 inches wide and 2 to 4 inches long. Hazelnut trees have purple leaves.
Flowers bloom on the tree in very early spring in either yellow male catkins or tiny red female flowers. Cross-pollination between male and female flowers helps produce nuts in larger quantities. Most varieties are self-fertile and self-pollinate on the same plant. Hazelnuts form as a result of female flower pollination and ripen within 40 days of pollination. They are formed in a shell and are ready in early fall. The roots of these trees are long, branched taproots.
Gardeners in the United States may wish to skip attempts to grow Avellana or European hazel trees as they are commonly affected by eastern hazel blight. Those with less space would do well to stick with the American Hazel rather than the Hazel due to spacing issues. The first harvests only take place when the tree is established, after about 5 years. Full harvests occur after about 9 years, when up to 25 pounds of edible nuts can be harvested from a single tree.
The wood of hazelnut trees is especially useful for those who enjoy making fences, furniture, and trellises. The oil is used in beauty products and the branches can be used as animal feed. It's a great source of pollen for bees in spring. There is so much you can do with this little tree. And it's a host for lichens and fungi, which over time have developed a symbiotic relationship with the tree.
Plant your walnut tree in late winter when it is still dormant. Keep in mind that planting just one tree can reduce the number of nuts harvested in the long run. Planting in the heat of summer will shake the tree roots. Choose a location for your hazelnut trees that are 15 to 20 feet apart. When planting hazelnuts, stick to the wider side of this area. They need a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Dig a hole deep enough for the root ball and twice as wide. Thoroughly moisten the roots of the tree. Then plant the roots in the hole, leaving the top level with the soil line. Return soil to hole and press firmly to remove air pockets. Add two gallons of water when the hole is 75% full. Then add the remaining soil on top, piling it up at the base, leaving a few inches between the trunk and the surrounding soil. The layering of mounds promotes good drainage.
Mature hazelnut trees can grow quite large. Source: ChipSmith
With a good foundation for your plant, you don't have to do much to have a timely harvest of your own nuts. So let's discuss the basic principles of this foundation.
sun and temperature
Hazelnuts need at least 4 hours of full sun per day. In hotter areas with intense direct sunlight, partial shade can balance out too much heat and sun. European hazelnuts are better suited to colder regions in USDA zones 4 through 8. American hazelnuts can handle warmer temperatures. Hazelnut trees thrive in all of these hardiness zones. Temperate weather in the middle of these hardiness zones results in higher production of both female and male flowers, resulting in more nuts produced. During the colder months, the ideal temperature for this small tree is 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
In hotter months, they thrive in 85 degrees. They do not like hot and dry conditions for long periods of time. The same goes for frosty areas. Colder temperatures below the ideal range will kill female flowers before they can be pollinated. They will drop flowers in high heat situations without adequate protection and moisture. Mulch and cover will keep the soil warm in a cold snap. Adequate moisture and shading help when growing trees in hotter regions.
water and moisture
Water your hazelnuts with a gallon of water in the morning every few weeks. Ideally, do this with drip irrigation or a drip hose. Otherwise, gentle watering from a watering can at the base of the tree works well. Increase this amount every two weeks during the grow phase. If it rains often, additional watering is not required. American hazelnuts are drought tolerant.
Hazelnuts can easily grow in poor, well-drained soil, but they produce best in a native landscape with good soil. In areas with particularly poor soil, add some potting soil or compost to the existing soil. American hazelnut enjoys a neutral to slightly alkaline soil pH of 5.5 to 7.5.
American hazelnut does not need fertilizer, although some guides suggest a slow-release, high-nitrogen, granular fertilizer in the second year of growth to aid in foliar formation. Nitrogen fixers planted in conjunction with your tree will help with poor soil. Use fertilizer at the bottom line at an NPK of 4-3-0.
Prune regularly to encourage bushy growth. Remove shoots that may protrude from the base of the plant. In commercial production, hazelnuts are pruned in winter to encourage branching in the growing season. At this time, the hazel has no leaves due to its deciduous nature. Remember that female flowers nut on this multi-stemmed shrub, which is self-fertile, so leave branches from last year's growth to allow the female parts to grow. Male kittens grow from the current year's growth. Also remove crossing branches and those growing towards the trunk. If you remove longer branches from your American hazelnut, they can be formed into trellises, furniture, or baskets. We will talk more about harvesting native nuts from the tree in the harvesting section below. They automatically fall from the tree when ripe.
There are two reliable ways of propagating the American hazelnut: by seed and by sucker. To plant an American hazelnut, gather the nuts you wish to plant and test their viability in water. If they swim, use them for food. Those that sink can be planted in a plain potting soil after scarring lightly with sandpaper or a knife incision. Plant the seeds 1 to 2 inches deep and place outdoors for cold stratification. If winters are particularly cold in your area, place the seeds in a bag of sand in the freezer for 1 month. Then plant them in starter pots. In about 30 days you will have a hazelnut sprout.
To propagate suckers, remove the plant from the soil with the root intact. Then transplant the main stem to another spot in the garden in a warm spot. Pile up soil around the base and you'll have a new American hazel tree in a few weeks. Do this in late fall or early spring.
Harvesting and Storage
The hazelnut variety Wepster produces beautifully round nuts. Source: OSU
The best thing about growing hazelnut? hazelnuts! Let's talk about harvesting and storing this staple.
After the first fruit formation, hazelnuts are ripe and ready within 4 to 6 weeks. Harvest time is usually late summer to early fall. You'll know it's time to harvest when the papery husks turn yellow. Either remove them from the tree by hand or drop them on the ground and collect your harvest there. Alternatively, pick them early to ward off squirrels and ruffed grouse. Then let them dry in onion bags in a dark, warm room with good air circulation. Note that they have about a third of the shelf life if you pick them early. Dry ripe or unripe hazelnuts in a single layer on a rack indoors for several days.
Whole hazelnuts will keep for 6 months to 1 year in a cool, dry place. They will keep in the fridge for up to 2 years. An airtight container will extend the shelf life. Shelled hazelnuts stored at room temperature have a shelf life of 3 to 4 months. It's important to protect them from sunlight, as the sun breaks down the pulp of the nut faster. Both shelled and shelled hazelnuts in raw or dehydrated format will keep in the freezer in plastic freezer bags for up to 2 years. Hazelnuts roasted over an open fire keep for 6 months in the refrigerator and 1 year in the freezer.
Hungry squirrels can reach vermin levels on hazelnut trees. Source: Martha de Jong-Lantink
Let's talk about crop losses, pests and diseases that can affect your hazelnuts. Keeping a close eye on these will help you in the long run.
Hazelnuts don't appreciate it strong winds or excessive heat or cold. Provide shade and water in hot weather to keep roots cool. Mulch is also a must. A windbreak is necessary to ward off winds.
However, a cold snap does not harm the tree persistent cold will result in damaged male kittens and subsequent crop loss. During longer periods of cold weather, mulch and frost cloths can help.
Hazel can suffer too crown problems if suckers are not removed when they emerge. This also diverts nutrients to the suckers rather than the main plant. Remove them and give as a gift to friends who may also want to grow these beautiful nuts.
overhydration can weaken the plant and provide optimal conditions for the spread of fungal and bacterial diseases. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings and water no more than every few weeks during the regular season.
the hazelnut worm is the larva of the acorn moth. She likes to eat hazelnuts and digs into the shell to get at the tasty nut meat. As it consumes the nut, it makes way for bacterial and fungal invasions to infect the tree. Look for small holes in the fruit to determine if they are on your tree. Encouraging bats via a bat house on a tall building in the area can keep the moths at bay. Keep the grass around the hazelnuts mowed to prevent the larvae from overwintering. You can also kill the moths with a pheromone trap. Treatment options include Bacillus thuringiensis, neem oil, kaolin clay, pyrethrin, and spinosad.
hazel weevil are cute, but they also dig into the hazelnuts with their long, thin proboscis. They also feed on flowers and leaves. Look for small holes in fruit, leaves, and flowers to determine if they are present or not. Larvae of the weevil tend to overwinter on the shadier side of the ground around the hazel base. Remove any leftover nut as soon as possible after it falls for cultural control. Also, keep an eye on local oak trees, as the hazel weevil can also be a pest on oak trees (and their acorns). There are currently no insecticides that are permanently effective against these weevils.
squirrel! If you've gardened for any length of time you know how menacing they can be, and they love nuts. The best way to keep them off your hazelnuts is to harvest them early and let them ripen as suggested in the Harvesting section. Otherwise, tie mesh bags around the nuts and hope squirrels don't break into them. This will also prevent hazelnuts from sprouting all over your garden where squirrels have buried them.
frilled chicken is a bird that loves hazelnuts. If you have enough space, you can create a ruffed grouse habitat in your garden by planting several hazelnuts. They like to feed on all parts of hazel: nuts, flowers and twigs. If you lose a good chunk of flowers to grouse, that's not a problem. They come back next year. The thing you want to control the most in this situation is caterpillars. They are the main food source for the grouse. Use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) sprays early in the growing season to prevent caterpillars. A net around the tree can also prevent the grouse from eating from it.
root rot is a fungal attack that occurs on hazelnut bushes when the soil has been wet for too long. Resistant varieties are less susceptible to the disease. However, affected plants will show leaf discoloration and leaf fall, as well as fungal growth on the stem of the plant. Ensuring your tree has good drainage will prevent most forms of root rot. Some types of root rot can be prevented with a biological fungicide that uses microbial life to eliminate fungal causes. Once the roots begin to rot you are likely to lose the tree and should consider removing it.
Eastern hazel blight is a fungal disease caused by the pathogen Anisogramma anomalae. It causes cankers on the branches at the top of the plant, which spread and cause the branches to wilt and die. Once a canker occurs, remove the affected branch along with two feet below the canker area. Remove any volunteers that grow to prevent spread. While there are no fungicides that completely eliminate the disease, copper fungicides have been used quite well as a form of prevention. Nevertheless, resistant varieties are the best way to combat it.
bacterial rot also causes branch dieback, but initially leads to necrosis rather than cancer. The internal tissues of the branches rot through a reddish lesion that can eventually cause cancer on other parts of the tree. Water properly and provide well-drained soil to prevent rot. Copper bactericides applied in spray form twice a year after harvest and before fall rains can also control this.
Bacterial Cancer causes bud break and wilt spring growth. The dead leaves remain, and light gray cankers form at the base. Remove affected branches as soon as symptoms appear. Then spray a copper fungicide or Bordeaux mixture twice a year after harvest and before the fall rains.
Hazelnut Mosaic Virus shows up as banding on the trunk and on the leaf veins. It will decrease the hazelnut yield. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your local agricultural advisory office to determine the best course of action for this highly contagious disease. Mosaic viruses currently have no treatment and are usually spread by insect vectors.
frequently asked Questions
Some hazelnut species can grow quite large. Source: Mulaohu
Q: Do you need 2 hazelnut trees to get nuts?
A: It's not absolute as most trees are self-fertile, but you will increase your yield by cross-pollinating at least two trees.
Q: How long does it take for a hazelnut tree to bear fruit?
A: After about 5 years the tree will begin to bear fruit.
Q: Can you eat hazelnuts straight off the tree?
A: Dry them for a few days first, then enjoy!
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