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Growing hazelnuts may be easier than you think. Here’s how to grow your hazelnut tree in your garden or backyard.
Although many home gardeners may be hesitant to buy a hazelnut tree due to water requirements, spacing, and other issues, this guide will give you a complete picture of how you can succeed.
Hazelnuts are also called filberts. They are nutritious and are a good protein source. The good news is you can grow your own.
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The hazelnut family includes cobnuts, filberts, and more. Each type produces a stunning yellow catkin that dangles down, and you can spot it in early spring or late winter.
The catkin is the male part that contains the pollen required to fertilize the female flower found at the tips of the branches.
Of course, there are also differences between the varieties. For example, filbert husks cover the shell entirely, while that doesn’t happen for cobs and hazels.
Some hazel varieties also have more beauty characteristics other than the chandelier-style mass of catkins.
For example, Corylus avellana is a corkscrew hazel named for its contorted, twisted stems. In fact, you can find them in a variety of winter floral arrangements.
You’ve also got Corylus maxima, a filbert with purple leaves that can add some contrast to your garden. When you eat them, you may be surprised that the husks are also of a purple hue.
Hazelnut Tree Planting 101
First of all, hazelnut trees are easy to grow; however, you should be in hardiness zones 4 – 9. This is where hazelnuts grow best. Certain hazelnut varieties do better in zones 4 – 6 while others do better in 7 – 9.
There are a lot of benefits when you grow your own hazelnut tree.
One is that it is easy to grow hazelnuts because they don’t have many special needs. Likewise, hazelnut trees are very hardy and can deal with cold and wet winters.
As such, you can put them in problem areas within your garden and still have trees that produce something.
Plus, you can protect and feed the local wildlife when you grow them as a hedgerow.
Things to Consider
Hazelnuts are naturally fertile, so they prefer well-drained soil that doesn’t have a lot of nutrients.
If you plant them on more fertile soils, you will have trees with lots of leaves, but fewer nuts and flowers.
It also helps if you plant them all in a group. That way, the pollen drifts from one hazelnut plant to the next.
Keep in mind, though, that other trees from the neighborhood can pollinate the hazelnuts, too.
That means they also prefer open sites so that other plants can pollinate them effectively.
If you have more room in your garden, hazelnut trees are ideal for creating a small orchard. You can place the trees about 15 feet apart so that they have plenty of room to grow.
You can also create a grove of various varieties to help with pollination. Just make sure that you check the compatibility of pollination for the trees that you grow so that it is a good match.
For more successful pollination, all varieties should be flowering at the same time.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that you should plant it in the spring after the first frost.
The first thing you need to do is wet the roots and then create a hole deep and wide enough to accommodate the root system.
Look for the “J” loop and plant the tree about 12 inches from that base.
Refill the hole with some enhanced soil. It would be best if you use soil specifically designed for hazelnuts. Your garden center or nursery will show you what to get.
Make sure the soil is tamped firmly around the roots while you’re adding each shovel-full.
Once the hole is about 3/4 full, add about two gallons of water. You can use liquid fertilizer with the last gallon of water.
If you choose to plant the tree in the fall, consider waiting until spring to fertilize. Then, completely fill the hole with soil.
Alternatively, you can grow a hazelnut tree from previously harvested hazelnuts. This process takes a long time because the nuts have to germinate.
People also often find it easier to purchase a small shrub or tree and replant it in the garden or yard.
While hazelnut trees are relatively low maintenance, there are a few things you will need to do so they will produce.
You will need to prune your bare root tree to force it to grow stronger and maintain its trunk. If you have a potted nut tree, you can skip pruning.
To prune them, make sure that you cut away one-third of the oldest growth. Do this by sawing or cutting the stems back to the ground level.
You can also thin out overcrowded areas to keep the center of the tree airy and light.
Cut crossing branches and leave the twig-like, young growth because this has the female flowers.
You may find suckers growing from the root of the plant, usually found near the main trunk or stem. It will also help if you pull or dig them out to prevent yourself from having a mass of stems.
Consider wrapping the trunk with a tree guard to protect it from sun scald and injury from rodents.
Make sure that you mulch around the tree a month after planting it to keep the weeds away from the tree. Refresh as needed.
It is also best not to allow the soil around your hazelnut shrub to completely dry out. During the dry season, you should water weekly. Allow as much water as you can to sink into the soil.
Your shrubs might not need fertilization regularly if you used good soil.
That said, nitrogen is essential for growth, while potassium is essential for better quality, increased yields, and the ability to resist disease.
Consider higher NPK amounts in your fertilizer when the hazelnut shrub’s leaves are yellow, or you experience slow growth. Choose organic fertilizer when possible.
Squirrels love nuts of all sorts and are highly determined and acrobatic to boot. You may find it a challenge to keep the hazelnuts safe from them.
Since they are tree-like, the bushes are easy prey, and although you could use a wire-mesh fruit cage, it may not deter squirrels and other rodents.
Instead, just watch to make sure the squirrels aren’t taking too many. If they do, it’s probably time to pick them all if you can.
How to Harvest and Dry the Hazelnuts
Your hazelnuts will be ready in autumn once the husks are yellow.
You can pick the growing hazelnuts directly from the tree if you want, but when fully ripened, you can shake them directly into a sheet or tarp.
Often, hazelnuts fall from the tree by themselves, and it might be easier to rake them all into a pile. The first few nuts you get could be empty; this is normal.
Make sure that you store the nuts in an airy, dry place, such as in nets, crates, slatted boxes, and cloth bags.
Spread the nuts on a tray to dry them, but make sure you turn them every couple of days to get even results. It’s best to dry them inside in a warm place for about two or three weeks.
When they’re completely dry, scrape away the husks and store them inside their shells. Alternatively, you can shell them and then store them in a covered glass container.
1. What Does a Hazelnut Tree Look Like?
Hazelnuts aren’t trees in the normal sense, but bushes that can grow quite tall and high without pruning.
Usually, the hazelnut tree features heart-shaped leaves, which alternate along its branches.
Often, the leaves are pale in the back and darker in front. They also have double-serrated edges and a pointy tip, similar to that of a bread knife.
Its leaves are usually five inches long and can be up to three inches wide.
2. How Tall Do Hazelnut Trees Grow?
In its bush form, hazelnut trees can grow between eight and 12 feet. On the other hand, single-stem trees can grow as wide as their height, from 14 to 16 feet.
3. How Long Do Hazelnut Trees Live?
Your hazelnut tree can live to be about 40 years old, and they produce nuts throughout their lifespan.
Certain diseases can kill your hazelnut tree. Root rot caused by honey-colored mushroom clusters is one of the most common.
They sprout at your tree’s base and take away the nutrients your hazelnut tree needs. This causes leaf discoloration, branch death, and, ultimately, tree death.
Another is Eastern Filbert Blight, which shows up as cankers on the top branches, though they can appear anywhere.
You can prune away twigs and branches with canker to prevent this disease from killing your hazelnut trees.
4. Where Do Hazelnuts Grow Best?
Hazelnuts grow best in USDA hardiness zones 4 – 9.
Grow Hazelnuts and Enjoy Their Benefits!
Having a hazelnut plant adds color and depth to your garden, depending on the type you plan to grow.
Planting them isn’t as difficult as it seems, but will require quite a bit of maintenance, especially pruning.
You also need to be watchful of squirrels that might feed on the growing hazelnuts since they will eat both ripe and unripe nuts.
These trees, though, live long enough to provide you with delicious nuts that you can eat as is or use in recipes. They are nutritious and filled with protein.
The ways to prepare them are endless. You can roast them in the oven or an open fire. Baked hazelnuts can also be delicious, and you can try salt and pepper or other herbs. You can also grind hazelnuts into a paste.
With backyard or garden trees that bear hazelnuts, you can save or even make money and enjoy some greenery and healthy snacks while creating a sustainable lifestyle.