These planting instructions are for all chestnut and hazelnut "tubelings" we ship. These instructions will also be included with your order.
If you must read info here instead of on the PDF linked above, you can still scroll down to see the somewhat limited and out-of-date version
Timing your planting
These seedlings that we ship to you are actively growing, with intact root systems in the plastic tube containers. They can be planted at any time of the growing season, including mid-summer. We have planted them as late as the end of August with good survival. In zones 5 & 6, planting can continue well into September and October.
Plant them now if you can. These plants are ready to plant out now, the day you receive them. Following considerable testing, all of our plants will now reach you "decapitated"; that is, they've had their tops cut back to make them tougher. The young leaves from the side buds may look tender, but they actually tolerate sun and wind and drought much better this way.
Plant them as soon as you can. This will give them their best chance. Don't worry if you need to wait a few days before planting, but be aware that the longer you must wait before planting, the more things can go wrong. Also, we have indications that plants held a month or two past shipping may become "pot-bound", and may be slow to start growing again once planted; some have remained "stuck" for a year before recovering.
If you must keep the plants a few days before planting, it won't hurt them, and it's now easier than ever. They will need to be watered moderately, but these decapitated tubelings are much more resistant to drying than their predecessors. Don't soak the plants; they don't need it, and it can make planting more difficult.
Don't hold them in shade; sun is better for them. If you keep them in shade more than a day or two, they will start to lose their adaptation to full sun.
Water the plants from the bottom up if you can, by immersing the pots in a tub or other container filled with water about 4" deep. This is more certain than sprinkling water on them. Spray from a hose almost always misses a tube or two, which can mean a dead plant. If you can dip them for about 5 minutes, the plants will have taken up enough water for a couple days. In hot windy weather, they'll need water more often. Keep an eye on them!
Plants being held must be protected from animals before planting, as mice, squirrels, raccoons, etc. will damage closely packed seedlings in trying to get at the nuts.
Requirements will vary greatly depending on your soil. When planting on ground recently in row crops, deep compaction of the soil can slow root growth; we use a sub-soiler to break through any hardpan, then plow and/or disc. The young plants should not have to compete with sod or weeds, preferably for the first 3 years. On old pasture, you can spot or strip spray sod with Roundup one or two weeks before planting, then plant into the killed sod. Our preference is to spray, then shallowly (6-12") till a 3-4 foot wide strip of ground where the plants will go at least a week before planting. This makes it easier to cultivate the ground and keep new weed growth under control. Tilling deeply will cause the soil to settle later, leaving your plants with top roots in the air.
These plants do not need a big hole, just enough to get them into the ground. We use 3 tools depending on the looseness of the soil: a "bulb planter" that cuts a plug out; a "dibble" bar, that punches a hole exactly the size of the tube-pot; or a shovel. Standard tree planting "bars" are not good, because they are designed to pack soil hard around bare roots. With our plants, they crush the root ball and break roots.
Removing the plant from the tube
The plants handle best if they are not watered just before planting; soaking-wet root balls crumble easily. Grasp the base of the stem just above the soil, and gently pull the root ball straight out of the pot. Occasionally a plant may not pull easily. Though it sounds strange, we may blow these out by putting our mouth over the holes on the bottom and blowing hard. Hold the stem as you blow, or it will shoot out! Once out, handle carefully; the plants are tough, but roots and new buds are tender.
Plant so the root ball is slightly deeper than it was in the pot; 1/2 to 1 inch deeper is fine. Covering the roots with a little soil is necessary to prevent drying out, as any exposed potting soil will act as a wick and dry the whole root ball. Planting deeper than 1" could hurt the plant. If they are planted 2" or more deeper than the top of the pot, some of the plants may die. If the soil you are planting into has been extensively cultivated, or "fluffed" with a rototiller, be aware it will settle quite a bit and may expose the roots of the plants unless they are set deep enough to compensate for settling. 2" may not be too deep in this case.
Handle the plants gently, and try to firm soil around the root ball without crushing it. The tiny root "hairs", which are what actually absorb water, are fragile and break if the ball is flexed. Never "stomp" them in!
Water them well right after planting. Ideally the ground around each plant should receive 1/2–2 gallons. Don't dump water right on the plant; water around it. Try to water so the roots of the plant get wet but by absorbing water from the nearby soil. This helps get air out of the hole and insures good root-soil contact. Make sure the root ball is still covered with local soil after watering!
If you have a choice, it can help to plant as a cool, wet weather system moves in. Avoid planting in hot sun if you can, or try to plant only after 2-3 PM if you can't.
In extreme conditions, removing leaves will help; take off all but the newest leaves. Be careful not to tear the bark! Of course plants need leaves to grow, so don't overdo it! Inevitably, a few plants will get their roots damaged in the planting process: if you see any wilting after planting, immediately take the older leaves off the wilting plants. You can also snip just 1/2 leaves.
Once hazels and chestnuts have been established more than a month, they will survive all sorts of disasters, from being stepped on to being accidentally mowed. Of course they will be hurt, but they will sprout again from the roots, and you will not have to replant. We mark each plant with a stake or flag, so we can find the young plants after we get busy with other emergencies, then come back to find a 3' tall field of weeds growing over our 2' seedlings. Place the stakes consistently and far enough from plants so windstorms will not beat the leaves on the stake.
We spray egg to discourage deer from browsing new plantings: Liquefy 1 doz. eggs in a blender, mix in 5 gal of water and spray on the young plants until just wet. This won't wash off in rain, and is effective for 2-4 weeks. Do this the same day you plant, if possible, to prevent "curiosity browsing". Don't use a heavier mix than this. We've had several instances where raccoons pulled out newly planted tubelings after they were sprayed with heavy egg mixes, probably looking for an egg. If you have a lot of raccoons, don't spray egg at all until 2 months after planting. Use an alternative deer repellent.
Mice, squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, and other critters will still find the nut attractive on newly planted tubelings. If you are planting in an area where there is a lot of wildlife pressure, it may be best to gently pull or cut the nut off right after planting. The plant doesn't really need the nut for nutrition at this point, though it will certainly use it if the nut survives. In most cases if a squirrel goes after the nut on a newly planted tubeling, it will just pull the nut off, leaving the plant unaffected. Animals are individuals, though, and sometimes plants may be pulled out of the ground. Keep an eye out, particularly in very sandy soils, where a new plant may be easily pulled before its roots grow and anchor it. If in doubt, plant a few and watch for several days to see how they do before planting the rest.
Rabbits and mice can attack young seedlings. For chestnuts, spiral plastic tree guards are very effective in stopping them. Put the guards on in early fall, and remove them in spring. Young hazels may sometimes be snipped off by rabbits or mice; a commercial repellent such as Hinder can help. Weed control also helps greatly, as rodents would rather not feed where they are exposed to predators. The plants will survive in any case, resprout, and in a few years outgrow the critters.
Try to keep weeds at least 1 foot away from the plants in the first years. We sometimes cultivate, tilling no deeper than 2", using a garden tiller and hoes. In larger plantings, a tractor mounted corn cultivator has worked very well. When it is too wet to cultivate, mow. In our largest plantings, mowing is all the weed control the plants get, or need. The few weeds remaining in the row don't hurt, and may help by distracting deer and providing a little wind protection.
Spraying herbicide is possible, but very difficult because of the high probability of damage to the seedlings. They have leaves and green bark right down to the ground. We have used both Roundup and Princep but no longer use the latter. Unless you are very experienced with herbicides, we recommend you not try using them on these crops. "Wick" applicators can be used to apply Roundup without danger of drift, and we do use them. They are still dangerous to your plants, however, if you hit a stem accidentally, or put herbicide on a grass stem that the wind will blow so the grass touches the seedling before the herbicide dries.
Mulches can be beneficial in dry years and for weed control, but some kinds encourage mice and steal nitrogen from the plants. Mulches keep soil cool in summer and warm in winter. This may not be good for best growth and hardiness. We tried "landscape fabric" but feel it requires too much maintenance. Storm winds can rip it up if not very carefully anchored.
We have not found "tree shelters" to be cost effective. They must be staked, weeded, tended, and lifted in fall to allow the plants to go dormant in time for winter. In wet years, they can make the environment inside the tube too wet. On the other hand, we have had reports of several plantings where they definitely helped the seedlings get established. If you are interested in them, try a few on your site first before investing in large numbers of tubes. 12" or 18" tubes are fine for young hazels, don't have to be staked, and can be removed after a year.
Wind Storms in the first few weeks after planting can sometimes whip the stem around and damage the young roots. Check your plants after any such storm, and stake up any plants that need it. Don't use string or wire directly on seedling stems; their young bark is too tender. Soft plastic tie tape is available from many garden stores.
Fertilize lightly soon after planting or spray with a foliar fertilizer solution, but not after August the first year. Mature leaves should be dark green until they turn color in fall. New leaves can be light green, or reddish. A general purpose fertilizer like 10-10-10 is fine the first year. Be sure your fertilizer does not contain any herbicides as "weed and feed" lawn fertilizers do. Long term fertilization is more complex.
Pink or red young leaves are common and do not indicate any nutrition imbalance; some of our young hazels normally have a red spot in the center of the leaf.
Direct Planting or Nursery?
In most cases, it will be best to plant your tubelings directly into their permanent location. Transplanting 2 year-old hazels and chestnuts is a lot of work because of their large root systems, and will set the plants back because of the disturbance. Moving hazels is extra difficult because they start to grow so early in the year they are typically already leafed out before they can be dug in the Spring. However, if you are intending to place your plants in a situation where they will have to compete with very heavy weeds or grass, or where they may have to deal with extreme mouse populations, it may be best to plant them in a nursery situation for a year or 2 before planting them into the permanent site. The larger plants will cope better.