A Quickie Root & Branch-
Getting this newsletter out is never a matter of finding something to write about; quite the contrary, it's always a problem trying to decide which urgent information is the MOST urgent, and squeezing it all down to fit. That and finding time between urgencies to write it.
This year our urgencies have continued to arrive one on the heels of the other, and it's not slowing down in the foreseeable future; hence this quick, short, issue.
Urgency 1: improving greenhouse procedures. Producing reliable, high quality plants in our greenhouse is critical both for our customers and for our own research and production plantings. Growing broadleaf woody plants in mini-containers is a practice without much history; we've had to make most of it up as we go. Two years ago we were getting pretty consistent results and reports about how the plants were doing; but last year we once again found erratic performance, both in our own plantings and from what our customers reported. So this spring we were putting high pressure on the need to improve and assure the quality of plants we produce- doing a good deal of experimentation with growing methods, we found some big surprises. The result is seedlings that are much tougher than previously- but it took a lot of time and effort to figure out how. (more inside)
Urgency 2: getting our hazel CRP contract planted! In spite of finding a transplanter that successfully handles the tubelings, there were a great many other difficulties to surmount out in the "real world". More detail on machine planting will be on the Web, but take my word for it, there were so many details to figure out, and so much rain, that we were just not able to get all the acres planted we had planned on- so- having gotten an extension on the timing from the very nice folks at our FSA, we found ourselves this Spring with 20 acres of CRP hazels still waiting to be planted. And did our nice new transplanter co-operate? Ha. We've torn it entirely apart twice, and partly a couple more times- and had a coulter welded on- and FINALLY it is living up to its promise. Fast and easy; excellent survival- but what a lot of work to get to "easy".
Urgency 3: Guess what? It's Harvest time already- the first hazels are actually ripe as of July 25- more all the time, of course, gotta get the pickers organized and pointed in the right direction- and Perry's off to college (Pomona) in a couple weeks, just in time for harvest-
Urgency 4: Communication- with you, who are the reasons we do all this in the first place- and with the constantly increasing numbers of newly interested folks seeking "more information" which leads to
Urgency 5: The Field Day!
So, here we are, July; planting like mad, preparing land like crazy, harvest already here, the Field Day looming- everybody wondering where the Root & Branch is- a couple days ago, a visiting journalist asked me if I was "having fun"- well, sure! :-)
Philip A. Rutter
Please Access Our
Of course we will continue to publish the Root & Branch, but there is just no doubt that publishing on the World Wide Web is faster (immediate) and delivery is cheaper (free). Answers to most of your questions will be there in detail; more than we can ever hope to provide in this newsletter.
We try to put up new information on the Website every month; dates and places of relevant meetings or shows, and information about availability of plants. We can reach more people, faster, by using the Web, and we find we are increasingly relying on it for getting both basic and detailed information out.
We know not everyone has a computer in their home, or other access at work, but, everyone has access to a public library!
97% of public libraries now have Web access and librarians who
will be happy to quickly and painlessly show you how to find us on the Web.
- Improved Tubelings!
- Nuts For Sale!
Notes From Badgersett
"How's It All Going?"
Is a question we hear frequently from our friends and folks interested in how "all this" is progressing. "All this" meaning the effort to make hybrid bush hazels into a viable economic crop for the middle of North America, you understand.
The basic answer is "Great". And usually so fast we have trouble keeping up with the demands of new plantings, new interest, and the problems always associated with "scaling up". Handling thousands of pounds of nuts is a different proposition from handling hundreds of pounds. And we are on the brink of "thousands".
Substantial and serious new plantings are being made this year in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, in addition to those already in Nebraska and Kansas. Not counting our own. These are plantings being made by private individuals- aiming at nut production, not just demonstrations.
Acres. Not just trials. Room for more details is drastically limited in this issue- but we'll be writing more about it all on the Web page, and if you come to the Field Day, you can meet some of the folks who are pioneering, and making these new plantings.
Perhaps the best measure of how "it goes" is how gosh-darned busy we are, all the time. Too busy!
And it all amounts to too much to squeeze into this quick Root & Branch. We hope you'll read more, on the Web.
And Where the Heck is The Catalog?!
In your '98 issue of the Root & Branch, of course. Prices have not changed from last year, so please continue to make your orders for plants from the '98 issue.
In general, the old catalog is good until we send you a new one.
It's also on our Web site- which will have up-to-date information on plant availability, too. Because opportunities come and go, it can happen that they will only appear on the Web- another reason to check it when you are thinking of ordering plants. This spring, for example we had a small number of butternut seedlings available- they were announced on the Web, and sold out quickly.
Availability of hazels for fall planting this year is good, though "select" plants are in short supply; and chestnut plants are nearly gone in all categories. Availability of all plants for next year is excellent.
We keep learning every year. Bigger, we know know, is not better, in spite of everyone's wish for the biggest plants possible. Last year, we were shipping out plants with 8-12 inch tops, and lots of big green leaves. As a result of extensive testing, we now grow all of them until they are 8-12 inches tall, at which point we cut them back to 6-8". This toughens the young plants dramatically; preparing them for the nasty world of deer and rabbits, but while they still have the nut attached to repair damage and start new buds. It makes them more wind resistant, and removes some of those big leaves, that can cause water stress if planted in dry weather. The plants are shipped as soon as the new buds are 1/4 to 1 inch long, and should be planted out at that point.
The older leaves do look a little beat up, but the plants are very tough, actively growing, with healthy roots, and new buds starting to grow. And though we aren't sure about this yet, it's possible this "pre-browsing" we give them may end up making them less palatable to rabbits and deer
We also now wilt the tubelings hard- on purpose, several weeks before shipping. Contrary to the best advice we could find when we started the greenhouse, these woody plants not only tolerate the wilting well, it also toughens them greatly, getting them ready for the real world.
Unless damaged in shipping, or while being held waiting for planting (DON'T just leave them lying in the sun all day!) they should start to grow in their new site just like they'd always been there.
When we started selling tubelings, we were unable to replace plants that didn't live for the simple reason that the supply was always very short, and there were no plants we could send as replacements.
Now, because of improved supply, and because these plants are so tough, we can and do guarantee them for their first year.
If ANY of your plants fail to grow, in the first Spring after planting;
WE WILL REPLACE THEM, FREE.
We have learned that some of the plants we shipped out last fall may have left us with unrecognized root rot (a common greenhouse problem), which may well have caused them to die over the winter. Discovering this was a major reason for our work to produce tougher tubelings.
If you bought plants last fall that didn't live, the guarantee applies to them, too. Let us know, and we will replace them.
New Service Offered- Custom Planting
Putting in larger plantings of our hazels or chestnuts can be a substantial undertaking, which is best done by experienced workers, with the right tools. Mark Shepard, who has several years of experience at it, is now doing contract custom planting. For more information, write Mark Shepard, New Forest Farm, PO Box 24, Viola, WI 54664; or phone 608-627-1772.
At Long Last, Nuts-
For quite a few years we've had to turn folks away when they wanted to buy nuts to eat. Since this has been a research endeavor, developing plants that could actually grow here in the middle of the continent, for years every nut from every successful plant was needed to grow new generations.
For several years, we've had a few to eat ourselves, and pass on to friends, but now at last the year has arrived when we actually have- CROPS. Both the hazels and the chestnuts, barring baseball sized hail or tornadoes, will bear real crops this year. We did sell some chestnuts last year, via our Web site, but quickly sold out. Since this is the first year we have sold nuts this way, we have no way of predicting how long the supply will last, so we recommend you get your orders in as soon as possible.
Neither the hazels nor the chestnuts will be exactly like others on the market- both different genetics and different growing conditions combine to make them unique- but we guarantee you will be pleased. Besides being great eating, these nuts will give you the best possible picture of what our hybrid nut trees or bushes will produce when you plant your own.
All we can offer this first year are the fresh raw nuts, in their shells, ready for you to turn into whatever delicacies you fancy. Instructions for their basic handling will come with them. Hazels will be dried, as is usual, chestnuts will not be, as usual.
And, we should mention- yes, it can be possible (though not necessarily easy) to grow plants from these nuts- but we should point out that we don't eat the seed from our best, proven plants- just so you know...
Arbor Day Farm
Hazels- 9' at 4yrs.
The first hybrid hazels were planted at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, just 4 years ago. Visiting there last month, the tallest of them are now an honest 9 feet high, and going to be taller still this year.
They've had outstanding care, of course, from the folks of the National Arbor Day Foundation, and make a real show piece in front of the Lied Conference Center- all 9.5 acres of them.
It's much warmer there than here at Badgersett; we are a cold Zone 4, and they are a warm Zone 5- and the plants clearly seem to be benefiting from the additional "growing degree days". Though it is certainly early to be sure, it looks like more of the bushes are beginning nut production at 3 years than they do here; and it looks like the average size of the nuts will be larger, too. A little extra heat might do that.
There were enough female flowers there this spring to produce a ton of nuts- (literally, though I'm estimating) but many of them did not get pollinated, due to the extreme youth of the planting. Last month the male flowers for next year were already visible, and abundant- next year, pollination should be quite efficient, and the nut crop should be substantial.
The South Iowa RC&D, Creston, Iowa, is cooperating with the Arbor Day Foundation in getting this year's nuts picked, and in working on harvest methods and marketing in the future.
Visitors are always welcome at Arbor Day Farm, and if you are interested in seeing how a new hazel planting can thrive, this an outstanding place to visit!
1999 Field Day
Sat., August 21st
10 AM- 6 PM
(Sunday if it rains)
There's no substitute for seeing with your own eyes, and the Field Day is the day to do it.
The hazelnuts are ripening early again, the earliest ones are already picked as this newsletter goes to press. But it's still too early to say how soon the main crop will come in; one thing we've learned is that we still have some learning to do about the ripening habits of these hybrids; I've seen them get ripe early in a hot summer, and also seen them get ripe early after a cold summer- so we'll have to see!
We've got the heaviest chestnut crop ever, and hazels, too.
The past winter was once again unusually mild, and we have a great many chestnuts coming into bearing- with no hard weather to thin them, the crop will be very heavy. Last year's hazel crop was the heaviest ever, including a new record yield for a single bush of nearly 8 lbs (that should translate to very fancy numbers indeed, if we had a whole field of such plants). This year, the nuts on the bushes are not quite so thick, but because we have so many bushes just coming into maturity, our over-all crop will be up substantially.
The Hazel Maze Is Even More Outrageous. Loaded with nuts, the bushes have grown so big and tight some of the rows are a squeak to get through. If you've got a pick-your-own ANYTHING business, you need a hazel maze!!
Our Amish neighbors will bring some of their wares to sell, too- last year they brought bread, pies, quilts and jams-
Pick up some plants... tours...
Come spend the day with us!
Bring a picnic!