Growing Nuts for Food and Fun

Bill Devlin
Adams County Master Gardener

Walnut and pecan trees can be grown in lower elevations of Adams County. If you are an impatient person, better go read something else, because this very satisfying endeavor is definitely for those with patience. However, ten years from now will come, whether you plan to plant trees or not, so you might as well gather a little patience, do the planning, and get the benefits in 2014.

Quicker but more expensive alternative - You can go on line and find several nurseries that specialize in nut trees. Prices are in the range of $8 for 3-4’ walnut trees from St. Lawrence Nurseries of Potsdam, New York (not an endorsement). Also, TyTy Nursery in Georgia will sell pecan trees from $7.95 for 1-2’ trees to $149.95 for 9-11’ trees (also not intended as an endorsement). For a couple of trees, these prices are affordable, but if you want to plant 10 or 20, it adds up.

Slow and steady wins the race and helps the pocketbook - If you want a more do-it-yourself approach with a lot of personal satisfaction, stratifying and planting your own nuts is the way to go. Put the nuts, either pecans or walnuts, in a plastic bag with a moist napkin and store in the refrigerator over the winter. In the spring, quickly move the nuts from the refrigerator to the desired place for planting, cover with a couple of inches of soil, and mark the ground. I say move quickly from refrigerator to ground as they will sprout as soon as they warm up, and the tender white sprouts damage very easily and then it’s all over.

If you need to hold the trees for a year before the final location is determined, fill an 18" length of 6" flexible plastic drain pipe with potting soil or compost, and plant the nuts in the pipe. As these trees are very much a tap root tree, this will allow you to transplant within a year without damaging the tap root and thus killing the tree. Keep them moist, water if necessary in mid-summer and they need some direct sun.

I recommend making a poultry wire cage, about 6" in diameter and 36" tall for the nut tree to grow in, much like a tomato plant. If you don’t, the rabbits and deer will have a bonanza and you may not get that personal satisfaction I mentioned earlier. Another option is to purchase ‘tree shelters’. These are light plastic tubes made especially for this purpose. They come in quantities of 50 for about $125 or $2.50 apiece. I have a few that I will provide at cost, first come - first served, if you wish to try one. Not many people will need 50 – however, if the demand is great perhaps the Master Gardeners, can be persuaded to sponsor a bulk purchase. I feel that the poultry wire will do the job for less, but it’s a scratchy job to cut, roll, and fasten the ends of these shelters.

Grafting sources - If you go the slow and steady route after a couple of years you will probably want to graft improved varieties onto pecan, or perhaps Carpathian walnuts onto black walnuts. There is a wealth of information on grafting pecans onto seedlings. My recommendation is to search the internet and then contact the Master Gardeners for further guidance, sources of grafting materials, and suitable scions. One of the items I use to graft is grafting tape, a fairly hard item to find locally; however, it can be obtained through the Kansas State University Pecan Experiment Station. I can provide a few tapes to interested parties; again, first come - first served. It’s an elastic tape that will stretch quite a bit and makes a vapor tight seal around the grafts.

Planning Calendar - Dr. Reid’s publication at has an excellent planning calendar.

Additional Information Sources - Some of the best sources are by Dr. William Reid, of the Kansas State University Pecan Experiment Station, Chetopa, Kansas. See address listed above with planning calendar- Bill is adjunct professor at the University of Missouri. is the site of information regarding the endowment for the Reid Pecan Research Fund in the College of Agriculture at Kansas State, coordinated by Dr. Reid and his wife, Dr. Brenda Reid. is another good publication on pecans.

Both Texas A & M and Oklahoma State Universities have a wealth of information on the subject. Oklahoma’s address is Texas A&M is

And finally, is the address for a $75 on line course based on the fundamentals of pecan management, which goes to show the full extent of information available these days on the internet.

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Read other articles by Bill Devlin