Wonderful Walnuts

Saturday, February 9th, 2013 by Jenny Watts
    • Delicious raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, boysenberries and blueberries are all available now for early planting.
    • Check the watering of outdoor container plants especially if they’re located under the eaves or porch where rain can’t reach them.
    • Onion plants can be set out now for early summer harvest.
    • Start an asparagus bed so you can enjoy their young, tender shoots straight from the garden.
    • It’s bare root season, which means you can save money on fruit trees and berries by planting them now. A wide selection is now available.

Walnuts for Beauty and Health

Nut trees are an important part of American culture. Grown since colonial times, nut trees are truly a multi-purpose crop, providing shade, beauty, edible nuts, building materials and wildlife habitats.

The black walnut is native to North America. Its brown-black, diamond-patterned bark is especially beautiful. Normally growing 50 to 75 feet tall, black walnut occasionally reaches more than 100 feet.

Black walnut trees are especially prized for their exceptional, beautifully grained lumber. Their natural beauty is enhanced by the abundance of wildlife that makes full use of their generous crops.

The Persian or English walnut grows to only 40 to 60 feet tall. The nuts of English walnut are more easily freed from their shells than those of black walnut. They are widely grown for commercial production in California.

English walnuts are always grafted to black walnut rootstock, which leaves a noticeable change in the bark on the trunk of the tree. There are over 30 varieties of walnuts grown in California, but two varieties—Chandler and Hartley—account for over 50 percent of total production. California walnuts account for 99% of the commercial US supply and two-thirds of world supply.

‘Hartley’ has been widely grown walnut in California for a long time. It has a large, thin-shelled, light-colored nut that is very flavorful. It bears as a young tree and is a dependable producer.

‘Franquette’ is the last English walnut to leaf out in the spring, making it less susceptible to spring frost damage. It also produces high quality nuts and makes a good pollenizer for ‘Hartley.’ The large tree grows to 60 feet tall and wide, making an excellent large shade tree.

‘Chandler’ bears nuts all through the tree, not just at the ends of the branches, making it less susceptible to frost damage. It makes a small tree and is late-blooming. It is self-fruitful, but will produce larger crops when planted near a ‘Hartley’ or a ‘Franquette.’ It begins bearing 2-3 years after planting.

‘Pedro’ is a fine flavored nut that grows on a very small tree, about 60% of the size of other walnut trees. It is self-fruitful and an excellent choice for home planting.

One of the most surprising recent introductions is the ‘Robert Livermore’ walnut. The trees and the whole nuts look like conventional walnuts, but the thin seedcoat covering the kernel is vivid scarlet. In all other respects, this walnut is similar to ‘Chandler’ harvesting a week earlier.

Walnut trees have a deep taproot, making them drought tolerant and unsuited to shallow soil. They requires deep watering and well-drained soil. Very few plants grow under walnut trees because their black walnut roots produce a substance that inhibits growth of other plants.

Walnuts are wind pollinated and partly self-fruitful. For best pollination and production plant two different varieties.

With new studies showing more and more health benefits, including heart health and some anti-cancer benefits, it’s a good time to incorporate walnuts into your diet.