Seeds are shipped (beginning in October, until we
run out) in damp peat moss, in plastic bags, with pin holes for air
exchange, and should be kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to
plant them, but for best results, you should be ready to plant them
when they arrive.
ACCF nuts are harvested in a Virginia Tech planting which contains original sources of blight resistance and all-American intercrosses. Blight resistance of the parent trees is inherited by only some of their offspring. When ACCF stock is planted within the area infested by blight, natural selection will reveal the resistant individuals. Trees which have inherited some blight resistance and are at least 1.5 inches in diameter at breast height (dbh) before they are infected by the blight fungus, make swollen slow-growing cankers which are confined to the outer bark and may not kill the tree; those which have no blight resistance, make rapid-growing, sunken cankers capable of killing the tree within one growing season when the canker girdles the stem. Stump sprouts at the base of the chestnuts killed by blight can be used as grafting stock for scions collected from blight-resistant American chestnuts, providing a strong root system has been established. To complete the integrated management protocol for American chestnut revival, resistant American chestnuts should be reported to the ACCF.
LOCATE SITE: Chestnuts prefer moderately
acid, sandy loam soil and sunshine and require a well-drained location.
The morning sun is much better than afternoon sun, which can cause the
bark to crack (making an opening for the blight fungus) in winter when
temperatures warm up by afternoon then drop rapidly below freezing at
night. At present, American chestnut plantings have better
altitudes below 2,500 feet. For maximum protection from frost,
the high ground on sloping land. Avoid
known frost pockets, wet spots, and limestone based or heavy clay soil.
have both male and female flowers on the same tree but are not
self-fertile. At least 2 trees are necessary to make nuts, and they
should be no more than 200 feet apart for efficient pollination.
For a grove planting we recommend 10 foot spacing.
in winter (in the south) or spring for planting the next fall.
Dig a two
foot hole; replace half of the fill with peat moss, or leaf mold, mixed
with the soil from the hole or with sand, fill the hole, and drive a
the middle. Push a small (8")
tree shelter or 1/2 gallon milk jug with bottom cut out into the soil 2
to 3 inches deep, and secure it to the stake. Make weldwire cages
with 2" x 4" grid, five feet tall and about 2.3 feet in diameter; you
can cut 7 or 8 from a 50-foot length of weldwire. Set up cages so
that a tree shelter is in the center of each, and secure the cages in
place with four-foot stakes of rebar or one-inch aluminum
conduit. Hang bright flagging or a plastic shopping bag on the
rim of each cage to increase visibility, so the deer may not crash into
Direct seeding produces the best first
year growth, by planting seeds at the same time as the squirrels
(OCTOBER), so that the tap root begins to grow in late winter, and
transplant shock is avoided. Move the cage aside and press one
chestnut, on its side, into the center of each shelter; cover the nut
with an inch of peat moss. Cover each shelter with netting or
top shut until May. If you are using milk jugs, you will need to
lift them, plant the seed and then replace them; in spring, once the
tree begins to grow, you must cut out the top of each jug and remove
the netting (save it for the next year) to make a large opening for
seedling growth. Jugs and tree shelters must be removed by
cutting them away
in August. If you have or suspect raccoons, push a few moth balls
into the soil surrounding the shelter and liberally sprinkle chili
powder inside each cage.
Starting seed indoors following the
Moote Method is recommended only for green thumbs: make liners by
rolling and stapling a large sheet of
newspaper to fit inside each
1 to 2 foot tree shelter; fill with a 50/50 mix of sand & peat
Place them in plastic buckets in a south-facing window, and plant a nut
one inch from the top in each, by February.
These "pots" permit long root development and a head start on the first
season's growth. The buckets, holding four to five shelters each, make
it easy to water and also to move the
seedlings, in and out for hardening off in the spring and then to their
liners degrade in the soil, so seedlings can be transplanted in their
pots without disturbing the roots, to minimize transplant shock.
TRANSPLANT: After the last frost date; make holes at least 2 foot wide and 2 feet deep. For good growth, the taproot requires light soil. Usually the taproot is at least as long as the seedling is tall. Avoid disturbing this root by sliding one hand under the newspaper pot for support, as you lift the seedling in its shelter out of the bucket. Hold the shelter upright in the hole so that the taproot will be a few inches off the bottom. Push the soil (wich you prepared as above) into the hole, while sliding the shelter upward, and piercing the paper container as you pack fill around it, until the seedling stands on its own. Tear away the top 6 inches of the newspaper pot. Water and push down the soil to prevent formation of air pockets which could kill the tree. Finish filling the hole, tamping and watering as you go, but leave a shallow holding basin for watering. The root collar should be at ground level, the same level at which it was growing in its pot. Install a stake beside the seedling and attach the tree shelter to it, pushing down so that the shelter's bottom is an inch into the soil. These shelters must be removed by September. Remember that transplants live mostly on water. In dry spells, give each seedling at least one gallon of water per week.
Nuts, sprouts & young trees are attractive food for animals and in most areas require PROTECTION. Squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, voles and mice eat the seeds and young sprouts and gnaw roots and the young stalk. Deer nibble the new growth and rub against the trunks. Deter deer by attaching a mesh bag (in which citrus and onions are marketed) full of human hair (the barber's sweepings) to each tree stake. However, hair bags work for one year only in areas where the deer have not met them before. Deer can also be discouraged by moth balls as long as their aroma remains potent. But once again, with deer, the efficiency of the deterrent lasts only until they have become used to it. For large plantings, make a double fence line by stringing a single line of 10# test monofilament line (fishing line) about 3.5 feet off the ground. Make a second fence line 10 feet inside the first one. Deer are frightened when they run into the line and it snaps; the second line generally stops them. These fence lines must be walked and repaired on a regular basis, until the deer learn to avoid the area (usually about a month). Mid-western growers say the fish-line fence works better than an electric fence, which deer eventually learn to jump over, because deer can't see the fishline fence. However, if the deer herd in your area is out of control, none of the above measures are likely to work; the only sure-fire protection is staked wire cages which you also must check regularly, especially in hunting season when the deer are most likely to run into them.
Tree shelters offer good first season protection against small animals, weeds, drought, mower and chemical damage. One foot or 18 inch shelters improve transplant success; taller shelters are not appropriate for chestnut because the large leaves become crowded and cause the stem to grow spindly. Remove shelters in August, at the end of the first growing season. This precaution is advised because in very wet weather the tubes can become incubators for blight, and all young American chestnut seedlings are highly susceptible to blight: they must be at least 5 years old before blight-resistance can be expressed. When ordering tree shelters, request 10% discount for an ACCF project:
TREE PRO: 800-875-8071
Mulching protects the young plants from
extremes of heat, cold,
drought, and weed competition. If a deep mulch is used, push it away
the trunk during winter so that rodents will not live there and nibble
tree. If you have voles in the
planting area mulching is a very bad idea: it makes a perfect
shelter under which they can hide and nibble away at their favorite
food, chestnut roots.
Chestnuts do not require a rich soil, but the major nutrients should be balanced. FERTILIZE only in winter or early spring. On poor soil apply compost, well-rotted manure, or Miracid in a circle around the the drip line of larger chestnuts or one foot away from new transplants, or you can bury one or two banana skins beside each seedling. For plantings on reclaimed mining lands, get a soil test first, then follow guidelines of VA TECH's,Powell River Project.
REPORT to ACCF, Forest Service Road 708, Newport, VA 24128 or by e-mail to Lucille (by returning to the bottom of the American Chestnut Cooperators' Foundation home page) or by filling out the report form on our home page, EACH AUGUST: the number of American chestnuts growing, age and height of the tallest, and any chestnuts that make swollen blight cankers.
If you wish to start more seedlings, request nuts when you report. If not, please consider introducing this tree-growing project to a school teacher and donating your tree shelters for the class project. We would be pleased to supply them with the seed, to involve more of the next generation in American chestnut restoration.
Managing Aging Clearcuts For American Chestnut Revival.
Return to the American Chestnut Cooperators' Foundation home page.