Got My Box of Chinese Chestnuts - Now What??


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This thread is to help first time growers turn their "Chinese Chestnuts" into seedlings.

#1. Get the chestnuts out of those hot mail boxes ASAP and get them divided into 4 or 5 bags.

#2. Put holes in one side of the bags with a toothpick or some other sharp pointed device.

#3 Put the chestnuts into a fridge at holds right around 34 degrees F.

I have shipped all over the Eastern USA and I don't know what is your best approach in your growing environment. Texas heat and Ohio temps are not the same.

Most important decision for you the grower - what do I want to do - grow in containers or direct seed? This is a personal decision based upon time, life style, space at home, distance from my land, etc.

It takes a major time commitment to grow in containers. I know because that is how I like to grow. I am now retired and I started before I retired. First I built one grow box and the next year I built my second grow box. Both are in my basement and have fluorescent lights, a heater, insulated walls, doors, etc.

Do you have to have a grow box? Absolutely not. Matt Patt lives in Texas and he grew outside in the back yard. Guys in Michigan don't have that long of a growing season as you find in Texas.

Direct Seed Now or In Spring? You decide this. Some people direct seed now and others direct seed in the spring. Heck a few guys, do some now and do some in the spring.

DISCLAIMER: I am a good guy and I don't intend to act like I know exactly what is best for you!

What is stratify?

What is growing media?

What is well drained as opposed to standing water?

What is a radicle and when should I expect germination?

The four questions above are meant to get the first time grower to thinking.

I don't want to mess up. Get them in the fridge and you have not messed up. Leave them on the dash of the truck where sun dries them out - yea you have messed up.

I will do my best to give good advice. I hope everyone gets to see how vigorous the "Chinese Chestnut" really grows.
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What is stratify?

This is exposing the chestnut to cold temperatures to prep it for germination. In nature all of the busy squirrels will bury chestnuts for a later time to eat. Another scenario is a chestnuts rolls around to a low spot in the landscape and gets covered by leaves and debris.

In both of these situations, a chestnut can germinate and send up top growth.

Chinese Chestnuts can have a wide range of germination - may be three weeks apart when you see the first radicle and the last one to germinate.

How to stratify? Put them in a bag and put them in a fridge that does not have fruits and vegetables in it. Those items produce gas which messes with our germination.

Put them in the fridge for 80 to 85 days. Set you phone reminders / alarm to check on them the 1 and 15 of each month. When we check on them, we don't want to see mold which will be white in color. We don't want to see or feel a soft mushy chestnut. In the case of mold and soft chestnuts, we remove these and throw them away.

Nature's way is steady and patience. Nature don't get in a hurry for a positive outcome.

A radicle is the white root that comes out the pointed end of the chestnut. It is a great sign - this is nature telling us this nut wants to become a tree. A radicle is delicate - don't mishandle it.

The nut sends the radicle out and then gravity will turn it downward. We plant chestnuts on their side. Do I plant without a radicle showing? Yes, in some case I do just that. I like to plant where a radicle has emerged already but Nature rules in all situations - not the grower.

If you have read these two posts and your mind is blown, RELAX. Take some time and read both post again and take notes. Now ask your questions on what I addressed. A good teacher answers questions for the learner. I just request that you number your questions in your post - don't give me four paragraphs with questions hidden here and there.

Thanks for being a first time grower. Enough for now.
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If growing in a container, what is important?

1. A well drained container

2. A well drained growing media.

I use the word media because I don't use dirt out of the field in my rootmaker 18s. I use commercial growing media. It will allow the water to run thru quickly.

I use rootmaker 18s - those are costly. Can you use other growing containers and be success? Absolutely. The fabric pots are an excellent example.

Cut corners on the container and the growing media and you will not like the outcome!

Can I mix my growing media? Yes you can - I don't. I want consistency and tried and true.

Read the next post to get an idea of the Killers of Chinese Chestnuts.
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What Kills Our Chestnuts When We Try to Grow Them?

Main Killer is Moisture! We over water them. We think Miracle Grow with Moisture Control has to work - look who is selling it. More chestnuts will rot before they break soil than a first timer would ever guess.

#2 Wrong Type of Growing Medium - We don't need soil & we don't need moisture control. Chestnuts like to get to the point of dry before they like water. Using the right growing medium helps the roots and allows us to learn what watering plan works. Roots need air for oxygen and they need space to grow.

#3 Mold Kills - We put them in airtight container with no chance to breath & we put too much moisture inside the container.

#4 Sunlight & Heat Kills - We collect chestnuts but we put them somewhere and forget about them. When a chestnut is collected - get it cleaned and inspected to see if it is a firm chestnut with no rattling in the hull. Leaving them in a hot vehicle for a week after collecting - just reduces our chances.

#5 Chestnuts Smell Good to Critters. Chipmunks, Squirrels, Rabbits, Deer, Turkeys, field mice, etc. Our chestnuts get killed because we don't protect them. If you plant a chestnut in the wild outdoors - you better protect it for a couple of years. Better to plant 5 trees well than plant 50 trees without protection.

#6 Chestnut get killed / setback by sunlight. Grown inside means we must gently push them into the sunlight. Baby steps required here. I use a pine tree that protect them from mid day and pm sun. My seedlings get early morning sun. Worked well until the squirrels made a raid.

#7 Lack of Moisture During Dog Days of Summer. Depending on your containers and location, in July and August if you go three or four days without watering seedlings that have many leaves, you can lose all of your work. Shade cloths are what nurseries use and they water twice a day.

#8 Chestnut Seedling is in Perfect Health then it gets planted in the wrong location. Sunlight is the power plant that generates the chestnut seed. We have to get pollinated by another chestnut tree that is nearby. Location of tree and proximity to other trees matter. We avoid stream sides due to risk to standing water during certain months.

#9 Negligent will kill. Every two or three days you better check on chestnuts under grow lights. In summer heat, you better water at reasonable intervals for your climate. I like to feel of the chestnut leaves with my eyes closed. What does the touch tell me? If you check ten seedlings - one of them may really need some water while the other nine show no stress.

Folks I am not an expert. I am motivated to accomplish my goal - improve my deer's habitat. It is certain I left something off the list above. I just wrote the hard lessons I have learned. If you like to cut corners - your success rate will go down. Mine did until I wised up.
The post above was copied from the thread "Resources for Growing Chestnuts." Now go read that thread. I created that thread to help all of us - me included.

Do we make errors? Yes, it happens to all of us.

That thread is loaded with valuable information that will help a first time grower.

I do wish I had a resource like this when I started. I hope the information is helpful to you.
Thank you very much this is exactly where i was today and wondering how to start!!
They are bagged and in a bar fridge, beer wont bother them right? hahaha
What is a float test?

A Chinese Chestnut is exposed to hot dry weather where rainfall may be sparse. Wind can lower the moisture. When I collect chestnuts I always soak them overnight. I want them hydrated well. If I am shipping them or placing them in my fridge to my growing operation I want a good moisture level in the chestnut.

When I drain the water off of the chestnuts - that is when I identify the floaters. They have been in water at least 10 hours as a rule - if it floating at the end of that long soaking - it gets tossed out. I don't ship it and I don't plan to try to grow a tree from that floater. After their long hydration, I immediately put them on towels in the floor with two fans to blow them dry. When I first began messing with chestnuts I tried to hand dry them all - I like drying with fans - it just works better. While they are getting dried, I am doing something else.

Some people get in a hurry and float test them for only 15 or 20 minutes. To me that does not increase the moisture level.

Not all fridges are the same - some will lower the moisture level so much it reduces the germination rate.

I float tested the chestnuts I shipped to you - it is okay if you float test them also. Why? Some chestnuts may get placed in a mail box early in the morning when the air temperatures are in the high 90s and not be found until around dark the same day. You can find moisture inside the sandwich bag for sure.

I stratify my chestnuts at least 80 days before I put them in growing media. At the end of that stratification period, I will soak them at least 3 hours before they get put in the growing media. This is insurance against what the fridge did to them.

I hope this post has helped any first time growers. Please ask questions if I need to clarify something. Thanks for reading this thread. :)
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What is growing media?

It is the soil or material inside the container where we put the chestnut. It needs to be well drained for chestnuts. You can mix your own - I tried that once. Enough said - no more of that for me. When I moves chestnuts up from their starter containers, I will add mini-pine bark to save money and to increase drainage.

Pine bark increase the acidic level - chestnuts like acidic soil.

What do I use?

Don't ask me for a soil mixing recipe because I am not giving you one. You can get on the internet browser and find some.

Avoid any commercial potting soils that states "moisture retention" properties or qualities. These type of grow medias will cause a Chinese Chestnut to rot in the soil. Chestnuts are high in carbohydrate and this causes issues with mold and can cause losses when they stay too damp.

Never ever pack your growing media tightly inside the growing container. You hurt drainage and you are eliminating Oxygen. Roots need room to grow. Put the growing media in the container and it is okay to tap the container on a table to let the media settle but don't you pack it or apply pressure to it. That mistake was my first great one - I really hurt a batch of persimmons because I was concerned about the holes in the containers - I was not going to lose my soil. What I lost was my oxygen and drainage. Bad move by me.

Good luck.
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Wayne, I put my first hydrated chestnuts in the fridge yesterday. Although I dried them well, the baggies show signs of moisture and condensation on the inside. Is this normal. I hydrated them for about 20 hrs, dried them off and put in ten to a baggy. I did poke tiny holes in one side of the bag like you suggested.

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It is not unusual to see condensation. I use a fan to dry mine to reduce some of that. I suggest you get the bags out tomorrow and hand dry the chestnuts with a paper towel and get the moisture out of the bags. Do that without delay and get them back in the fridge. Then check them on Thursday to see how they appear.

Putting 10 in a bag is a very wise move. Hydration for 20 hours is probably too much IMO.

I like your passion for trees. ;)
Yeah I was shooting for less hydration time but I didn't get them out of the water before work the next morning. After work had to take my daughter to dance and needless to say they were in there longer than anticipated. I hope I didn't damage them, they look and feel good.
That is a real compliment coming from one of the guys that sparked my interest in trees on the old forum. I will dry again tomorrow morning and hopefully that fixes my moisture issue.

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Spacing of Chinese Chestnuts

I would encourage you to direct seed your Chinese Chestnuts at 20 feet apart. Do I take a tape measure to the field when I plant - No, I don't. I plant my chestnuts 7 steps apart. My favorite two trees are 7 steps apart.

How many to plant in a group - minimum of three in a straight line or three in a triangle. Chestnut trees are pollenated by the air - not insects. If you have three trees and one of them dies - you still have chips in the game.

When I direct seed - one in the location or two in the location? My numbers on direct seeding are not good - they disappoint me. I would respond this way - do what your little voice tells you to do. I have done it both ways. Remember I have as chestnuts available to me as any non-orchard grower you can find. Protecting trees is the major cost in this tree hobby I have.

I inserted this topic at this point because many of you are direct seeding now.
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What is a well drained location?

No you don't have to plant your chestnuts on the sloping hillside. To me well drained means I am not going to see standing water on my chestnut location if we get 3 inches of rain in a couple of hours. Chinese Chestnuts are short trees that should not be planted inside the woods because the tree requires sunshine to grow those burs with healthy chestnuts inside. Now when the American Chestnut was alive and well it towered over other trees in the forest - but its cousin (the Chinese Chestnut) does not.

To me - well drained means I avoid stream sides. I would encourage you think of air currents - avoid locations called "frost pockets."

Another way to think of well drained is if we have a gulley washer with ponding water, do we see that ponded water standing their on the second day? If we do, then the roots of my chestnut tree might not make it.
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What is a well drained location?

No you don't have to plant your chestnuts on the sloping hillside. To me well drained means I am not going to see standing water on my chestnut location if we get 3 inches of rain in a couple of hours. Chinese Chestnuts are short trees that should not be planted inside the woods because the tree requires sunshine to grow those burs with healthy chestnuts inside. Now when the American Chestnut was alive and well it towered over other trees in the forest - but its cousin (the Chinese Chestnut) does not.

To me - well drained means I avoid stream sides. I would encourage you think of air currents - avoid locations called "frost pockets."

Another way to think of well drained is if we have a gulley washer with ponding water, do we see that ponded water standing their on the second day? If we do, then the roots of my chestnut tree might not make it.

That may be one of the most informative single posts I've seen on this or the old board. Thanks. It's information like this that keeps me coming back.
Weevils - AKA Worms or Grubs

I call them Chestnut Weevils. I hate the sight of them but nature rules - not us. I pick under about 46 different trees - I hope to add two trees that are loaded and still holding. Be nice to get those October Chestnuts.

I don't own any tree that I pick under. Translation - I can't spray them to prevent weevils. Enough said. The tree gets infected earlier in the year the weevil bores it was out of the chestnut. It creates evidence of it presence - a little round hole. When we count chestnuts at my house we use bright lights in order to better see the weevil holes. I don't ship those that I see.

If you got any with weevil holes that is a regret we can't eliminate. If you get a bag with the white little weevil in the bag, that means they bored out after I boxed them up. I suggest you find the chestnut out of your group with the round hole and toss it away.

So I have described it - now it is time to show a weevil hole.

Weevil Holes in Chestnut.jpg

This particular chestnut has two weevil holes - one catching the light better and showing up better.

If you have a chestnut tree that has plenty of weevils - can you collect chestnuts and grow seedlings from them. Yes - don't let the little white worms keep you away. If it was easy - someone would have done it for you. In a good year - I lose more to weevils than mold. It is a bad year when I have more to mold than weevils.

How to spray? I don't know how. You can ask an expert on that - the spray expert would not be me. :rolleyes:
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A Chinese Chestnut needs sunlight to grow the burs and nuts. This is a power issue. If you put a Chinese Chestnut in a position sunlight is withheld, you will not see many if any chestnuts.

Do not ever put your Chinese Chestnut in a freezer. We use a refrigerator that has temperatures right at the 34 degree range if you can get it that low. I don't want to go lower than 34 degrees to eliminate any chance that I freeze part of the stash. If you fridge has temperatures in the 36 to 37 degree range that will work. It just may take more days to stratify.

I am repeating myself for emphasis: Do not ever put your Chinese Chestnut in a freezer!
wbpdeer, thank you once again for the shipment of chestnuts and leading me to this forum. For everyone else, I am a High School Science Teacher who is teaching a wildlife class for juniors and seniors. We are growing these chestnuts, from wbpdeer, to plant along one of our athletic fields in urban Wilmington, NC. I will be starting a thread to document our progress, but wanted to share how i handled my chestnuts upon arrival here.

When I received them I took them from their bag and soaked them in water for about 1 hr. I removed, dried, and placed 10 to a ziplock bag with holes poked into them.
Folks this North Carolina School Project and Catscratch's School Project in Kansas are important to me. Both of these teachers are giving young minds an opportunity to enjoy what most of us love.

I am glad to support these projects. If there are any other teachers on here that would like to have a project at their school, you need to contact me immediately. I am at the end of chestnut season and I have a great supply. Problem is I am about to feed a bunch of deer if you wait too long.

Neither school was charged for their chestnuts this year or postage. I feel good about passing this on to the next generations.

It all starts with a teacher - in this case - two teachers. They deserve a ton of credit and recognition! :)
Questions - Please ask them here. If you have questions, others probably have thought the same thing. Just ask, we will try to answer them for you. Thanks. ;)