ECSONG: A Nut Growers' Manual - Introduction

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ECSONG: A Nut Growers' Manual - Introduction

The purpose of this manual is to help residents of Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec grow nut bearing trees and shrubs successfully. It describes the methods used by Chapter members to grow trees, covering all stages from seed to maturity. It is only a start, a book on the basics for the amateur grower. It will not solve all the problems associated with local nut growing, but should whet your appetite.


Why grow nut and bean bearing plants?

Nut bearing plants are prized for their fruit, wood, and ornamental values. These plants will grow into a valuable timber resource, while producing crops rich in food value, flavourful, nutritious, prized for baking, appetizers, salads, main dishes, and deserts - an adventure in otherwise ordinary meals. There are ornamental uses for the shells, such as in jewellery. The Horsechestnut provides its "conkers" for games (the native edible chestnut is not recommended for planting due to its susceptibility to chestnut blight). Walnut shells are used routinely in abrasive cleansing of fine surfaces of sculpture and ornamental stone work. The husks of walnut are used for dyes, and the oak provides tannins for tanning.

The wood of nut trees is the most prized wood of temperate regions for cabinetry ( Black Walnut), shipbuilding (the Oaks), in tools (the Hickories), and interior finishes such as veneer, just to name a few of the more common uses. In fact, for many of the nut species the whole tree is valuable, from the roots to the tops. Root wood and burls are prized by carvers and wood turners. These species should not be just cut down in harvesting, but should also be dug up to recover the majority of the roots system.

As ornamentals, they are superior shade trees with unique foliage, form and fruit which attract birds and animals for food and shelter. Root systems are deep, compact and generally non-invasive, good for preventing soil erosion. The living trees themselves are applied to streetscapes (the pollution resistant Gingko), in landscaping (the hazel shrub or beech in hedges, or the oaks and walnuts as shade trees), and so on.

The urge to exploit these magnificent trees in Ontario prompted the formation of the Society of Ontario Nut Growers (SONG) in 1972 and its eastern chapter in the Ottawa area in 1978.

Since then, the Ottawa Area Chapter has grown to a membership of more than fifty. Its chief objective is to promote the growing of nut bearing trees in the Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec region. Until now this geographic area and climate zone was thought to be unable to produce either significant crops or timber from nut trees, whether indigenous or exotic.

Data to the contrary presented in this manual is from many sources, including the personal experiences of local chapter members and from the Baxter Nut Grove. In 1978, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) set aside and prepared a two hectare (about five acres) site at the Baxter Conservation Area south of Kars, Ontario for an experimental nut plantation, on the promise that the fledgling Chapter would assist in planning, establishing and promoting the plantation. The plantation is called the Filmore R. Park Nut Grove.

In the spring of 1979, seedling trees from a number of sources were planted in a half hectare (one acre) nursery in a corner of the site. Stock was gathered from private individuals, the Central Research Forest and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR). The stock included specimens of Black Walnut, Butternut, Japanese Walnut, Bitternut Hickory, Kentucky Coffee Tree, and Red Oak. In the spring of 1981, a Chapter Task Force had prepared a plan for selecting stock for the nursery and for the planting layout. About eighty seedlings were selected from the nursery and planted out according to the planned layout. In the following two years, more trees were planted as work proceeded towards completing the original plan, which called for the planting of specimens of some twelve different groups, namely the walnuts, hickories, pecans, oaks, beech, hop-hornbeam, Kentucky coffee tree, locust, gingko, Korean nut pine, hackberry, chestnut and hazel. Not all groups are fully represented, and no satisfactory specimens of gingko have been planted.

The Baxter Nut Grove is a demonstration grove. Its purpose is experimentation and education. Individual members are continuing to contribute specimens and their time to the development of the grove. Much of what has been learned at Baxter over the last ten years is in this manual.


This manual about how to grow nut trees in the eastern Ontario and western Quebec region was published to celebrate the decennial of the founding of the Ottawa Area Chapter of the Society of Ontario Nut Growers (SONG).

The task of identifying a worthy project to celebrate the decennial was given the Chapter's "Committee of Past-Chairmen" under the chair of Hank Jones. The committee, comprised of Fil Park, who is the Chapter's founding chairman, Alec Jones, and Hank Jones, considered that the time was right for a first growers manual. The ten years had produced enough experience and interest in growing nut bearing trees locally to justify a manual. Consequently, the committee recommended, and the Chapter accepted, that the manual would be written as the decennial project. The Chapter gave the committee the go-ahead to produce the manual.

The committee chose an editor, Mark Schaefer, who is not only a Registered Professional Forester (R.P.F.) but also the Chapter's most knowledgeable member on nut growing as well as on forestry. The committee also agreed to serve as the editorial staff for the manual. Hank Jones, the NUTTERY Editor, agreed to be the manual's publisher.

On behalf of the Ottawa Area Chapter of SONG and myself, I thank all those who worked so hard to published this manual in honour of the decennial of the Chapter. We can all be proud of this singular achievement.

R. Scally, Chair, Ottawa Area Chapter SONG.


Several key Chapter members, whose names are listed in the back of the manual as the contributors, provided detailed information about their own experiences in local nut growing. I wrote the manual, weaving together this information with my own knowledge, drawing also on the many sources listed in the manual's bibliography.

I thank the Committee of Past Chairmen, the many contributors and the publisher for the tremendous effort they put into seeing this manual published. I also thank the Chapter itself for giving me the opportunity and the privilege of writing this first-ever manual on nut growing in eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

Mark Schaefer, R.P.F., Editor, The Nut Growers Manual For Eastern Ontario.


This is the first manual written specifically for growers in the Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec Region. The closest formal publication is "Nut Culture in North America", published by the Northern Nut Growers Association, Inc. (NNGA) located in Hambden, Connecticut, USA. The Society of Ontario Nut Growers (SONG) has produced over the years a series of "fact sheets" on nut tree species shown to be successful in southwestern Ontario. These sheets are referred to throughout the manual by numbers in brackets, e.g. (12).

The manual has three main parts. The first part, comprising chapter one, covers the general cultural practices applicable to all species.

The second part, or chapter two, is divided into ten sections. Each section describes practices specific to the growing of a selected species, for example Black Walnut or Shagbark Hickory; thus there are ten species described.

The final part of the manual includes the bibliography of cited and other useful documents, and four appendices. References to the documents in the bibliography are indicated by a superscript number in the text.

The first appendix is the list of members who contributed personal experience on local nut growing. References to the personal data supplied for the manual are indicated by a superscript Roman numeral in the text.

The second is a list of seed and stock sources. Reference to particular suppliers is indicated by a superscript lower case letter in the text.

The third appendix is a list of nut growing research centers. References to particular centers are indicated by a superscript upper case letter.

The fourth and last appendix lists candidate nut tree and shrub species for possible growing in eastern Ontario. The ten species this manual deals with were chosen from the list as those with the best chance of success here. As new data on those plants is forthcoming over the years, a supplementary volume to this manual will be considered.

Provided by ECSONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.