How to Grow Your Own Nuts

Helen Babbs | Thursday, 6th April 2017
All you need to know about growing your own nuts, from agroforestry expert, Martin Crawford.
Author: Martin Crawford
Publisher: Green Books
Publication year: 2016
RRP: £24.99

Martin Crawford’s new book aims to give ‘all the information you need to grow your own nuts’, whether for a couple of trees in the back garden or for a small-scale commercial plantation.

It’s a rather ambitious scope, but this friendly, authoritative and beautifully illustrated volume more than achieves it.

Based on his experience over the last 24 years at the Agroforestry Research Trust, Martin covers how to grow all temperate nut trees, from old favourites such as hazel and walnut to less common species such as pecans and heartnuts, plus a few I’d never heard of before such as chinkapins and trazels.

With the same logical attitude as in his widely acclaimed Creating a Forest Garden, the book is divided into two parts.

Part I covers general cultivation requirements for all nut trees, starting with planning the site, and working through planting, feeding and harvesting to processing and using the nuts. Some of this early material, such as planning for shelter belts or the how-to of tree planting, can be found in most books on fruit trees, but it was helpful to have it all presented in terms of nut growing, and it also saved me from having to hunt in other books for the information.

The chapter on harvesting and processing is particularly useful, as this is very rarely covered. Where specialist equipment such as a drying cabinet or mechanised nut cracker is mentioned, suppliers are listed in the comprehensive appendix and DIY instructions are thoroughly diagrammed.

Part II takes up the remaining two-thirds of the book, with a complete A-to-Z of temperate nut trees, from almond to yellowhammer. For each species, Martin gives a description of the tree, its origins, and its main secondary uses, then all aspects of its cultivation, the expected yield at different ages after planting, and a table of recommended cultivars with a well-explained key and helpful notes.

With such a comprehensive level of information, this large hardback book is not a pocket guide. But unlike briefer works, it is never vague and doesn’t leave the reader with a thousand questions, except perhaps, “Why haven’t I planted nut trees before?”

The focus is practical, not repeating myths nor failing to point out where some methods or ideas don’t work. All the information tallies with what I have heard from commercial nut growers and with my own experience, apart from my mistaken concept that growing anything other than hazelnuts in the UK was very difficult!

With the accessible format and thorough index, the reader can either work through this book to plan their own nut growing project, or dip into it for advice on caring for an already existing nut tree. Given the range of species covered, there isn’t a particular garden or smallholding size limitation: Martin makes a point of high-lighting those nuts with a small or shrubby growth habit suitable for smaller spaces.

As a British grower, I can’t fully judge how good this book will be for those in other temperate regions, but they are amply catered for in the cultivation notes and cultivar lists and in the appendix of suppliers, which is divided into Europe, North America and Australasia. For the reader in the UK, this is an excellent book, and one that anybody with an interest in nuts will come back to again and again, both as a work of reference and for a pleasurable read.

For more information about the Agroforestry Research Trust see: www.agroforestry.co.uk

Helen Babbs, helenbabbs.co.uk

Useful links

Growing trees for bees

Nitrogen fixing species for agroforestry systems

Also from Martin Crawford:

Trees for Gardens, Orchards and Permaculture

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