Hazelnuts (also known as filberts) are a favorite autumn delicacy, whether they are eaten alone lightly toasted or as part of a recipe. I personally like to eat them baked into cakes, where their wonderful aroma is fully expressed. Many people enjoy the nuts, but few think to try their hand at growing hazelnuts on their own property.
The hazelnut is the fruit of the hazel tree, Corylus avellana, or common hazel. The name comes from the Greek word koris, which means helmet, because of the leaf sheath that surrounds the fruit.
The most common types of hazel that people grow are Corylis avellana and Corylus maxima. Hazel is a long-lived plant whose lifespan is 70 or more years. In Scotland, it was discovered that hazelnuts were grown on a large scale as early as 9,000 years ago.
Corylus avellana or common hazel grows up to 16 feet tall, with a canopy that can spread to 16 feet in diameter. Corylus maxima has a wider leaf, longer fringes, and almost twice as long fruit. If you are thinking about growing hazelnuts or expanding an already existing plantation, in addition to these common varieties, the Tonda Di Giffoni variety is recommended, because it’s more resistant to diseases than other varieties, and it has a stable yield that doesn’t oscillate.
The first hazelnut fruits arrive after the third or fourth year, and the full crop comes after the seventh or eighth year. Although you’re going to have to be patient until the first fruits arrive, it’s still worth having a hazelnut tree on your homestead, if only for your own use.
If you want a larger planting of hazelnuts, with higher yields, you need to pay attention to certain factors that affect the growth and quality of hazelnuts, such as climate, soil composition, irrigation, and fertilization.
I have several hazel bushes on my property, and it’s going to be their first year to bear fruit. The climate in my area is moderately continental, and the frosts so far didn’t harm the plants, nor did the winter temperatures, which dropped to minus several times.
Preparation of Soil for Growing Hazelnuts
The first step in preparing the soil for planting hazelnuts is soil analysis in order to determine whether fertilization is necessary. If there isn’t enough phosphorus and potassium, or the soil is acidic, then adding fertilizers is necessary. Too many nutrients in the soil can cause hazelnuts to produce more leaves and fewer flowers and fruits, and a soil analysis will help you avoid this problem.
Hazel succeeds on different types of soil, from neutral to acidic, but swampy soils don’t suit it. If there is a high level of groundwater on your land, it’s necessary to perform drainage before planting. Also, avoid places subject to wind and frost.
Hazel grows best on terrain above 153 yards above sea level. It also suits the soil with a pH value of 5.0 to 8.0.
If you are planting hazelnuts, it would be best to do it in autumn, after deep plowing, which is not necessary but is recommended.
If you decide to plant in the spring, know that the hazel begins to vegetate early, and that it should be planted by March at the latest. The hazelnut tree I have on my homestead was planted in the fall, and that gave it enough time to adapt to the new conditions by the beginning of the growing season.
Hazel can be grown as a bush or as a tree.
When you start planting, place the seedlings in holes 15 inches wide. If the roots are very long, shorten them to seven to nine inches. Remember that the hazel root grows and develops very shallowly, in a layer of about 11 inches. Don’t plant the seedlings too deep, because they will take a long time to start growing. Plant at least three compatible varieties at this time for safer fertilization.
The pollination of hazelnuts can be negatively affected by low winter temperatures, which destroy the flowers, followed by heavy rainfall and high humidity, which prevents the spread of pollen.
Hazel flowers are an important source of pollen for bees. It is characteristic for male flowers-fringes that they remain on the tree in winter.
Climate Suitable for Growing Hazelnuts
Climatic factors are the most important for growing hazelnuts on the homestead. The climate sometimes affects this plant more than the composition of the soil. Hazelnuts are best suited to mild winters because frosts can damage the flowers and reduce the yield. Hazelnut doesn’t succeed in tropical and subtropical climates, because it needs from 800 to 1,200 hours of temperature below 44°F per year.
Hazelnuts don’t tolerate a long dry period. If the summer is warm, with little rainfall, you need to water your plant every three to four weeks. Mulching can help retain moisture around the trees. Mulch also prevents the development of weeds. Although previously it was considered that irrigation isn’t necessary for hazelnuts, it has been shown that it is a significant measure in increasing yields. Irrigation while the trees are young, immediately after planting, is especially important.
Pruning can have a significant effect on increasing the yield of hazelnuts. Better-lit branches bring 2-3 times more yield than those in the shade.
Diseases and Pests That Attack Hazelnuts
The most common diseases/pests that occur in hazel trees are:
- Hazelnut fruit rot: Sclerotinia coryle and Minilia fructigenae. The disease causes the affected fruits to darken and dry out.
- The mite, Phztopus avellanae, is a pest that attacks buds and causes deformations.
- Bacteria from the Xanthomonas genus cause spots and spots on the leaves, as well as drying of the branches and the whole plant.
- Hazelnut borer, an insect that lays eggs in unripe hazelnuts.
- Asian bed bug.
Avoid Mistakes When Forming Hazelnut Plantations
In order for your hazel grove to be healthy and have a good yield, you need to take certain steps:
- Do a soil analysis
- Add fertilizer – if the soil is unsuitable (too acidic or basic, or lacks macroelements)
- Choose suitable varieties according to the type of soil on which they are planted and climatic conditions. Also, if you want to sell your hazelnuts, know that not all varieties are equally wanted on the market
- Choose your method of planting – don’t plant them at a distance less than 16×13 feet, because the plants won’t have enough light when they are sufficiently developed.
Picking and Drying Hazelnuts
One of the reasons I love hazelnuts is that they are easy to collect. It is enough to wait for the fruit to ripen and fall to the ground by itself. The fruits are ripe when they turn brown and easily fall out of the casing.
Hazelnuts can be stored in the shell for up to two years. After collecting, it is necessary to dry the hazelnut. If you have a smaller plant, you don’t need a dryer, it’s enough to keep it in the sun for ten days or so.
If it isn’t dried after harvesting, the hazelnut can rot. If you have larger quantities, then after drying in the sun, dry in a food dehydrator at 89-93°F.
Hazelnuts can be eaten raw or roasted. I like to use it in cakes, creams, or to make hazelnut butter. Another excellent product is hazelnut flour, which doesn’t contain gluten, and is therefore suitable for people suffering from celiac disease. Hazelnut oil is rich in vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids. There are numerous possibilities for which you can use hazelnuts, and if you grow larger quantities, it can be an additional source of income on the homestead.