So there we were, spending a few minutes each evening picking up all of the chestnuts that were dropping by the dozen off of the chestnut tree the previous owners planted. This was a pretty exciting event for us because our garden didn’t give us a very bountiful harvest this year, mostly because of our lack of effort. After a little over a week, all the nuts had fallen off the tree, almost 10 pounds! I was all ready to light up an open fire and start roasting. I was searching the internet for chestnut butter recipes, I was even drafting this blog in my head. Then an elderly lady at church told me I better make sure they weren’t the poisonous kind of chestnuts. Poisonous chestnuts? What kind of idiot would plant a poisonous chestnut tree 15 feet from their garden? Well after a little research I had properly identified the tree as a European Horse Chestnut tree, and sure enough, they are poisonous. Talk about a disappointment! In defense of the idiots that planted a poisonous chestnut tree 15 feet from the garden, it is a beautiful tree, and the bumblebees love it. My research revealed that deer can eat these horse chestnuts so I guess it isn’t a total loss.
Not so fun fact: Eating European Horse Chestnuts can cause upset stomach, kidney failure, muscle twitching, weakness, loss of coordination, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and paralysis.
Before I had my dreams of chestnuts roasting on an open fire crushed, I had envisioned planting more nuts trees in our yard so that every fall we could harvest our nut crop, so I ordered five Northern Pecan trees. Pecans are my favorite nut to eat, they taste great, make an excellent pie, and because of their high-fat content, are a keto dieters dream. Here in northern Minnesota, we are in USDA growth zone 3, which is one or two zones north of most growth zone recommendations for pecans, but I read about people having success growing pecan trees in zone 3 so I decided to give it a try. Check back in about five years to find out if it worked! Fall is actually a good time of year to plant trees because they are dormant, so the process of transplanting is less likely to damage the tree. There are quite a few things to consider when planting a tree. How big will this tree get, and how much space will it need when fully grown? How much sunlight does this tree need? What type of soil does this tree need to flourish? Pecan trees grow to be huge, so they need to be spaced out pretty far, 60-80 feet is recommended. They also enjoy full sunlight, which can be a problem in our yard because we have so many mature trees already. I planted three of the trees on the east side of our property and two on the southern property line, trying to find a spot with maximum sun exposure was difficult in our yard due to the mature trees we already have.
Delicious Fact: Americans eat 280 million pounds of pecans each year.
These trees came from the nursery as bare-root saplings, so it was important to get them planted as soon as possible. The pictures don’t show it well, but the weather here in Minnesota didn’t make that an easy task, but a little snow wasn’t going to stop me! It is important to dig the hole deep and wide enough to let the roots lay in a natural position to promote proper root growth, I dug the hole about 10″ deep and 6″ round, basically as small as I could make it with the shovel I was using. I filled the hole with some good topsoil from our garden to give the trees plenty of nutrients to grow. In the spring I will start to water the trees about 15 gallons per week for the first 3 years, after that they will just be watered with rain. It can take a pecan tree 4-6 years to produce any fruit, given the fact that we are so far north, if these trees ever do produce fruit, I wouldn’t expect it to be for a decade or so. With heights of up to 140 feet, these trees have the potential to be the largest trees on our property someday, maybe a hundred years from now our great-great-grandchildren will have a tire swing hanging from it.
Given the fact that it is a long shot that these trees ever produce nuts, you might ask why even plant them? Why not plant walnut trees that are known to produce in this area? Well, because I really like pecans, and I have certainly wasted fifty bucks on worse things than this!
Historic Fact: The word “Pecan” came from the Native American word “Pacane” that meant “to crack with a rock.”
While I’ve got you here I suppose I should give a quick update on some of my unfinished projects. It has rained or snowed here about seven of the last ten days, and I have spent at least one day each of the last three weekends fixing something on our vehicles, so I haven’t got much done, unfortunately. The fence around the goat pen is built, but only about 25% of it has been painted. The siding on the pig pen is about halfway done. I haven’t even touched the boat and the air compressor is still sitting in the yard. As I mentioned in the unfinished projects post, the table is on hold until I have access to a planer. The weather forecast looks a little better for next week so hopefully, I will be able to get a few of these projects wrapped up.
Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your day to read about what we have going on, we truly appreciate it. Be sure to check back in later this week to find out what I’ve got cooking on the grill!