Chestnut trees can thrive in a variety of climates and can be grown from seeds or seedlings. For best results, choose a variety that is resistant to damage and can adapt to the climate in your area.
Part 1 of 5: Planting Basics
Step 1. Choose a sunny spot
Chestnut trees will grow very well if placed directly in the sun. For best results, choose a location that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day during the growing season.
If possible, consider also planting the tree at the top at a slightly sloping place. Doing so can drain excess water and prevent the roots from getting too wet. Never plant a chestnut tree on the bottom of a sloping surface
Step 2. Pay attention to the quality of the soil
The best soil for chestnut trees is one that drains well and is slightly acidic.
- Chestnut trees thrive in deep, sandy soils. Soil containing rocks and gravel can also be used.
- Avoid clay. The only way a chestnut tree can thrive in clay soil is if it is planted on the top of a downward sloping surface.
- Ideally, the pH of the soil should be between 4.5 and 6.5. Avoid limestone soils, as the pH content of them is too alkaline for chestnut trees to survive.
Step 3. Leave plenty of room for the tree
Make sure each chestnut tree you plant has free ground space with a radius of 12 meters to provide sufficient growth space.
If you want to harvest your chestnuts in a big and fast manner, you can plant lots of chestnut trees every 6 meters, so that they come closer together and pollinate each other more quickly
Step 4. Plant at least two trees
A chestnut tree that grows alone will not produce chestnut fruit. If you want your tree to produce chestnut fruit, you must plant a second tree 60 meters apart.
- Plant two different types of chestnut trees to allow for cross-pollination.
- Look at the tree on your neighbor. If your neighbor has a chestnut tree in his garden, it may be enough for your tree.
Part 2 of 5: Growing from Seed
Step 1. Cool the chestnut seeds
Place the chestnut seeds in a plastic bag filled with wet sphagnum moss, peat, or sawdust. Cover the plastic, then put in the refrigerator for a few months.
- Chestnut seeds are usually ordinary chestnuts that are not taken care of.
- Chestnut seeds need to go through a cooling period in order to germinate properly. Storing it in the refrigerator will mimic its natural process and protect it from freezing temperatures and animals found outdoors.
- For best results, place the chestnuts in the vegetable rack in the refrigerator to prevent them from accidentally freezing.
- Chestnut seeds should be stored in the refrigerator for several months, from harvest to planting.
Step 2. Plant outdoors in spring
When the temperature starts to warm up, you can immediately sow the cold chestnut seeds outdoors.
The best time to plant is early spring, usually around mid-March. You can sow the seeds right away when the soil is soft and warm enough for planting
Step 3. Another option is to grow chestnuts indoors sooner
Chestnuts usually begin to grow roots in early to mid-February. If you want to plant them sooner, you can plant seeds sooner indoors when these roots start to stick out.
- Pry a few drainage holes in the bottom of a 2 liter milk carton. Cut out the top of the cardboard as well.
- Fill the carton with soil-free potting mix. The ideal medium for growth should contain large amounts of organic fibrous material. Mixtures containing compost husks are a good mix.
- After planting the seeds, place the container on a sunny windowsill. Water the medium pot when it feels dry. Strong seedlings should sprout from chestnuts in two or three months.
- Remember that seeds that germinate indoors should be cared for like seedlings and when transplanted outdoors in the spring should follow the instructions in the “Growing from Seeds” section.
Step 4. Place the seeds in a fairly shallow hole
Dig a hole 2.5 cm deep. Place the chestnut seeds in the hole and cover it loosely with additional soil or planting mix.
- Since most chestnuts will germinate before you plant them, make sure the sprouts are facing downwards when you plant chestnuts.
- If the seeds haven't germinated yet, place them in the soil with the flat part of the seeds facing down.
Step 5. Protect the seeds from animals
After planting the seeds outdoors, cover the top with a cage or wire basket. Doing so will protect the seeds from most rodents.
- Make sure the top of the wire cage reaches a height of 5 to 10 cm. This will give the seedlings a chance to grow and establish themselves before the wire cage is removed.
- Remember that you do not need to cover the seeds if you are growing them indoors.
Part 3 of 5: Growing from Seed
Step 1. Dig a deep enough hole
The hole should be deep enough for the roots to fit in without having to fold.
The hole should be at least twice the size of the rooted seedling you want to plant
Step 2. Remove the old skin
Gently remove the seedling from its container and find the old bark adhering to the roots. Use your finger to remove or break it without damaging the roots.
Many animals are attracted to the scent of chestnut and may dig seeds from your tree for the bark. Removing the skin from the chestnut will keep your plants from being targeted by animals
Step 3. Place the rooted seeds in the hole
Place the rooted seed in the center in the hole. Cover the hole with garden soil or planting mix until the seeds are securely in place and cannot move.
- Press the soil inward using your hands and feet to secure your plant.
- Water the soil after you plant. Water helps the soil to settle and removes air pockets trapped in the congested growing medium.
Step 4. Protect the seedlings
Protect the seedlings from rodents by surrounding them with a 6 mm thick cloth.
- Insert the thick cloth 4 to 10 cm deep in the soil. Leave 46 cm above the ground.
- If the nearby animal is a deer, the cylinder of cloth may need to be raised by 1.2 to 1.5 meters.
Part 4 of 5: Caring for Plants
Step 1. Water regularly
In the first two months, chestnuts will need 4 liters of water per week.
After the first two months, you should make sure your plants receive 2.5 cm of water each week during the growing season. You do not need to water the plant when the leaves fall and become dormant
Step 2. Control the growth of weeds
Grass and weeds should be about 61 cm from the seedlings. For trees that are starting to grow, clear all the soil up to the tips of the branches.
- The best way to do this is to use organic hay around the tree. Straw helps the soil to stay moist.
- Herbicides can also be used to get rid of weeds, but you need to protect the trunk from the tree before you apply the herbicide to the area.
Step 3. Apply fertilizer in the second year
You can apply fertilizer to the tree regularly per year starting from the second year the tree is outdoors.
- Do not apply fertilizer to the seedlings when you plant them. Doing so will encourage leaf growth, but the tree should focus on root growth first.
- Use a standard fertilizer that contains balanced amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (usually labeled as a 10-10-10 fertilizer).
Step 4. Take care of the branches
In the first two or three years, you'll need to groom the branches to conform to the shape of the modified central leader of the tree.
- Choose the middle stem that is upright and strong. This is the central leader of the tree.
- Pinch back, bend down, or cut stems that compete with the leader bar of your choice.
- The large boughs growing from your main trunk should be 30.5 cm apart from the central leader, growing in a spiral.
- When the tree is strong, cut the branches so that the lowest part of the branch still leaves enough room for you to mow the grass under the tree.
- When the central leader reaches a height of 1.8 to 2.4 meters, cut it so that it is as short as the branches on the sides. This will make the tree grow wider, not taller.
Step 5. Beware of chestnut disease
Chestnut disease is a major disease that you need to worry about and it can be a significant threat.
- Fungus that gathers around tree trunks, usually found in cracked or injured areas. In the end it will grow into a large canker. When canker surrounds a tree, the tree will die. You need to get rid of the tree and plant the chestnut tree in the future in a different place.
- Chestnut disease is almost impossible to cure once it has infected the tree, even if you use a strong fungicide. Prevention is your best option. Plant a variety of disease-resistant chestnut trees and make sure the roots are never too wet.
Step 6. Protect the tree from insect pests as well
There are several different insect pests that can attack your tree, but the biggest problem usually comes from the chestnut beetle.
- Adult beetles lay eggs in developing chestnuts. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the flesh inside the chestnut.
- Get rid of the beetle before it becomes a problem by spraying your tree with insect repellent when the chestnut begins to develop.
- Alternatively, you can put a sheet under a tree and shake the branch vigorously. Most of the beetles will fall. Then you can collect the beetles in the sheets and throw them away.
- You need to kill the adult beetle before it lays eggs. There is no other way to get rid of the pest once it has found its way into the chestnut fruit.
Part 5 of 5: Harvesting Chestnuts
Step 1. Be patient
The chestnut tree does not immediately produce chestnut fruit in its first years. If there is at least one chestnut tree nearby and your tree stays healthy all year round, it will eventually bear fruit.
- Chinese chestnut trees usually produce chestnut fruit after five years.
- United States chestnut trees usually produce chestnut fruit after eight years.
Step 2. Collect the chestnuts when they fall
Chestnuts usually ripen in early October and shed their thorns when the weather is cold.
- You can usually harvest chestnuts by collecting them from the ground when they fall.
- If animals tend to pick up chestnuts that fall before you, another option is to cut the thorns before the chestnuts fall. Gently cut off any thorns that haven't fallen off in early to mid-October and store in a root shed or cool place. When the thorns naturally open, you can collect the fruit.
- Use thick rubber gloves when handling chestnuts and thorns to prevent yourself from being scratched or punctured.
Step 3. Put the fruit in the refrigerator or freezer
If you want to use chestnuts for cooking, leave them in their skins and store them in the refrigerator for a month. You can also store chestnuts in the freezer for up to six months.
- Chestnut has a high starch content and cannot be stored as long as other fruits.
- After cooking the chestnuts, you can only store them in the refrigerator for three to four days. However, cooked chestnuts can remain edible for up to nine months if stored in an airtight container and stored in the freezer.
Step 4. Save the chestnuts to use as seeds
If you want to use chestnuts as seeds instead of food, you should let them dry in a cool open space for a few days before storing them in the refrigerator.