Keeping our Pawpaws off our nuts!
It’s SPRING at Eco-Sense, and it started with a vibrant burst of activity on our first farm gate open house (saturday April 26th), which was surprisingly more hectic than we imagined. Over 40 people wandered through our specialized perennial food nursery and the hilltop gardens and trails like pollen floating and spreading on the breeze. Our day was spent informing people of the details of the various plants, sharing Mud Puddle stories and cuddles, and selling out of our eggs too!
This Saturday (May 3rd) and every saturday from 10 am to 2 pm until June 28th, we’ll be at it again, and its going to be nuts. For specific details on the open house check out our last blog post here: OPEN FARM DETAILS:
It was a busy week here at Eco-Sense with 6 tour groups, including five grade 6 classes and ending the week with our very successful open house. 0ver 220 people personally greeted Mudpuddle and the ducklings and many purchased perennial plants and eggs.
Speaking of nuts,besides our regular mix of Actinidia arguta/kolomikta/delisiosa, Cornus kousa/mas, Elaeagnus multiflora/umbellata… and 40 other edible perennial plants, we will have the limited selection of Paw Paws (Asimina trilba) new this week – North America’s largest fruit that is best described as a cross between a mango and banana and cold hardy to -30C. Even more exciting is our nuts!
One of the most important features lacking in the local food security landscape is the lack of nut trees in the region. There are some around, very healthy planted many years ago, but it became more fashionable to plant inedible nuts like the horse chestnut, which line countless streets in Victoria. We want to change that and have choice edibles that suit the yards, spaces and community gardens with our Japanese Chestnuts, Chinese Chestnuts, American X Chinese chestnuts, Yellow Horn, and of course the most exciting being the Oregon State University (OSU) Hazelnut cultivars. Our walnut and ultra northern hardy pecan seedlings are just sprouting and won’t be available till next year.
The chestnuts are the big main trees in a guild, the hazelnuts are the next layer at 12-15 ft. For those who don’t know our excitement over the hazelnuts, we had been trying to bring in the Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB) resistant varieties from the OSU Breeding program for 6 years! We finally have them thanks to Thom Odell of OSU,from Nature Tech, who jumped through the hoops with the tissue cultures, built his own lab and started growing the trees. We ordered in 100 trees in the fall for this spring, we virtually sold out and have brought in more. Good timing too, as virtually all the stock from the lab/breeder has been snapped up due to the EFB hitting the hazelnut nurseries on the island, with Courtenay growers being the latest victim having to replace all their trees, and it is working its way down island.
We have Jefferson, Yamhill, Theta, Sacajawea, Gamma and Eta, and based on your available space, we can set up a pairing of two/three/four hazelnuts of cross pollinating trees for you.
Weekly Plant Profiles
Each week we will be posting a plant profile as our way to introduce the perennial food plants that we deem viable components in a local food system. It was hard to choose this week’s, Should it be Paw Paws, Chestnuts, Cornelian Cherry, Perennial Leek, Crosne, Oca, the Kiwis… this week it is the Hazelnuts (Corylus avellana). To learn more about perennial permaculture plants you may be interested in this Hatchet & Seed workshop coming up on MAY 10th.
Hazelnut – Corylus avellana
Hazelnuts have been a food source in this region for millennia, one of the few historical and consistent nut crops. High in fats and protein (and thus calories), stores well, and easily. That said, sadly over the past 2 years there has been a crash in the trees caused from Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB), and this EFB has finally hit Vancouver Island. This has been expected, and thus there has been a ban in BC on importing nuts that may exacerbate this, though this ban has also not allowed the growers to prep for this before now. The good news is that the Oregon State University has been researching this and creatied a breeding program to create EFB resistant varieties, that are hardier and more robust. For 6 years we have been trying to gain access but the ban has stopped us, until now… and we now carry legal OSU EFB resistant hazelnuts.
Hazelnuts are well suited for the PNW and we are one of the few places in the world where the climate is ideal, with good moisture, cold hours and pollinating conditions.
Hazelnuts require multiple cultivars for cross pollination. Some culstivars are ‘support’ trees for the ‘production’ trees, though all cultivars will bear nuts. The pollinating season is broken down into early, mid and late season, so we sell the trees in packages to match your site.
Hazelnuts can be grown as a dwarf multi-stemmed shrub to 10 feet or in tree form up to 12-15ft with the pruning of the suckers. They are wind pollinated where the ale catkins pollen is blown onto the tiny female flowers starting in January up into April. We have found that they are great grey water plants (like our figs) so fit into grey water systems wonderfully. When the young trees hit 4 ft tall, we snip off the top and begin to let them branch out.
Space trees about 10-15 feet apart. We plant in groups, or in line with the prevailing spring winds to take advantage of the pollen spread.
Dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the root ball (we dig our about 18” deep and wide), and roughen the sides of the hole so there are no smooth walls, as this allows root growth into parent soil. Amend the hole with half compost and half native soil with two handfuls of bone meal – fill the hole halfway. Remove the tree from the pot, ensure the root ball is wet, and separate the roots as best as possible so there are at least four of the larger radial roots heading in different directions (place the largest root the direction of the prevailing winds). At this time if you wish, add a mycorhizae innoculant to the roots – we use Mycogrow and Myke Shrub inoculants. Back fill slowly, ensuring to get the amended soil all the way around (no air pockets). Once planted, mulch in a 18” radius and water thouroughly to help set the soil and moisten up the surrounding native soil. Once the tree is 4 feet tall trim the tip to begin the branching process.
4 tree package – ($180)
Jefferson, Yamhill, Gamma/Sacajawea, Eta/Theta
3 tree package ($140)
Jefferson, Yamhill, Sacajawea
Jeferson, Theta, Yamhill
2 Tree Packages ($90)
The perfect 10 tree orchard ($450)
3 jefferson, 1 Eta, 1 Theta, 2 Sacajawea, 1 Gamma, 2 Yamhil