GROWING METHODS MADE SIMPLE: NUTS, COB AND FBLBERT

Where a thick garden hedge is required, of extremely profitable nature, cobs and filberts should be planted, about 3 ft. apart. Trees can be obtained in bush form, and as standards with 4-ft. stems, these both needing much wider spacing, of course, than the hedge plants.

These are among the most obliging of all fruits, giving good crops on even poor stony ground.

Ready for Use. Ripening date is, as a rule, October. The nuts will keep in good condition, in store, for a lengthy period.

Varieties.

Cob nut and filbert differ in shape and in husk covering. The cob is roundish-oval, and its short husk barely covers the nut. The filbert is oblong, and the husk is long and tapering.

Cob varieties include Kentish Cob, the largest and a most prolific bearer; Cosford, very thin shelled; Cannon Ball, and Duchess of Edinburgh.

Filbert varieties include Red Filbert (dark pink skin), White-skinned Filbert, Garibaldi (frilled husk).

Soil Preparation.

Ground of a naturally damp nature needs to be made thoroughly porous by really deep digging, sand or grit being worked in very liberally. These nuts do best in dryish soil and without any manure, but preparatory digging must not be omitted. Though a sunny position is preferable, good crops can be had in light shade.

When and How to Plant.

October is the customary date for planting. Bush trees, which are the most profitable, should be planted about 12 ft. apart. General directions are given in the section THE ABC OF.PLANTING.

Method of Fruiting.

The nuts are produced on short spurs, and on short twigs which grew the previous year, both spurs and twigs coming from the main branches which form the permanent framework.

Most prominent feature of nut bushes and trees in February is the display of catkins – 2-in. long tassels. These are the male flowers. They started as stumpy, tight, cylindrical objects pendulous from shoots here and there. In February, having increased in length, they loosen up and on the first sunny day are ready to get rid of their loads of pollen.

This pollen is wanted by the female flowers; without it these cannot form nuts. The female flowers are utterly unlike the long male catkins. They are tiny crimson tufts and go unnoticed unless one looks for them on the spurs and last year’s short twigs. Wind carries the yellow pollen from the long catkins to the tiny female tufts, and the nuts are born.

To help Nature in this work it is worth while to shake, gently, the branches, this having the effect of distributing the pollen, some of which will settle where it is essential. If there happens to be a scarcity of long (male) catkins when the crimson-tuft female flowers are open, a good set of fruit can be ensured by hanging among them one or two catkin-bearing branches cut from the wild hazel (hedge nut) if these are available.

Male catkins are borne very plentifully by the variety Cosford, and if a bush of this kind is planted among other varieties there is seldom lack of sufficient fertilizing pollen.

Pruning Cobs and Filberts.

The method of fruiting understood, pruning can be carried out in a manner which ensures the largest possible crop.

Not until the pollen of the long yellowish catkins has been distri- buted, and the nut harvest thus made sure, should pruning start. Then, in early March, the end shoot (extension shoot) of each of the eight or so main branches is cut back by about one-third of the growth which it made the previous year.

Long side shoots showing no signs of small green nuts are at the same time shortened back to within 3 in. to 4 in. of their base, to develop into fruiting spurs. But any such shoots needed to fill vacant space (without crowding) can be allowed to extend, being cut back by about one-third of their previous season’s growth each March; in this way old and exhausted branches can be replaced, or additional branches formed. Short side growths should be left untouched.

Fruiting spurs are kept short by cutting back their new growth annually, the knife or secateurs stopping short at the immature nuts, of course. Growths inclined inwards should be cut hard back, so that the bush tree keeps its open centre. Weakly and worn-out wood, and any sucker growths at the base, should be removed. Standard nut trees are pruned similarly. A closely planted nut hedge will not be cut to the same extent, but the same pruning principles should be followed.

The ideal bush tree carries a main framework of eight or so branches on a single stem of 12 in. to 15 in. in length. A young plant is trained to the desired form in the manner explained for bush apples in the section How TO PROPAGATE FRUIT TREES AND BUSHES. General pruning work is detailed in the section

THE HOW AND WHY OF PRUNING.

Propagation.

By layering two-year-old shoots, in autumn, a true-to-variety stock of plants can be worked up without much trouble. A selected shoot, purposely left unshortened, conveniently placed for bending over to the ground, has its tip inserted in a dibber-made hole 5 in. to 6 in. deep and pegged there with a notched stick or long wire staple. Soil is rammed with the heel around it, and the layered shoot is left undisturbed for a full year. The tip will have rooted by then, and the shoot can be severed from the parent plant and be dug up complete with roots for planting elsewhere.

Sucker growths can be dug up, with roots, if any of these are present, and be replanted, in autumn. Nuts can be sown, when ripe, 2 in. deep outdoors, and the seedlings replanted after a couple of years. It should be noted that plants raised as seedlings or as suckers do not necessarily come true to name, as do layers. Standard nut trees are grafted on selected stocks. The operation of grafting is explained in the section How TO PROPAGATE FRUIT TREES AND BUSHES.

Gathering the Nuts.

These are usually ripe by late September or October. Both husk and shell should be quite brown before gathering begins and the husk should come away readily from the nut. After being picked they should be sun-dried for a few days – spread out on sacking or other material so that they can be easily placed under cover at night, or by day in the event of rain.

They store best if picking is delayed until some of the nuts begin to fall.

For winter storage, the dried husks should be removed and the nuts stored in boxes or any other receptacles in which mice, rats or squirrels are unable to get at them, and where they will be safe from frost.

Preparing for Table.

If nuts are heaped on a fruit dish, no preparation is needed other than the provision of one or more pairs of nut-crackers. Food value is very considerable, as vegetarians are well aware. Nuts are especially rich in fats and proteins, and also contain some starch and sugar.

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