Growing Chinese Chestnuts in Containers

Discussion in 'Deer Management, Habitat & Conservation' started by wbpdeer, Aug 6, 2016.

  1. wbpdeer

    wbpdeer Member

    Aug 1, 2016
    Portland, TN
    I collect and distribute "Chinese Chestnut." In 2014 and 2015 I shipped Chinese Chestnuts in a flat rate box to individuals that were interested in establishing Chinese Chestnuts on their land and hunting locations.

    In 2016 I will be doing the same thing. At this point, I have shipped to 26 states in the Eastern United States. Am I making money - not hardly. I am giving back to the whitetail deer. It would be nice if I just broke even but that is not my goal.

    Have you ever seen 3,400 Chinese Chestnuts? Have you ever identified a "Chinese Chestnut" tree in the woods? I wish I had "American Chestnuts" in my area but I have never seen one in the woods.

    I grow chestnuts in two grow boxes built in my basement. This summer I have been constructing a greenhouse - 16' by 26' and it will be a valuable resource for my efforts.

    I retired from government service October 20, 2015. My retirement project is "One Thousand Chestnut Trees - a Whitetail Deer Project." It has been fun and we will begin to tally our tree count after Thanksgiving. A tree for counting purposes will be any seedling that is in the field location with green top growth (in other words - it ain't dead).

    In 2015 I shipped 111 orders and in 2014 I believe I shipped 38 orders. Some orders were repeat customers.

    Now for those 3,400 Chinese Chestnuts.

    Attached Files:

  2. wbpdeer

    wbpdeer Member

    Aug 1, 2016
    Portland, TN
    Common Mistakes Growing Chesnuts

    I have made my share of mistakes growing Chinese Chestnuts in containers. I have assisted many first-time growers. To be effective I need to help a person avoid the common mistakes. I compiled the list below to help a first-time grower as well as individuals new to growing chestnuts but have grown oaks, pears, etc.

    What Kills Our Chestnuts When We Try to Grow Them?

    #1 Main Killer is Moisture! We over water them. We think Miracle Grow with Moisture Control has to work - look who is selling it. More chestnuts will rot before they break soil than a first timer would ever guess.

    #2 Wrong Type of Growing Medium - We don't need soil & we don't need moisture control. Chestnuts like to get to the point of dry before they like water. Using the right growing medium helps the roots and allows us to learn what watering plan works. Roots need air for oxygen and they need space to grow.

    #3 Mold Kills - We put them in airtight container with no chance to breath & we put too much moisture inside the container.

    #4 Sunlight & Heat Kills - We collect chestnuts but we put them somewhere and forget about them. When a chestnut is collected - get it cleaned and inspected to see if it is a firm chestnut with no rattling in the hull. Leaving them in a hot vehicle for a week after collecting - just reduces our chances.

    #5 Chestnuts Smell Good to Critters. Chipmunks, Squirrels, Rabbits, Deer, Turkeys, field mice, etc. Our chestnuts get killed because we don't protect them. If you plant a chestnut in the wild outdoors - you better protect it for a couple of years. Better to plant 5 trees well than plant 50 trees without protection.

    #6 Chestnut get killed / setback by sunlight. Grown inside means we must gently push them into the sunlight. Baby steps required here. I use a pine tree that protect them from mid day and pm sun. My seedlings get early morning sun. Worked well until the squirrels made a raid.

    #7 Lack of Moisture During Dog Days of Summer. Depending on your containers and location, in July and August if you go three or four days without watering seedlings that have many leaves, you can lose all of your work. Shade cloths are what nurseries use and they water twice a day.

    #8 Chestnut Seedling is in Perfect Health then it gets planted in the wrong location. Sunlight is the power plant that generates the chestnut seed. We have to get pollinated by another chestnut tree that is nearby. Location of tree and proximity to other trees matter. We avoid stream sides due to risk to standing water during certain months.

    #9 Negligent will kill. Every two or three days you better check on chestnuts under grow lights. In summer heat, you better water at reasonable intervals for your climate. I like to feel of the chestnut leaves with my eyes closed. What does the touch tell me? If you check ten seedlings - one of them may really need some water while the other nine show no stress.

    Folks I am not an expert. I am motivated to accomplish my goal - improve my deer's habitat. It is certain I left something off the list above. I just wrote the hard lessons I have learned. If you like to cut corners - your success rate will go down. Mine did until I wised up.


  3. wbpdeer

    wbpdeer Member

    Aug 1, 2016
    Portland, TN
    Not Good at Direct Seeding

    I have become good at growing in containers. Had a great deal of practice. Growing trees is a numbers game. Perfect methods will not deliver perfect results. So if you lose a tree - that happens for many different reasons.

    I am not skilled at direct seeding. When asked questions about direct seeding I will attempt to respond but my track records is limited. I only direct seed chestnuts when all of my containers are full.

    Two of the habitat people I have followed in the past on direct seeding are on this forum. Letemgrow and Redonthehead have helped me improve my knowledge about direct seeding.

    I do believe a seedling that is grown by being directly seeded has a good start. Two years down the road I do believe there is not much difference between the direct seed tree and the container grown tree.

    So I have disclosed my limitations on direct seeding with this post. :rolleyes:
  4. wbpdeer

    wbpdeer Member

    Aug 1, 2016
    Portland, TN
    Want Some Chinese Chestnuts - What To Do

    If you want to order "Chinese Chestnuts" from me, what do you do?

    Please send me a private message on this forum or send me an email. I need the following information:

    mailing address (shipments are made thru the US Post Office)
    city, state, zip

    email address or
    cell phone

    if forum user - name the forum
    forum username

    When I receive this information, I will place you on my distribution list. I will be back in touch in Mid-September as chestnuts get close to dropping.

    Cost? I charge $8.00 for a flat rate box with at least 50 chestnuts. You will receive the chestnuts first and inspect them. Assuming they arrived in good shape, you will send me an $8.00 payment.

    Why no profits? Most of the $8.00 payment helps offset the postal charges and the resources I use to collect, clean and package. I don't habitat work between individuals should be based on profits. I am giving back to the whitetail deer and helping fellow hunters.

    My contact info:

    Wayne B. Pruett
    cell 615.517.4873 (yes I text - don't have your phone # give your name)

    I live in Portland, TN which is on the TN/KY state line north of Nashville.

    The trees I collect from at located in my home town. The 3,400 chestnuts in the photo posted above was a 2 1/2 hour collection job on a Saturday morning last September.

    If you have never grown a seedling at home, we will be glad to help explain the process.

    If you have limited success, will it be worth it? Absolutely, it feels great to see a tree established that you started from seed / nut. If you only have 10-12 make it, that is cents on the dollar when you invested $8 for the chestnuts. Price the cost of a tree at a nursery or garden center to determine if this is a good deal.

    Thanks for reading this thread.
  5. wbpdeer

    wbpdeer Member

    Aug 1, 2016
    Portland, TN
    Planting Instructions - Example of Assistance

    In this post I am sharing an example of assistance that is given to individuals that need direction.

    ABCs of Planting Chinese Chestnut Seedlings

    by Wayne Pruett revised on July 30, 2016

    1. Your seedlings need to be planted 20 feet apart. They are air pollenated which requires them to be close to one another to produce viable chestnuts. Chestnut Pollen begins to fail at distances greater than 20 feet.
    2. Seedlings need full sunlight in order to grow the burr and chestnuts. The sun is the energy factory. If you want chestnuts to eat or feed the deer – avoid the shade!!!
    3. Chinese Chestnuts don’t like to have their roots wet. You don’t plant in a spot where standing water will occur. A slope is good – stay away from streams that will pool rising water in the periods of great rainfall.
    4. Dig a hole deeper than the height of the soil found in the container. If your soil is 6 inches tall in the container – dig the hole 9 or 10 inches deep. Put loose dirt back in the hole so that when planted, the seedling stem hits the soil about one inch higher than the surrounding ground. The seedling will settle over time putting it at the right elevation. By digging a deep hole we help roots establish quickly because chestnuts put down a deep taproot.
    5. Rabbits and deer are the critters that will kill your Chinese Chestnut seedling. This requires us to protect our seedlings. This is accomplished either with a tree tube or a wire cage. To protect the top of the seedlings, we need protection 5 feet high as the seedling grows. First year seedlings are not close to five foot – they will get there in 18 to 24 months.
    6. Stem protection in the beginning. If you use 18 inches of window screen, hardware cloth wire, short tree tube or metal flashing – you will keep the rabbits from eating the tender bark. Mice and groundhogs also hit the tree trunks. Hardware stores sell aluminum window screen. If you have a wood stake, PVC Stake, Rebar Stake, or Conduit Stake this will protect the stem. This approach will be used where a wire cage was protecting the growing leader (top of stem) from being browsed by whitetail deer.
    7. When first planted a seedling requires watering at the time of planting and during the first month and first summer if planted in the spring. Water each seedling in well at planting to eliminate air pockets. Water well means to water – wait for that to soak in & then water again. If you can’t visit the seedling often – get a five gallon bucket for each seedling or a 2 liter soda bottle. Drill two 1/16 inch hole in the five gallon bucket at a location one inch above the bottom of the bucket (drip bucket). We locate the drip hole up one inch to allow the dirt and sediment to settle below our holes.
    8. If you use a two liter soda bottle, drill the plastic cap with a 1/16 bit. Get a stake and place the 2 liter bottle upside down. It will water that seedling slowly. If you must mound some dirt to eliminate fast run off – do this – the seedling will respond positively. A gallon milk jug accomplishes the same thing – drip the cap.
    9. Eliminating competition: I use landscape fabric around my chestnut trees. You can weed eat the ground and spray roundup on day one at each planting location. Roundup does not transfer to the seedlings once it hits soil or dries on vegetation. If you spray vegetation and the roundup is wet – if it contacts the seedling you probably lose the seedling due to the chemical. On day two you can plant the seedling. On Day One when you spray, apply it 24 inch in each direction to eliminate the competition.
    10. Don’t fertilize in year one. I have placed Osmocote Plus in the growing media (a slow release fertilizer that will not burn the roots). We never fertilize after July 4th because it gives a growth spurt that will leave tender leaves that get slammed in fall colder temperatures. The following April 1st, you can fertilize the seedling. Chestnuts like acidic soil. Orchid food by miracle grow is good to feed them. A small box goes a long way.
    11. Don’t add any potting soil or any other product to the hole. Use the soil in the container and what is near the planting site. Adding potting soil will cause a pooling of water & too much water drowns the roots!!!
    12. Best planting approach: east to west 20 to 21 feet apart. This allows the sun to cross the trees all day long.
    13. If you have a black fabric pot, cut the fabric off with a pair of scissors. While still in the container, water the seedling good in advance of your planting time (night before or hours before).
    These seedlings are part of the “One Thousand Chestnut Trees – a Deer Project†which involves participants in 26 eastern states. Please email question to me at

    Disclaimer: These instructions are what I use. There are other methods that can be just as effective. Please don't assume I am saying this way is the only way. That is simply not true. If you had never planted anything, you can improve your success rate following these instructions.
  6. henry

    henry Fan Boy aka Mr Twisty and

    We will help you keep this to the top over the weekend.

    This doesn't sound like a project for someone like myself who is gone 5 days a week.
  7. wbpdeer

    wbpdeer Member

    Aug 1, 2016
    Portland, TN
    Direct Seeding Works Where Time Is Limited

    Thanks Henry.

    What I would say for situations where time is limited, direct seedling is a good option to use. It is about getting them located in the field with protection and then relying on nature to take it from there.

    A third option is always to plant a seedling or bare root that someone else grew.

    Just pointing out the options. :wave:
  8. henry

    henry Fan Boy aka Mr Twisty and

    Direct seeding sounds like the best option for me. Plant em and let god sort it out . :D
  9. thwackaddict

    thwackaddict Senior Member

    Nov 1, 2007
    NW Missouri
    I had a "friend?" / Nemisis whom I traded verbal abuse with over the Internet. :D

    He was a retired science teacher. He knew all about the American chestnut and how scientist were crossing Chinese chestnuts with Americans to give Americans blight resistance. They would continually cross them back on Americans and they would subject them to blight. The plan was to over time breed an American the retained blight resistance.

    I think he knew of one 12" tree about 70' tall in the wild. Just thought you might be interested in looking up the American chestnut org.
  10. Dafish

    Dafish Senior Member

    Nov 24, 2010
    St. Peters
  11. wbpdeer

    wbpdeer Member

    Aug 1, 2016
    Portland, TN
    Good Link - Clear Explanation

    Thanks Dafish.

    The link is a great document showing the differences.

    I have four trees a person gave me permission to examine - it appears they are hybrids. Got some American characteristics.

    May get them tested.
  12. thwackaddict

    thwackaddict Senior Member

    Nov 1, 2007
    NW Missouri
  13. wbpdeer

    wbpdeer Member

    Aug 1, 2016
    Portland, TN
    This Thread Deals with Chinese Chestnuts

    This thread deals with "Chinese Chestnuts."

    That is what I have in my town and available to me.

    I did check some trees today. In my area the chestnut crop will be down some based upon what I am seeing.

    The photo below is a tree on the south side of a 30 tree chestnut grove. The photo does not show it very well, but the burs are small on this tree. It has about 65% of what I had last year but what it has is on the small size.

    Attached Files:

  14. wbpdeer

    wbpdeer Member

    Aug 1, 2016
    Portland, TN
    Another Photo - Good Size Burs - Just Not Many

    In this photo, you will see some burs that are good size. The problem is this tree is down about 40% from last year.

    The location of this tree is closest to where I parked. It is at the front of 30 tree orchard grove. It will be one of the first trees to drop.

    It does not have many two bur and three bur locations on it. When a Chinese Chestnut is loaded - burs are located in clumps. That is when the limbs will touch the ground or be closed to the ground.

    Attached Files:

  15. sandals

    sandals Quack

    Nov 13, 2014
    are you selling seeds again?
  16. wbpdeer

    wbpdeer Member

    Aug 1, 2016
    Portland, TN

    Yes I am. The details are in post 4 on this thread.

    Were you ever on the QDMA forum and followed that thread?
  17. wiser1

    wiser1 Trash Picker

    Apr 15, 2013
    Jefferson county
    You forgot to add ...Bears love chestnuts ....
  18. gurgalunas

    gurgalunas Well-Known Member

    Jan 3, 2013
    Platte City
    I'm glad to see you made your way here. I didn't hang out on the other site much, but did lurk, read a bunch, and learn a lot. It was the first place I'd go when I wanted info. Shame things went the way they did.

    A few of us here have been growing chestnuts for a few years. I've been getting Dunstan seeds, and have grown them in pots, as well as direct seeded. I can't find a single thing to disagree with in your posts above- well done.

    Search the site for our chestnut threads if you want to see what we've been up to on MWT. Should be in the Habitat and Conservation secton.
  19. wbpdeer

    wbpdeer Member

    Aug 1, 2016
    Portland, TN
    Wiser1 - I Don't Have Bears

    Wiser1 - I have limited experience! Translation - I don't have any bears in my county. I am certainly glad I don't. I have seen what they do to fruit trees that habitat guys in different states suffered with.

    Wiser1 - I will try to do better. ;)
  20. Bob_Veala

    Bob_Veala New Member

    Mar 12, 2016
    Prolly a silly question, but why chestnuts?