Saturday, November 23


I have been thinking a lot about planting some new trees here on the property. We don't have that many spaces where a fruit tree would thrive due to existing trees, buildings and general layout, but I want to try and put in as many as I can.

Apples, pears, peaches and cherries are at the top of the list but I am also thinking about some types of nuts as well. English walnuts are the obvious choice but I was also thinking of putting in a black walnut tree.

There are two schools of thought that emerged when I talked to friends and family about this option. One side was definitely against it. I got comments such as "they are messy", which was the most popular reason to avoid the black walnut tree. Picking up the fallen nuts was a time consuming job and I can remember when Roy and I were first married we lived in the house that had a metal garage roof. And what was growing over the garage? Well, a huge black walnut tree. And every time we had a windy night all we could hear from our bedroom was the banging and clanging of those black walnuts leaving small dents on the metal roof when they fell.

I have known property owners to cut down every black walnut tree on the property to avoid the mess and possible diseases, even if it leaves the property entirely void of foliage.

Juglone sensitivity in other plants is another concern. Black walnuts contain a chemical in the buds and husks of the nuts called juglone. It effects other plants growing in the same area as the black walnut tree by depriving plants of oxygen and energy. Other factors can come into play and where one plant will wither and die when growing near a black walnut tree, the same plant in a different yard, while also growing near a black walnut, will be fine. Some people just don't want the risk.

The other side was pro-black walnut, mostly due to the great canopy of shade-giving foliage that the tree provides. They are productive in two ways - high value lumber and an eatable nut. The husks can be used to make a dark colored dye for fabric or home made yarn. The black walnut would make a great addition to a food forest, as long as it is not grown in the same area as an apple tree, since apple trees are sensitive to the juglone chemical.

After taking all these factors into consideration, it is probably best that I do not include a black walnut tree in my landscaping/food forest plans. Given the size of a full grown black walnut tree in relation to the area available to us for planning, the shade canopy would put more low light areas into our landscaping, limiting what we can plan in the future.

We do know quite a few people with these trees on their property and, from some of there not-so-good opinions on picking up all those fallen nuts, I don't think I will have much trouble getting permission to collect them for myself.

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